The Big Story

Not All, But Much Is Bright

Billy Busko

Last year, when Holiday sales forecasts were made, times were as unprecedented as ever experienced.  COVID cast a long shadow.  However, enough optimism prevailed that prognosticators foresaw modest Holiday gains over 2019 ranging from 1% to 4%.

What actually happened made Santa blush.  Holiday sales gained 8.3%.  There were plenty of supporting economic factors: stimulus checks, unspent money due to lockdowns, rising stock prices and home values, and increasing wages. The English economist John Meynard Keynes perhaps best identified a key dynamic a hundred years ago.  Rather than rational motivation, Keynes surmised that consumer behavior can sometimes be governed by “animal spirits”.  The will to celebrate the Holidays shone a bright light.

So how bright will the Holidays shine this year? To provide context, overall Holiday sales represent approximately 20% of total annual sales.  Importantly, Holiday sales can be more profitable when incremental revenues come without a proportional increase in costs and expenses.  From 2010 to 2020, Holiday sales have grown an average of 4.2% annually.  Last year, Holiday sales totaled a record breaking $789 billion and represented the largest percentage annual gain in twenty years.

This year, the prognosticators universally foresee a bright Holiday season.  In fact, it should be another record year in terms of dollars spent, and the growth rate could surpass 2020’s extraordinary performance, but risk factors exist.  Deloitte forecasts that sales will grow between 7% and 9%.  Deloitte’s economist stated, “We anticipate strong consumer spending for the upcoming Holiday season as vaccinations rise.  A steady decline in the savings rate to pre-pandemic levels will keep retail sales elevated again this season.”

MasterCard expects Holiday sales to increase 7.4% fueled by pent-up savings and government stimulus.  Senior advisor and former Sak’s CEO Steve Sadove commented, “This season will be defined by early shopping, bigger price tags and digital experiences.  Over the past two years, retailers have learned a lot about what shoppers want and need, bringing us into a new age of retail resilience.”  MasterCard cited that supply chain and labor shortage issues will impact the season and result in early omni-channel promotions, particularly in the heavily gifted Electronics, Apparel and Department Store sectors.

AlixPartners has an especially cheery forecast. They forecast Holiday sales to grow between 10% and 13%.  They bluntly said, “Our message to retailers is this Holiday season is yours to lose.  There is unprecedented pent-up demand.  Consumers have a lot of money in their pockets.  Even the rise of the Delta variant, while certainly concerning, does not seem poised to put a damper on things thanks, in part, to the big increases in on-line shopping.  However, retailers will face some big challenges: thorny supply-chain disruptions, increased logistics and delivery costs, high inflation rates and increasing labor costs.”

Bain & Company’s Holiday forecast calls for 7% growth.  “The pandemic has impacted nearly every inch of the retail industry, changing channel preferences and altering category spend mixes while exacerbating labor and supply chain shortages, which could limit growth in some Holiday categories,” stated Aaron Cheris, America’s Retail Group Head.  The firm also highlighted tailwinds for nominal retail growth including inflation, rebounding employment, healthy savings rates, and wage growth.

While the season should indeed be bright, Bain offered some parting advice to shoppers.  “Do your Holiday shopping early this year in case there snafus such as shipping delays.  And avoid waiting on deals, which may not come.”





Headlines of the Week

TikTok takes aim at the growing social commerce sector

TikTok unveiled new shopping features for brands on Tuesday, positioning it to compete with the largest social media companies on e-commerce. The Chinese company, owned by ByteDance, has been steadily rolling out shopping features over the last year, partnering with Shopify and Walmart among others. Now, TikTok is giving marketers a suite of shopping tools including shoppable links, livestream shopping, and product galleries in ads. This functionality pits TikTok against Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, which dominate US social commerce, effectively the buying and selling of products through social media. Since it rose to prominence in the US, TikTok has played a small but growing role as a recommendation engine for shoppers. While dwarfed by direct sales from competing platforms, viral posts on the platform have driven huge sales for a few products. One of the company’s new slogans, “TikTok Made Me Buy It,” has become a rallying cry for creators trying out viral products, but until now the company has not equipped businesses with the tools to actually sell direct to consumers.


Blackstone to sell The Cosmopolitan resort and casino for $5.65 billion

Blackstone Inc said last week it would sell its The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas resort and casino for $5.65 billion. As part of the deal, MGM Resorts International would buy the operations of The Cosmopolitan for $1.63 billion. MGM would also enter into a long-term lease agreement with a partnership among Stonepeak Partners, Cherng Family Trust and Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust Inc, which will acquire The Cosmopolitan’s real estate assets. Blackstone had acquired the property for about $1.7 billion in 2014 and spent $500 million on upgrades, including renovating nearly 3,000 guest rooms and adding new restaurants and bars. It said The Cosmopolitan’s recent performance has been stronger than ever, exceeding pre-pandemic levels in the second quarter of this year. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2022.


Apparel & Footwear

ABG Assigns Frye License to Footwear Unlimited

Authentic Brands Group, a global brand owner, marketing and entertainment company, has transitioned its footwear license for Frye to Footwear Unlimited. The license had previously been assigned to Global Brands Group, which filed for bankruptcy in July and is being restructured. Christina Martin Pieper, senior vice president of brand, lifestyle at ABG, said, “Established in 1863, Frye is an authentic American heritage brand [that] holds a unique position in the fashion and lifestyle landscape. Footwear Unlimited is a highly trusted footwear operator, bringing generations of expertise in sourcing, design, manufacturing as well as strong retail relationships.” Footwear Unlimited will transition the current business and continue with bestselling styles. They will introduce new product for fall 2022. Footwear Unlimited also has the license for Spyder Footwear, launching this fall. In addition, it makes footwear under the Baretraps label.

Jessica Simpson Nears Deal to Buy Back Brand in Sequential Bankruptcy

Sequential Brands Group Inc. is nearing the end of the process for divesting some of its brands after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. According to a source close to the deal, Jessica Simpson and her family are close to completion of a deal to buy back the portion of her namesake brand sold to Sequential in 2015. Jessica and her mother, Tina Simpson, who currently own 37.5% of the brand, are positioned as the stalking horse bidders to buy back the remaining 62.5% of the brand, according to a hearing held last week.  The Simpson brand has been a bright spot among continuous losses at Sequential, which also owns Joe’s Jeans, And1, Avia and more brands. Sequential filed for bankruptcy in late August after “significant debt on its corporate balance sheet” made it no longer able to operate its portfolio. Sequential is looking to sell all or most of its assets in an auction and bidding process that will enable interested buyers to bid on its assets.


Tom Brady Launching Men’s Wear Apparel Brand

NFL legend Tom Brady is launching a men’s wear brand called Brady. The seven-time Super Bowl winner has partnered on the L.A.-based venture with cofounder Jens Grede and designer Dao-Yi Chow. Even as he moved from the New England Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, Brady has remained a brand favorite, having deals with Under Armour, IWC Schaffhausen and FTX. Meanwhile, Grede has already built three successful fashion brands from the ground up, all with a pop culture bent: wife Emma Grede’s Good American denim with Khloé Kardashian, Kim Kardashian West’s inclusive lingerie line Skims and the Frame men’s and women’s contemporary brand with cofounder Erik Torstensson. Revenues between the three brands are expected to reach $500 million in 2021, Grede told WWD in June.



Athletic & Sporting Goods

Phil Knight And Former Nike Execs Launch Oregon-Focused NIL Company

Several alumni and prominent University of Oregon donors, including NIKE co-founder Phil Knight, Pat Kilkenny, Ed Maletis, Jim Morse, and the Papé Family are announcing the formation of Division Street, Inc., a sport venture that will assist Oregon student athletes in monetizing their NIL.  Former VP and GM of NIKE Women, Rosemary St. Clair, will serve as the CEO of the new entity, while former NIKE VP of Sports Marketing Rudy Chapa will serve as Chairman of the Board.  Former Oregon women’s basketball star Sabrina Ionescu, and the No. 1 pick of the 2020 WNBA Draft, will serve as Chief Athlete Officer.

Puma CEO sees sales doubling to more than $11 bln-report

German sportswear company Puma has the potential to double its sales to more than 10 billion euros ($11.71 billion) in the longer term, Chief Executive Bjorn Gulden was quoted as saying.  Gulden told the Handelsblatt newspaper that Puma is doing well in the third quarter and is optimistic for the fourth quarter, despite the current challenges, such as the closure of factories in Vietnam and a shortage of shipping containers.

Venture led by White Sox legend Frank Thomas buys ‘Field of Dreams’ property in Iowa

Less than two months after the Chicago White Sox won the first major league game played a few rows of corn away from Iowa’s iconic “Field of Dreams” movie set, a venture led by Sox Hall of Famer Frank Thomas has bought a controlling interest in the company that owns the property, the company announced.  The company, Go the Distance Baseball, did not reveal the price of the transaction, which includes the movie set in Dyersville, Iowa, the nearby field where the Sox and Yankees played Aug. 12 and surrounding property that has been envisioned as a center for youth baseball tournaments.  Thomas will be CEO of the venture, while former Sox executive and Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Dan Evans will serve as chief operating officer, the company said.

Cosmetics & Pharmacy

Beauty Brand Olaplex Valued At $15 Billion After IPO, Will Explore New Hair Products

Olaplex Holdings, the science-enabled, technology-driven hair care company, listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market tier of the broader Nasdaq stock exchange. The IPO raised $1.5 billion after selling 73.7 million shares at $21. After the IPO, investment funds affiliated with Advent International Corp. will own about 78.2% of the company’s shares if the underwriters exercise their option to purchase additional shares of common stock. President, CEO, and director JuE Wong said that the IPO will expand brand awareness of Olaplex at a time when consumers are thinking less about value in terms of price, but rather in terms of performance. The IPO will give Olaplex the ability to explore options for new products. “We’ll look into everything,” Wong said. Olaplex paved the way for a new category of hair care called bond-building, which is the process of protecting, strengthening and rebuilding broken bonds in the hair during and after hair services. The brand’s products have an active, patent-protected ingredient that works on a molecular level to protect and repair hair from damage.

Estée Lauder to Close Designer Fragrances Division

The Estée Lauder Cos. is winding down its Aramis & Designer Fragrances division. The segment houses Aramis, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, DKNY and Ermenegildo Zegna. Aramis, the prestige men’s line launched in 1963, will be moved into another division within Lauder. The other licenses will wind down between now and 2023. Michael Kors plans to enter into a new agreement with EuroItalia, which has also just extended its license for fellow Capri Holdings brand, Versace, for another 15 years. Inter Parfums Inc has signed the license for Donna Karan and DKNY, effective July 1. Lauder issued a statement saying that it “is committed to ensuring that it is focused on investing its resources into the most strategic long-term growth opportunities and value creation globally. Lauder said that “after careful and thorough consideration, ELC and the four fashion houses have mutually decided to not renew the licensing agreements” when they come to an end, which will happen by June 2023.


Discounters & Department Stores

Macy’s scrambles to keep Amazon off its big red sign in Herald Square

The iconic white star on the big red sign abutting Macy’s Herald Square flagship in New York could be replaced with the Amazon smile unless the department store can prevail in court against those who control the billboard. Ad Age first reported the news. Macy’s has filed an injunction against Rockaway KB Co., care of Kaufman Realty, saying in court filings with the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan that a decades-old contract prevents the iconic sign from being rented to a competitor. Neither Amazon nor Kaufman immediately responded to requests for comment. “Since the early 1960s Macy’s has placed a billboard sign on the building adjacent to our flagship store at the corner of Broadway and 34th Street,” a Macy’s spokesperson said by email. “Macy’s continues to have rights relating to advertisements at that location. We expect to realize the benefits of these rights and have asked the court to protect them. As the matter is in litigation, the company will not have any further comment.”

Target sets off holiday shopping with deals, price matching

Ahead of the busiest shopping season of the year, Target is bringing back its three-day sales event, dubbed Target Deal Days, from Oct. 10 to Oct. 12. At the same time, the company will also unveil its new Holiday Price Match Guarantee, which runs between Oct. 10 to Dec. 24, according to an announcement Wednesday. It allows shoppers to request a price adjustment on all qualifying items purchased if they go on sale before Dec. 24. The Target Deal Days event is available at all locations for the first time, per the release. Consumers can also find deals across all categories at and on the Target app.

Dollar Tree expands its experiment with higher prices

Dollar Tree Inc. is adding price points above its traditional $1 offer at all of its Dollar Tree Plus stores following what the company said was “positive customer reaction.” The retailer is also adding higher prices to “selected” legacy Dollar Tree stores, it said in a press release. The announcement comes as Dollar Tree Inc. expands the reach of its Dollar Tree Plus concept, with 500 planned by the end of the fiscal year. The retailer expects to add another 1,500 locations in 2022 and to have at least 5,000 by the end of fiscal 2024.

How department stores are bringing customers back

The “before” times can be hard to remember. But the ability to shop — the opportunity to leisurely browse and encounter new brands and offerings, all in one place — was once more aligned with a department store than scrolling online during a yet-another virtual meeting. There’s more to acquiring goods, after all, than simply clicking “buy.” But where do we go from here? In many ways, the pandemic has trained shoppers to “get in, get out” — if they’re leaving their homes at all. Department stores — facing unique challenges even before COVID-19 — have pivoted and pivoted again. Organizations such as Kohl’s, Macy’s, Inc. and Nordstrom are rising to the challenge, continuing to seek balance in efficiency, experience, expectations and inspiration. “While it may be easier to play it safe during a crisis, the companies that lean in, have courage and take risks emerge stronger and thrive,” says Jen Johnson, Kohl’s senior vice president, corporate communications. And that, she says, is what Kohl’s has done.



Emerging Consumer Companies

Everlane Names New CEO, Restructures Leadership

San Francisco-based, mission-driven casual fashion brand Everlane is starting a new chapter. Founder Michael Preysman will step out of the chief executive officer role to become executive chair and climate activist. Andrea O’Donnell is joining the business as CEO. O’Donnell was formerly president of Fashion Lifestyle at Deckers Brands, where she transformed Ugg from a sleepy cold weather boot business into a fashion player through buzzy designer collaborations and influencer campaigns featuring everyone from DJ Peggy Gou to fashion editor André Leon Talley. Through the rest of the year, Preysman and O’Donnell will work together to manage the transition. They will take their respective roles beginning Jan. 1, 2022, and continue to partner on bringing environmental impact to the center of the business. Preysman, who comes from a private equity/tech background, founded Everlane in 2010 with the mission of selling ethically made clothing with transparent pricing.


Parade, New York-based underwear brand, raises $20 million

Parade, the Gen Z-run underwear brand with a large online following and which looks to expand into physical stores, raised $20 million in new funding. The Series B round was led by Stripes and values the company at $140 million.


Three Spirit, London-based non-alcoholic spirit maker, closes $3 million Series A

London-based non-alcoholic spirit maker Three Spirit announced the closing of a $3 million Series A funding round led by CircleUp Growth Partners. The investment is aimed at helping seed the brand in the United States, setting up its domestic manufacturing operations, and supporting scientific research. Three Spirit is in the new wave of beverage brands seeking to redefine “non-alcoholic” in the context of complex and sophisticated spirits. Its botanical drinks are designed to be used in cocktails or sipped straight, with the addition of active adaptogenic ingredients to enhance mood and make drinkers feel “more social.” The brand produces three functional SKUs — Livener, Social Elixir and Nightcap — available for $39 per 16.9 oz. bottle.



Grocery & Restaurants

Whole Foods to go chainwide with new grocery delivery fee

Whole Foods Market online shoppers are set to lose a key perk of their $119-per-year Amazon Prime membership: free two-hour delivery of groceries on orders of at least $35. Starting Oct. 25, parent company Amazon plans to charge a $9.95 fee for Whole Foods delivery orders chainwide, with additional rush fees for one-hour delivery orders. The change will come less than two months after Amazon announced a test of a $9.95 fee for two-hour deliveries — including for Prime members — in six metropolitan markets. Amazon had notified Whole Foods customers of the pilot for delivery charge — described as a “service fee” and due to kick in Aug. 30 in selected cities — in an email and an online in an FAQ. The FAQ now says the $9.95 delivery fee will be instituted across Whole Foods, though at the time of test Amazon didn’t report whether the fee would be expanded to more market areas. Amazon noted that the fee will support rising costs for delivery amid elevated online order volume and basket sizes among Whole Foods customers. In addition, the company said Whole Foods is refocusing on in-store investments as more customers return to in-store shopping.


Flagship Foods secures key investment

BlackRock’s Secondaries and Liquidity Solutions group has made a “significant investment” through Denver-based CREO Capital Partners (CREO) in support of Flagship Food Group as it grows and accelerates its acquisition strategy. Majority owned by CREO Capital Partners, Flagship is a diversified food company that sells a wide range of food products and services under the 505 Southwestern, La Tortilla Factory, Lilly B’s, Hatch Kitchen, TJ Farms and other brands. According to CREO, the investment by BlackRock and other investors will help strengthen Flagship’s ability to source and fund acquisitions, expand the company’s facilities, and invest in marketing and innovation initiatives.

Home & Road

Bed Bath & Beyond sales miss analyst estimates

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. tumbled in premarket trading after reporting second-quarter sales that missed expectations and reducing its full-year outlook, with the delta COVID-19 variant eroding the home-goods retailer’s store traffic. Revenue in the quarter ended Aug. 28 fell 26% from a year earlier to $1.99 billion, short of the $2.06 billion estimate from analysts compiled by Bloomberg. The closely watched retail metric of same-store sales fell 1%, while Wall Street had projected a gain of 1.8%. For the company’s self-titled stores, same-store sales fell 4%. Bed Bath & Beyond said that store traffic slowed significantly in August amid renewed COVID concerns — especially in large states such as Texas, Florida and California. Those states make up about a third of volume for the retailer.

Bassett sales up 30% in Q3, income up nearly 40%

Bassett Furniture sales for the fiscal third quarter were up nearly 30%, the increase led by sales in its wholesale segment, which was up by 32% for the period ended Aug. 28. Furniture and accessories sales were $104.9 million for the period, up from $80.3 million in the year-ago period. Net income for the period rose from $2.2 million (31 cents earnings per share) to $3 million (22 cents EPS), an increase of 38.5% over the same period in 2020. “The disruptions that have permeated the furniture industry since the pandemic restart began 15 months ago remain with us as we hit the homestretch for calendar 2021, said Chairman and CEO Robert H. Spilman Jr. in an earnings release. “’Business as usual’ this year means raw material shortages, escalating labor and commodity costs, severely compromised logistics capabilities, and an unyielding global virus stubbornly persisting at home and in the industry’s manufacturing centers in Asia.”

Natuzzi revenue up 76% in Q2

Italian leather upholstery major Natuzzi Group report second-quarter 2021 revenue of €108.4 million, an increase of 76% compared with the same period last year, and up 17.7% from 2019’s pre-pandemic second quarter. The company lost €100,000 for the three months ended June 30, attributable to extraordinary demurrage costs, and €1.4 million in handling and legal costs related to duties imposed by Canadian customs on leather upholstery from China. By way of comparison, Natuzzi lost €9.1 million in second-quarter 2020 and €10.5 million during the same period in 2019. Total second-quarter written orders of €103.6 million were 102.4% ahead the same prior-year period and up 27% compared with 2019’s second quarter. In the wholesale channel, Natuzzi recorded branded invoiced sales of €38.5 million, up 55.3% and 13%, respectively, from 2020’s and 2019’s second quarters.


Jewelry & Luxury

Alex And Ani Bankruptcy Plan Okayed

A Delaware judge has okayed Alex and Ani’s Chapter 11 reorganization, wiping out much of the company’s prior debt. The plan called for Lion Capital to purchase debt formerly owed to a consortium of banks—so going forward, the London-based investment fund will own 65% of the company, a boost from its pre-bankruptcy 59% stake. The other 35%—formerly controlled by the company’s founder, Carolyn Rafaelian—has been sold to the Bathing Club LLC, which is owned by celebrity attorney and cable TV mainstay Mark Geragos, who has previously served as company counsel for Alex and Ani.


Brilliant Earth’s Final IPO Haul: $115 Million

Brilliant Earth raised $115 million in its initial public offering, which opened on Sept. 22 and closed on Sept. 27. The San Francisco–based e-tailer sold 9.5 million shares of its Class A common stock at $12 a share, including 8.3 million to the public and 1.2 million to its underwriters, who exercised their stock purchase options. While that’s an impressive haul—and it values the company at over $1 billion—the company did have to scale back its initial IPO. It had originally planned to sell 16 million shares in the $14 to $16 range, for an expected raise of $250 million. Brilliant Earth’s shares are now trading on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol BRLT.

Top-Performing Global Luxury Stock Seen Cooling After 680% Gain

Shares of an Australian luxury e-commerce firm that’s surged nearly 680% this year thanks to stay-at-home shoppers could cool on supply concerns and as global lockdowns end, analysts said. Cettire Ltd. is an online retailer that buys wholesale high-end goods like handbags and heels from Europe and resells them at a big discount to shoppers in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere. Its brands include LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE’s Fendi and Kering SA’s Gucci. That strategy has allowed the firm to top the S&P Global Luxury Index this year, beating the likes of Chow Tai Fook Jewelry Group Ltd. and Hugo Boss AG. Since listing in December, its shares have jumped more than sevenfold and are up 41% this month alone.

Canada Goose Launches Boots for Head-To-Toe Weather Protection in Luxury

Canada Goose takes the next step literally as a performance luxury brand able to withstand the worst that winter can throw at it. It is launching a line of high-tech footwear as part of its “Beyond the Parka” growth strategy. Coming soon is the high-top Snow Mantra boot ($1,295) and the versatile Journey hiker boot ($750) for men and women. They will be available from the company’s own website, in its some 30 branded stores and through established wholesale partners including Net-A-Porter. Both are completely waterproof and are packed with all kinds of high-tech performance attributes we’ve come to expect in athletic shoes. But when the weather turns cold and wet, a pair of sneakers just won’t cut it.


Office & Leisure

Camp hires former HBO marketing chief; plans to ramp up expansion

Camp has brought on a marketing veteran to help lead it into the next phase of growth. The family-friendly, experiential retailer has appointed Chris Spadaccini as chief marketing officer. He will lead Camp’s brand, advertising, creative, media and growth marketing strategies as the company prepares for rapid expansion. Most recently, Spadaccini was the chief marketing officer of WarnerMedia Entertainment, where he led marketing for category-leading brands, including HBO, TBS, TNT, truTV, and HBO Max. Prior to this, Spadaccini spent 20 years at HBO, where he oversaw brand strategy, creative advertising, media, consumer promotions, as well as multicultural and digital platform marketing. Headquartered in New York and launched in 2018, Camp combines retail with themed hands-on experiences. It currently has six locations, including four in New York City.

Worldwise Acquired by Private Equity Fund

Alvarez & Marsal Capital Partners, a middle-market private equity investment fund that is part of the A&M Capital platform, together with A&M Capital Opportunities Fund, an affiliated fund, has acquired Worldwise, Inc., a Novato, Calif.-based manufacturer of pet supplies. Worldwise’s brands include SmartyKat, TrustyPup, Petlinks, goDog, SHERPA, Guaranteed On-Board, PoochPlanet and Pawscout. The company makes high-quality, eco-sustainable products across a wide range of categories such as cat toys, pet bedding, dog toys, cat scratchers and travel accessories. Founded in 1990, the company leverages deep industry experience, strong retailer relationships and significant amounts of consumer data to help create quality products inspired by design, innovation and value, said company officials. Current Worldwise CEO Kevin Fick will continue to lead the company following the acquisition.

Endeavor to Buy Sports Gambling Firm OpenBet in Deal Valued at $1.2B

Endeavor Group Holdings is set to buy OpenBet, a sports betting company, for $1.2 billion. Endeavor will pay $1 billion in cash and $200 million in common stock to Scientific Games Corporation. The deal will complement Endeavor’s footprint in sports betting anchored by IMG Arena, which works with over 470 sportsbook brands worldwide to deliver official live streaming video and data feeds for around 45,000 sports events annually. The combination of OpenBet and IMG Arena aims to deliver official data and video streams, premium content, mobile products and betting technology solutions to sport leagues, federations and sportsbooks worldwide.

Technology & Internet

Facebook is hitting the brakes on Instagram for kids

Instagram is pressing pause on plans to develop a version of its service for kids under 13 after facing pressure from lawmakers to back down on the effort and new questions about the impact the photo-sharing service has on teen girls. “While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause this project,” Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post published Monday. “This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.” The move comes just days before the US Senate was set to hold a hearing entitled “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms” to discuss the pressure today’s youth face on social media. That hearing comes after a Wall Street Journal investigation around what Facebook knows about how Instagram affects teen users, including their mental health. In the blog post Monday, Mosseri acknowledged that the Journal’s reporting “has raised a lot of questions for people.”


Here’s everything Amazon announced at its big product event

Amazon is continuing its quest to cover our homes and bodies with Amazon devices. At a livestreamed media event on Tuesday, the company showed off a handful of new Amazon-branded products, including an Echo device that hangs on the wall and acts as a digital whiteboard for the home, an interactive video chat portal for kids, and a Ring security service that monitors activity on your property. And then there’s a new robot equipped with cameras named Astro that navigates your home while you’re away. The announcements come as Amazon (AMZN) looks for more ways to push people deeper into its ecosystem, especially when it comes to interacting with products around the house. The latest batch of products not only join Amazon’s existing collection of smart speakers and wearables but its lineup of oddball devices, which range from voice-assistant connected microwaves to wall clocks.


Finance & Economy

U.S. consumer confidence hits seven-month low; goods trade deficit widens

U.S. consumer confidence fell to a seven-month low in September as a relentless rise in COVID-19 cases deepened concerns about the economy’s near-term prospects, fitting in with expectations for a slowdown in growth in the third quarter.  The survey from the Conference Board showed consumers less interested in buying a home and big-ticket items such as motor vehicles and major household appliances over the next six months. Consumers were also not as upbeat in their views of the labor market as in the prior month.  Economic activity has cooled in recent months as the boost from pandemic relief money faded and infections flared up, driven by the highly contagious variant of the coronavirus.

U.S. consumer spending beats expectations; inflation still hot

U.S. consumer spending increased more than expected in August, but consumption was weaker than initially thought in the prior month, keeping intact expectations that economic growth slowed in the third quarter amid a resurgence in COVID-19 infections.  The report from the Commerce Department also showed inflation remaining hot in August, though price pressures have likely peaked. The Federal Reserve last week raised its inflation projections for this year and said it would likely begin reducing its monthly bond purchases as soon as November.  Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rebounded 0.8% in August. Data for July was revised down to show spending dipping 0.1% instead of gaining 0.3% as previously reported.

Consumer Shopping Behavior Changed in 2020, but Has Returned to Looking More Like 2019

Consumer shopping habits changed during the pandemic, but only temporarily, according to a new study by ICSC and, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Shopping Patterns from 2019-2021”. The findings explore consumer foot traffic, shifts in day and time consumers shopped, length of stay and basket size over the past two years.  The study found that while foot traffic fell off significantly last year, mostly due to government mandated closures of non-essential retailers, it has returned to pre-pandemic levels for grocery anchored open-air centers and near pre-pandemic levels for malls. Although shoppers decreased their frequency of visits to marketplaces, they were more purposeful and spent more money each trip.