The Weekly Consensus

The Scary Price of Celebrating Halloween

Maeghan Thompson

We saw the warnings as early as August when retailers started stocking shelves with candy, costumes, decorations, and all things pumpkin-flavored: summer has passed, and it is now officially the Halloween spending season.  As a longtime resident of Salem Massachusetts, one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S. for all things Halloween, I have witnessed firsthand just how popular this time of year is.  And its popularity continues to rise. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans are projected to spend a record $12 billion this year on Halloween, up from $10.6 billion in 2022.

Halloween spending has risen over the past several years even after adjusting for inflation.  In comparison, Americans spent $3.3 billion (or an inflation-adjusted $5.2 billion in 2023 dollars) in 2005 according to Statista.  According to the NRF’s annual survey, conducted by Proper Insights & Analytics, consumers plan to spend $108.24 per person and 73% of Americans plan to celebrate in Halloween-related activities this year, up from 69% last year.  Pre-pandemic interest was lower, with only 68% of adults celebrating the holiday – it seems Halloween is one of the things consumers came out of the pandemic craving more than ever.

To celebrate the holiday this year, consumers are planning on handing out candy (68%), decorating their home or yard (53%), dressing up in costume (50%), attending or throwing a party (32%), and/or taking their children trick-or-treating (28%) according to the NRF.  Those expecting to buy costumes is up 100 basis points from last year’s 67% and is the highest in the NRF survey’s history.  Not surprisingly, the anticipated top-selling costume for women this year is a Barbie-inspired cowgirl, according to Jungle Scout’s research.

Although consumer spending is expected to be up for Halloween, it will be noticeably more expensive to fill trick-or-treat bags as prices for candy have risen.  The cost of candy increased 13% last year according to the most recent Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor.  Sugar prices began to rise in 2021 and haven’t slowed according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. While candy and other items will be noticeably more expensive, it doesn’t seem to be deterring consumers from celebrating the holiday.

Halloween is only 24 days before Thanksgiving this year, and accordingly, it will likely be a decent indication of how consumers will spend and celebrate events throughout the rest of the year, including the important Holiday season.  In the face of inflation, it seems as though consumers are still prioritizing celebrating holidays, even if prices are a bit frightening.

Apparel & Footwear

Levi Strauss cuts annual forecasts as promotions, wholesale weakness weigh

Levi Strauss & Co cut its annual forecasts for the second time on Thursday after missing third-quarter sales estimates as the denim maker reeled from hefty promotions and falling sales at its wholesale channels in North America. Gloomy consumer spending has hit retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom as high prices and borrowing rates squeeze budgets, denting demand for its denims bottoms, tops and cargo pants. Unseasonably warm weather through the late summer and fall also hurt sales, particularly of men’s jeans in wholesale channels where Levi’s has less control over product displays, according to Chief Financial and Growth Officer Harmit Singh. Levi has struggled with declining sales at its overall wholesale business, particularly in North America, which has a higher exposure to the middle-income consumer. “Value-conscious” shoppers earning between $50,000 and $100,000 are particularly under pressure, Singh said. This has impacted Levi’s sales at retail partners such as Walmart and Target, where prices of its Signature and Denizen lines start just below $30.

Guess? co-founder leaves company

The second largest shareholder of Guess? Inc. has stepped down from the company. The apparel and accessories retailer said that Maurice Marciano, who helped oversee Guess’ evolution from a small family business and denim pioneer into a global lifestyle brand, is retiring from the company’s board, effective immediately. Marciano has been with Guess since he co-founded the company in 1981. He served as CEO from 1993 to 2007, and as board chairman or co-chairman for 18 years, retiring from the role in 2012. That same year, he joined the company’s board. Marciano’s retirement came on the heels of an agreement by the Guess board to a settlement worth as much as $30 million to resolve claims they turned a blind eye to co-founder Paul Marciano’s harassment of the company’s models, reported Bloomberg.

Caleres Outlines Three-Year Growth Plan, Expects Q3 Sales at Low End of Guidance

Ahead of its Investor Day on Thursday, Caleres announced updated longer-term financial targets and a new strategic plan for growth through fiscal 2026. The St. Louis-based parent company to Famous Footwear, Sam Edelman, Allen Edmonds and more brands said it expects to deliver net sales at a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of between 3 and 5 percent, diluted adjusted earnings per share growth at a three-year CAGR of between 11 to 13 percent and annual total shareholder return in the low to mid teens. In a statement, Caleres president and CEO Jay Schmidt said changes at the footwear company over the last four years have resulted in “a new baseline earnings level of $4 per diluted share,” with fiscal year 2023 representing the third year of this achievement.

Birkenstock seeks $9.2 billion valuation in U.S. IPO

Birkenstock Holding Ltd. has set the terms for its initial public offering. The German premium comfort footwear brand, which is backed by private-equity firm L Catterton, plans to offer 32.3 million shares priced at $44 to $49 each. At the top-end of the range, the offering would raise about $1.58 billion, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Birkenstock plans to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “BIRK.” L Catterton bought a majority stake in Birkenstock in 2021 in a deal that valued the company at about $4.8 billion. The firm, which describes itself as the largest global consumer-focused private equity firm, is backed by global conglomerate LVMH, which owns 75 fashion and cosmetics brands. Birkenstock has long enjoyed a cult following.  But during the past two years, the brand has evolved into a hot fashion item and a favorite among celebrities and influencers, with its popularity boosted by social media.  More than half — 54% — of the company’s customers are in the Americas with Europe accounting for 36%, according to the filing.



Athletic & Sporting Goods

Nike beats profit estimates, pledges to boost focus on running shoes

Nike topped Wall Street estimates for first-quarter profit as higher prices of its sneakers and apparel helped offset a hit from waning demand and persistent cost pressures, sending its shares up about 8% in extended trading.  The world’s largest sportswear maker also forecast a 100 basis point increase in second-quarter gross margins, following six consecutive quarters of declines, on the back of fewer planned markdowns and lower freight costs.

Ex-CNN Chief Jeff Zucker Acquires Stake in Front Office Sports

Jeff Zucker‘s RedBird IMI investment company has bought a minority ownership stake in Front Office Sports, a media startup covering sports business.  Front Office Sports claims that it has, on a monthly basis, “more than 150 million social impressions, 35 million newsletter opens, 10 million video views and 2 million page views.” The company says it has more than 15 partners, which distribute its content on screens in more than 50,000 buildings and venues across North America.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The RedBird IMI investment in Front Office Sports values the startup at $40 million, Bloomberg reported.

Cosmetics & Pharmacy

SuperOrdinary Raises $58 Million in a Series B Round

Beauty distributor and most recently brand incubator SuperOrdinary has raised $58 million in a Series B fundraising round, bringing the company’s valuation to more than $800 million. The company, which specializes in distribution in China as well as on Amazon and TikTok, attracted investors including Manzanita, Alliance Consumer Growth and Demira GateUpper90 to the round, while founder and chief executive officer Julian Reis also participated. In 2021, it received a minority investment from Alliance Consumer Growth and existing investor, the Puig family. The proceeds from this round will help bolster Amazon account management and brand protection and creator monetization via social commerce, according to Reis. In particular, it will continue to hire more engineers and beef up its livestreaming capabilities as it sees many opportunities in the growth of TikTok Shop.

Oddity Tech expects revenue growth up to 31%, according to preliminary third-quarter results

Oddity Tech released preliminary third-quarter results on Monday that show expected revenue growth of 29% to 31%, driven by repeat sales at its Il Makiage and Spoiled Child brands. The newly public retailer, which started trading on the Nasdaq in July and uses artificial intelligence to develop products, had previously expected sales to grow by about 20.5% in the three months ended Sept. 30. The Tel Aviv-based company didn’t share its exact sales figure for the quarter, but in the year ago period, it posted $68.9 million in revenue, finance chief Lindsay Drucker Mann told CNBC. The company is also now expecting a gross margin of 68.5% for the period, one percentage point higher than its previous guidance of 67.5%, and margins on its adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization to be at the high end of its previous range. Oddity is now expecting an adjusted EBITDA margin of between 21% to 21.5%, compared to its initial guidance of 20% to 21.5%. So far this year, sales have jumped by about 58% with adjusted EBITDA of at least $89 million, Oddity said.

KAO to sell a third of beauty portfolio

Kao is mulling the sale of several non-core cosmetics brands in a bid to return to profit.  The Biore manufacturer could sell off up to a third of its cosmetics and personal care portfolio – with 10 brands earmarked for disposal.  Kao is hoping to shift focus to a set number of brands which it has identified as having further potential for international expansion, among them Molton Brown.  President and CEO, Yoshihiro Hasebe told Nikkei Asia, “We focused too heavily on the Japanese market and China-related demand as well as on boosting our sales and market share. We were slow to shift our strategy, which, all together, highlighted Kao’s weaknesses.”

L’Oréal sells organic beauty brand Sanoflore for undisclosed sum

L’Oréal has sold green beauty brand Sanoflore to French investment fund Ekkio Capital and Sergio Calandri, the founder of Inula Group and Sanoflore’s new CEO. The financial details of the sale have not been disclosed. L’Oréal acquired Sanoflore – a French beauty company which specialises in the manufacture of certified organic cosmetics – in 2006. Sanoflore recorded sales of €2.9m for its essential oil-based beauty products in 2021, according to legal documents. The brand sat in L’Oréal’s Dermatological Beauty division. “L’Oréal has a portfolio of complementary brands,” said a statement from L’Oréal Groupe. “The group’s strategy is to acquire and, sometimes, exit, the brands, to keep a very strong portfolio and the complementarity it needs to thrive over the long term.  Investor Ekkio Capital specialises in small- and medium-sized companies in the health and beauty space, including balneotherapy group Calicéo. Inula Group’s portfolio, meanwhile, includes supplement brand HerbalGem and natural elixirs range Biofloral.

Discounters & Department Stores

Target launches immersive toy experience

Following the announcement of its holiday deal days, Target has unveiled an immersive shoppable experience on its website that lets shoppers explore a virtual room of toys from brands such as Barbie and Play-Doh, the retailer said in an announcement. Continuing its multi-year collaboration with FAO Schwarz, the retailer is offering nearly 140 items co-designed with the iconic toy brand. Mostly priced below $25, the collection ranges from makeup kits and design sets to dolls and other classic toys from FAO Schwarz. The retailer promoted toys priced at less than $25 from brands and franchises like Pokémon, Paw Patrol, Marvel and Lego.

Macy’s sets out to triple its off-mall fleet in less than 2 years

Macy’s will open as many as 30 off-mall stores nationwide in the next 18 months, accelerating its small-format strategy, the department store said Tuesday. Openings of the locations, which are about one-fifth the size of its full-line stores, will begin next year and continue through fall of 2025, according to a company press release. The new plan could triple its number of small off-mall stores, the company said.

Walmart scraps degree requirements for some corporate jobs

Walmart will eliminate degree requirements for some corporate jobs, the retailer said Thursday. The move is part of a broader effort to eliminate unnecessary barriers to career advancement, Walmart said, and reflects a broader focus on skills among employers nationwide. The employer is rewriting job descriptions to allow for either a relevant degree or the skills needed for the job, obtained through either previous experience or another type of learning. “Both options count,” Walmart said.



Emerging Consumer Companies
Non-alcoholic beverage retailer, Boisson raises $5 million in funding, appoints new CEO

US non-alcoholic beverage retailer, Boisson, has secured a $5 million bridge investment from Convivialite Ventures and Connect Ventures. The funding will be used to support Boisson’s expansion, partnerships, and product collections. Boisson aims to become a “category disruptor and a distinguished omni-channel platform for suppliers and customers.” The company has also appointed Sheetal Aiyer as its new CEO. Aiyer has previously held positions such as president, chief operating officer, and general counsel in the consumer packaged goods sector and has experience in scaling multiple companies and will guide Boisson into its next phase of expansion.

Swag Golf raises $10 million led by Verance Capital

Swag Golf, a premium golf accessory, equipment, and apparel company, has raised $10 million in a growth funding round led by Verance Capital. The financing round also included participation from the San Francisco 49ers, Shaun White, and Zach LaVine, among others. The investment will support Swag Golf’s innovative product lines, expand into new products, increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific marketplace, and accelerate its manufacturing capacity. Swag Golf aims to meet the growing demand from its collector base. The company was founded by Nick Venson, who spent over 19 years in the golf industry before starting Swag Golf. Venson stated that the investment will help the company broaden its product base and increase manufacturing capacity to meet increased demand. The golf industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, driven by a younger and more diverse audience. Swag Golf has become a disruptor in the industry and is represented by top athletes on the PGA and LPGA Tours. The company’s headcovers and putters are known for their bold designs and industry-leading craftsmanship. Swag Golf has also acquired Ecktron Performance to vertically integrate its headcover production and expand into the wholesale business.

Blue Apron to be acquired by Wonder Group
Meal kit company Blue Apron has agreed to be acquired by food tech company Wonder Group for approximately $103 million. The deal, expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2023, represents a 137% premium to Blue Apron’s closing price on Thursday. The acquisition is part of Wonder’s strategy to create a leading platform for meals and offer a mealtime super app. Blue Apron’s brand and products will remain the same, and there is potential for product expansion in the future. The merger follows Blue Apron’s recent shift to an asset-light business model through the sale of its operational infrastructure and partnership with FreshRealm. Wonder, founded by former Walmart e-commerce executive Marc Lore, initially operated mobile kitchens but later transitioned to conventional meal delivery. The company currently partners with chefs and restaurants for meal delivery and operates food halls in New York and New Jersey. The transaction is not subject to financing conditions or regulatory approvals, as Wonder has committed financing on its balance sheet to fund the deal.

Full Glass Wine Co. acquires Wine Insiders
Full Glass Wine Co. has acquired Wine Insiders from DRINKS, a leading operating system for alcohol e-commerce. This is the second direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine brand purchased by Full Glass Wine Co., which aims to build a multi-brand online wine marketplace. The acquisition demonstrates Full Glass Wine Co.’s belief in and passion for online wine brands that provide superior experiences and value for customers. Full Glass Wine Co. is actively exploring the acquisition of other DTC wine companies. DRINKS initiated the sale to focus on its core growth opportunity in alcohol e-commerce enablement technology. The acquisition sets the stage for accelerated growth for Wine Insiders, a 41-year-old DTC wine pioneer, under the leadership of industry veterans.



Food & Beverage

Kellogg’s Completes Corporate Split

The Kellogg Company is no more. The global food giant completed its previously announced business split into two new separate entities: Kellanova, which will oversee snacks, meals, bars; and The W.K. Kellogg Company, which will house its North American cereal business.  W.K. Kellogg and Kellanova began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, and as news of the split broke, share prices began to decline. Within an hour both Kellanova and W.K. Kellogg saw their share prices drop roughly 6.2% and 8.2%, respectively. At the time of press, Kellanova is trading at $51.88 per share, while W.K. Kellogg Co is at $13.74 per share.  Per terms of the split, for every four shares of common stock held in The Kellogg Company, shareholders received one share of W.K. Kellogg stock. Former Kellogg Company leader, and now Kellanova CEO and Chairman, Steve Cahillane, rang the NYSE Opening Bell this morning alongside other Kellanova execs.  The split has been in the works since June 2022, with the company pledging it would complete the restructuring by the end of Q4. Despite changing its corporate moniker all products sold between Kellanova and W.K. Kellogg Company will continue to carry the Kellogg’s brand name.

Australia’s Eden Brew Secures $24.4 Million for Animal-Free Dairy Expansion

Australian precision fermentation company Eden Brew has raised $24.4 million in a Series A round led by previous investor Main Sequence Ventures to introduce animal-free dairy in the alt protein market.   Eden Brew was established in 2021 through a partnership between Norco, a 100% Australian farmer-owned dairy cooperative, and Australian science agency CSIRO and its deep tech venture fund Main Sequence Ventures.   The company uses a precision fermentation process based on science know-how developed at CSIRO. The company claims its platform produces casein proteins that deliver the same nutrition, functionalities, sensory qualities and bioavailability as cow’s milk. In May 2022, Eden Brew also raised $6.9 million from Main Sequence and US investor Digitalis Venture.  Other participants in the round include Breakthrough Victoria, Orkla, Digitalis Ventures, Possible Ventures, and Radar Ventures. The company has also attracted capital from Australian celebrities, including musicians Bernard Fanning and Angus Stone, entrepreneur Paul Piticco, and paralympic gold medalist Dylan Alcott.

Repole’s Impact Capital Acquires Majority of Junkless Foods

Impact Capital, the private equity group of CPG entrepreneur Mike Repole’s family office Driven Capital, has acquired a majority stake in snack bar brand JUNKLESS Foods, according to an announcement today.   Terms of the deal and future operating plans were not disclosed. A press release notes that Impact will “partner” with Pang and co-founder Larry Beyer.  Founded in 2017, Michigan-based JUNKLESS sells five varieties of limited-ingredient, chewy granola bars and two flavors of crispy protein bars. The company previously sold a line of crispy cookies, which have since been discontinued.  JUNKLESS snacks are available in retailers including Walmart, Kroger, Giant, Stop & Shop and Food Lion as well as on Amazon. As of 2022, the products were sold in more than 6,000 doors nationwide.

InvestBev Backs Celeb-Branded Thomas Ashbourne RTDs

Spirits-focused private equity firm InvestBev has backed Thomas Ashbourne Craft Spirits, the ready-to-drink brand crafted with the help of celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  Chicago-based InvestBev, founded in 2015 by industry veteran Brian Rosen, has built a reputation in categories with more barriers to entry such as brown or agave spirits.  But after Rosen said last year he would eschew the risk of betting on a celebrity brand, it seems that position has changed. Launched last summer, each Thomas Ashbourne cocktail features a celebrity partner that was “instrumental in developing their signature cocktail’s flavor profile and personality, based on their individual tastes and the style they are known for,” according to the brand.  Beyond SJP, other celebrities involved include Ashley Benson, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Hudgens, and Playboi Carti.



Grocery & Restaurants

Krispy Kreme could sell Insomnia Cookies soon

JAB Holding Company-owned Krispy Kreme announced Tuesday that the company is considering “strategic alternatives” for Insomnia Cookies, including a possible all-cash sale of the Philadelphia-based cookie brand. Insomnia Cookies was acquired by Krispy Kreme in 2018 and since then, the company has grown exponentially, including tripling its revenue over the past six years. Insomnia Cookies expects revenues of approximately $230 million for 2023. According to Krispy Kreme, putting Insomnia Cookies up for sale would be a way to “unlock shareholder value” and focus exclusively on the success of Krispy Kreme and its newly regenerated “hub and spoke” business model. “We acquired a majority stake in Insomnia Cookies to build our e-commerce and digital capability as well as assist Insomnia’s U.S. and International expansion,” outgoing Krispy Kreme CEO Mike Tattersfield said in a statement. “Both efforts have been successful and it’s time for the next strategic step for both companies.” The executive team at Krispy Kreme wants to focus solely on the doughnut brand as the company looks to expand global points of access from 13,000 to 75,000, which they’ll be able to do by entering three to five new countries every year.

Home & Road

Helen of Troy Q2 Beats Wall Street As Turnaround Continues

For the second quarter, Helen of Troy declared itself back on the road to growth as lower revenue and income year over year still managed to surpass Wall Street estimates.  Net income was $27.4 million, or $1.14 per diluted share, as compared to $30.7 million, or $1.28 per diluted share, in the year-previous quarter. Adjusted for one-time events, the company maintained, net income was $41.8 million, or $1.74 per diluted share versus $54.7 million, or $2.27 per diluted share, in the year-before period. Adjusted diluted earnings per share beat a Yahoo Finance-published analyst consensus estimate of $1.64 while sales topped a $485 million revenue estimate. Net revenue in the quarter was $491.6 million versus $521.4 million in the year-earlier period, Helen of Troy reported. The company attributed the revenue decline primarily to a $31.2 million, or 6% decline in the organic business largely due to lower sales of heaters, fans, and humidification products in Beauty & Wellness resulting from softer consumer demand, company SKU rationalization efforts, and reduced orders from retail customers as they rebalance inventory in line with softer consumer demand in specific categories.

Lowe’s dives deeper into apparel with partnership

Lowe’s Companies is targeting its professional customers. The home improvement retailer has partnered with Carhartt to roll out a workwear collection online and at select stores across the U.S.  The collection is now available at roughly 250 Lowe’s stores across the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Approximately 250 additional stores in Texas, the Southeast and California will add the Carhartt products in early 2024. The assortment will feature Carhartt’s iconic duck jackets and vests, as well as hoodies, t-shirts, workwear pants and beanies. “Carhartt is a top brand that Pros know and trust for apparel that’s made to last, and we’re proud to now offer its high-quality, hardworking products in our stores and online,” said Bill Boltz, Lowe’s executive VP, merchandising.

Despite rise in orders, furniture business is down – both for low-end and high

New orders rose for 71% of surveyed furniture manufacturers and retailers in July over the same month last year. They also rose 28% by the dollar. But once again, according to Smith-Leonard – the accounting firm behind the survey – these numbers don’t tell the whole story. New orders for July 2022 were down 37% from July 2021, which in-turn were down 11% from July 2020. July 2020 numbers however, were way up. When looking year to date, the situation also doesn’t look as positive, as new orders so far for the year are down 4% from last year, which in-turn were significantly down (29%) from 2021. For the year so far, new orders are down for 63% of participants. Shipments were down 21% for the month from last year, falling for 75% of survey takers. Year to date, shipments are down 18% from last year, when they were up 5% over 2021. They’re down for 70% of participants.

Jewelry & Luxury

Timex Introduces the World’s First Sustainable Watch Program

Timex has just announced its new sustainability program, claiming to be the first of its kind in the world, and it seeks to help promote more eco-friendly change. Currently limited to the United States, “ReWound” allows consumers wanting to get rid of their old watches to send them to Timex instead of throwing them away. All someone needs to do is fill out a form, and they will receive a free prepaid label. From there, they can package up their old watch and bring it to a post office. Once received, Timex will inspect the watch — which can be from any brand — and do its best to “expertly clean and restore it.” Afterward, Timex will sell the restored piece on its specialized ReWound online shop.

Pandora looks to retail expansion for growth

Jewelry brand Pandora expects revenue to be between 34 billion and 36 billion Danish kroner (about $4.8 billion to $5.1 billion) in 2026, according to a press release Thursday. The company anticipates revenue of around 27 billion Danish kroner for 2023. Pandora released new financial targets as part of its Phoenix strategy, which launched in 2021 in order to drive profitable growth. The brand is targeting a compound annual growth rate of 7% to 9% from 2023 to 2026. Operating an asset-light business model is expected to generate between 16 billion and 17 billion Danish kroner in free cash flow from 2024 to 2026. The company is planning on opening hundreds of stores in the next few years.

De Beers, Botswana Inch Closer to Final Deal

The Botswana government and De Beers Group have moved one step closer to a final sales and lease agreement. The two sides just signed a “head of terms” for their 10-year deal on how Debswana sells its rough diamond production through 2033 and for the anticipated 25-year extension of Debswana’s mining licenses, which will run through 2054. Debswana is a 50-50 joint venture between De Beers and Botswana. De Beers spokesperson David Johnson says this does not mean a deal has been finalized, but it’s a milestone along the way. He declined to give a deadline for when the completed agreement will be signed.

Surging Chinese Demand Is Fueling Dramatic Increases in Pearl Pricing

Ashwani “Sonny” Sethi, the CEO of Tara Pearls, a high-end pearl supplier in New York City, had just returned from Asia, where he showed at Jewellery & Gem World Hong Kong (aka the September Hong Kong show), when JCK called him to ask about the current state of the pearl market. His answer was unequivocal: “All prices have gone crazy.” “Let’s take Japanese akoya pearls first,” Sethi says. “From last year, prices have doubled. On everything, from the commercial to gem quality, everything has doubled because of demand in China. Availability for outside Asia is so limited that if we order 100 strands, we might get 10. “For the last 18 months, China has been gobbling everything that has the name pearl. From us to Mikimoto, nobody can get much nice merchandise because everything coming out is going to China, and they’re paying top dollar. Akoya supply to the U.S. has gone to maybe 10 percent.”


Office & Leisure

Cyberattack at MGM Resorts expected to cost casino giant $100 million

The cybersecurity attack at MGM Resorts last month is expected to cost the casino giant more than $100 million, the Las Vegas-based company said in a Thursday regulatory filing. The attack, which was detected on Sept. 10, led to MGM shutting down some casino and hotel computer systems at properties across the U.S. in efforts to protect data. MGM said reservations and casino floors in Las Vegas and other states were affected — as customers shared stories on social media about not being able to make credit card transactions, obtain money from cash machines or enter hotel rooms. The company announced the end of its 10-day computer shutdown on Sept. 20. “While we experienced disruptions at some of our properties, operations at our affected properties have returned to normal, and the vast majority of our systems have been restored,” MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in a Thursday letter to customers. Hornbuckle added that no customer bank account numbers or payment card information was compromised in the incident. But hackers stole other personal information — including names, contact information, driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers and passport numbers belonging to some customers who did business with MGM prior to March of 2019, he said.

BMG, MGA settle ‘My Poops’ copyright fight over alleged ‘My Humps’ ripoff

Toymaker MGA Entertainment and music publisher BMG Rights Management have settled a lawsuit that accused MGA of illegally copying the Black Eyed Peas’ hit “My Humps” to market sparkling-slime pooping unicorn dolls with a song called “My Poops.” U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos terminated the case in an order published on Tuesday after the two sides told him that they had resolved the dispute. Terms of the settlement were not available, and representatives for the companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment and more information on Wednesday. BMG sued MGA in January. The lawsuit, which requested at least $10 million in damages, said that the unicorn dolls from MGA’s “Poopsie Slime Surprise” toy line sing “My Poops” and dance at the push of their heart-shaped belly buttons. BMG also said MGA made a music video to advertise its toys with animated versions dancing and singing along to “My Poops.”

Technology & Internet

Shopify takes a stake in Faire, makes it the recommended wholesale marketplace for merchants

Shopify is deepening its relationship with the wholesale platform Faire as it seeks to offer more B-to-B tools to its merchants. Faire announced on Wednesday that Shopify will now become a shareholder in its business, though the exact terms of the agreement were not disclosed. As part of the deal, the tech giant will recommend Shopify merchants use Faire’s platform to find new wholesale customers. The deal also gives Faire’s existing sellers access to Shopify’s point of sale system. This comes at a time when Shopify has been building out more tools to help companies like Glossier and Brooklinen build out their B-to-B strategies, as it seeks to court larger merchants who sell in more places beyond their direct-to-consumer website. According to Max Rhodes, Faire’s co-founder and CEO, Shopify reached out to Faire over ten months ago to discuss a deeper partnership. Rhodes said the deal is “incredible validation” that Shopify recognizes Faire as the “leader in wholesale” and as somebody that Shopify wants to recommend to their merchants.

Apple considered buying Bing from Microsoft in 2018

Apple considered buying the Bing search engine or making a “multibillion dollar investment” in a joint venture with Microsoft in 2018, according to a transcript of testimony from Apple’s head of machine learning and former Google exec John Giannandrea that was recently unsealed. At the time, Apple was considering using Bing instead of Google to return answers to some queries from Siri and to power other iPhone and Mac features, Giannandrea said. Google pays Apple as much as $19 billion per year to be the default search engine on Apple products, according to an estimate. The deal with Microsoft wasn’t completed and Giannandrea said he believed Apple CEO Tim Cook told Microsoft it wasn’t going forward. “Obviously, if we entered into a joint venture with Bing, it would have implications for the Google relationship,” Giannandrea said in his testimony last week, according to a transcript viewed by CNBC.


Finance & Economy

Mortgage demand drops to the lowest level since 1996, as interest rates head toward 8%

Mortgage rates just continue to climb higher, taking a particularly big leap last week. As a result, total mortgage demand fell 6% compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index.  Applications to refinance a home loan dropped 7% for the week and were 11% lower than the same week one year ago. Refinances now make up less than one-third of all mortgage applications. Just two years ago, when rates were setting multiple record lows, refinance demand made up roughly three-quarters of all mortgage applications.


Job openings increase in August, hitting highest level since May

The number of open jobs in the US increased in August, raising questions of whether the job market is cooling fast enough to appease the Federal Reserve as the central bank considers more interest rate hikes to combat inflation.  The latest Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, revealed there were 9.6 million jobs open at the end of August, an increase from the 8.92 million job openings in July. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected there were 8.82 million openings in July.  The report also showed a decline in the quits rate, which is closely watched by economists as elevated quits are seen as a sign of confidence among workers. In August, the quits rate was unchanged at 2.3%, the lowest since January 2021. The JOLTS report showed 5.9 million hires were made in the month, a slight uptick from the 5.8 made in the previous month.