The Weekly Consensus

Halloween Treats: From Soul Cakes to Sour Patches

Joseph Crotty

Halloween is a favorite time of year in my house.  The weather gets crisper, there are plenty of seasonal activities to enjoy, like pumpkin picking, hayrides, walking around the neighborhood looking at spooky decorations, carving pumpkins, dressing up, and, of course, there is candy. It’s a time for people to debate the value of candy corn (which I personally cannot stand) but is listed 10th on Forbes’s list of America’s top 10 favorite candies. The current list is Reese’s Cups, Skittles, M&Ms, Starbursts, Hot Tamales, Sour Patch Kids, Hershey Kisses, Snickers, Tootsie Pops, and the Candy Corn. It’s such a fun time for children to go from house to house as they trick-or-treat for their favorite candy.

As hard as it is to believe, candy is a relatively new addition to Halloween, having not become a major part of the holiday in the United States until the 1950s. That begs the question, what kind of delicious treats did people enjoy before that?

Going all the way back to Halloween’s origins, it is believed that the holiday came from the feast day Samhain.  The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. On Samhain, during which large bonfires were lit, it was believed that the spirits of the dead were granted access to the otherworld. During Samhain, people dressed as goblins, ghosts, demons, and other creatures, and performed antics in exchange for food and drink. This tradition, known as “mumming,” is thought to be the precursor of trick-or-treating. Samhain was then merged into the Christian holiday of All Hallows Day which is also celebrated on November 1. Fittingly, All Hallows Eve, or what later became Halloween, fell on October 31.

Halloween traditions came to the U.S. around the mid-19th century. In the early days, people baked soul cakes, which are small round cakes that resemble a shortbread biscuit, and gave them out mainly to children, who would sing and say prayers on behalf of the dead while going door to door.

Candy corn is perhaps one of the oldest Halloween candies still eaten today, dating back to the 1880s. It was invented by George Renninger, a candymaker at Philadelphia’s Wunderle Candy Company. In 1900, the Goelitz Candy Co. began making it in large quantities. Candy corn was designed to look like chicken feed, since at the time candy corn first emerged, about half of Americans worked in agriculture.

Other popular candies started to emerge around the turn of the 20th century as well. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar was first produced in 1900, with Hershey’s Kisses following almost a decades later. Chocolate was previously considered a luxury item rarely consumed by the average American, but Hershey’s chocolate factory in Pennsylvania allowed the chocolate to be mass produced for significantly cheaper prices.

Although candy companies produced candy such as the Milky Way bar and Snickers bar in the 1920s and early 1930s, candy would not yet be the definitive Halloween treat it is today for a couple more decades. Sugar became more affordable around this time, which made candy cheaper to produce, but trick-or-treating often involved the distribution of cookies, fruit, nuts, toys, and money.

Today. candy has become a multi-billion-dollar part of Halloween festivities. This year, the National Retail Federation predicts that consumers will spend $10.6 billion on Halloween, up from $10.1 billion in 2021, including $3.1 billion on candy, up from $2.5 billion in 2019.  So, while eating your candy this Halloween, remember that over 100 years ago, you may have been feasting on chestnuts. Which may not compare to Reece’s, but, for most people, beats black licorice.

Headline of the Week

Kroger agrees to buy Albertsons for $24.6 billion

Rival grocers Kroger and Albertsons on Friday announced plans to team up. The companies said Kroger agreed to buy Albertsons for $34.10 a share in a deal valued at $24.6 billion. Albertsons shares had closed Thursday at $28.63 after surging on reports that a deal was imminent. Kroger is the second-largest grocer by market share in the United States, behind Walmart, and Albertsons is fourth, after Costco. Together, Kroger and Albertsons would be a closer second to Walmart. Both companies’ boards unanimously approved the agreement, which will also need regulatory approval. Kroger and Albertsons also each have numerous store banners, including names that the operators have acquired over the years. Kroger’s banners include Fred Meyer, Ralphs and King Soopers, and Albertsons’ banners include Safeway, Acme and Tom Thumb. Combined, Kroger and Albertsons employ more than 700,000 people across about 5,000 stores.



Apparel & Footwear

Levi’s slashing prices, cutting Q1 orders by 25% amid inventory deluge

Levi’s is grappling with many of the pressures seen across apparel retail, including economic volatility and soft consumer demand, but its 43% inventory growth in the third quarter stood out to many analysts. A third of the year-over-year surge was due to inflation and a rise from 2021’s “abnormally low inventory level,” another third from early orders to defend against supply chain troubles, and the final third from “an increase of goods in transit,” CFO Harmit Singh told analysts on a Friday conference call. To clear inventory, the denim maker cut its Q1 receipts by 25% and will institute heavier markdowns, and it expects levels to normalize by the second quarter next year, Singh said. In reporting higher inventory levels, steeper costs and a tough consumer environment, Levi’s third quarter results mirrored other retailers and brands, but its inventory trouble appears to be worse than many others, according to Morgan Stanley analysts led by Alex Straton. This massive inventory surge at Levi’s follows smaller yet still significant growth earlier in the year, with increases of 29% in the second quarter and 20% in the first. The pressure for markdowns is also coming from outside the company, as rival brands slash prices to attract wary consumers and clear their own stockpiles.

Forever 21 plots 14 new stores

Forever 21 is opening 14 new stores in the U.S. through June 2023, many of them in outlet centers. The first opened at the Gran Plaza Outlets in Calexico, California, in August, according to a company press release. The other thirteen will open in malls in Aurora, Illinois; Warwick, Rhode Island; Las Vegas; Altoona, Iowa; Grove City and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Norfolk and Leesburg, Virginia; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Woodstock, Georgia; Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; Florida City, Florida; and Tejon Ranch, California. Forever 21 has long depended on brick and mortar for its sales. CEO Winnie Park, who arrived in January, said in a statement that, while the company’s “online business remains strong and a key component of our growth strategy,” the company is seeing more consumers return to stores. In addition to the general drift back to physical locations, the chain is benefiting from renewed interest in apparel shopping as events and in-person office work have resumed, according to Jacob Hawkins, Forever 21 chief marketing, digital and omni officer.

British accessories brand Radley London expands in U.S.

Radley London is growing its fledgling U.S. store footprint. In partnership with Simon Outlet Properties, the British accessories brand has opened its fifth U.S. location. The store, located at the Mills at Jersey Gardens, Elizabeth, N.J., offers Radley’s full assortment of leather handbags and small leather goods, along with a selection of gift items and accessories. The Elizabeth outpost joins the four other Radley stores that opened during the past year, with locations at Las Vegas North Premium Outlets, Miami Sawgrass Mills, Palm Springs Desert Hills, and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets.   (Radley also has 19 stores in the UK.) The company said the success of its initial U.S. stores has given it confidence for further brick-and-mortar expansion here, adding that it saw a “significant market opportunity” for its direct-to-consumer initiative. Looking ahead, Radley plans to open four more stores by yearend, with plans for five to 10 more in 2023 already in progress.

Rue21 has a deal to bolster finances ahead of holidays

Rue21 has an agreement in principle with lenders that would address its working capital needs and “preserve continuity for the company’s vendors and suppliers,” the teen retailer said in an emailed statement.  The company, which is privately held, did not elaborate on the deal or disclose terms. Rue21 CEO Bill Brand thanked the company’s lenders in a statement for “their continued belief in our company.” Bloomberg Law reported last week, citing anonymous sources, that the retailer had received a proposal from lenders that would “likely help it avert a second bankruptcy.” That followed an earlier report from The Wall Street Journal that Rue21 was working with Ducera Partners to explore refinancing and restructuring options following a drop in sales. In its statement Tuesday, Rue21 alluded to sales challenges in the current market.  Rue21 entered and exited bankruptcy in 2017 amid a wave of Chapter 11 filings by mall-based retailers.

Victoria’s Secret Lays Out Next Transformation Steps During Investor Day

Martin Waters’ makeover of Victoria’s Secret is still evolving.  As of now it includes pivoting onto a global stage, a revision of the store fleet, an update on the fashion assortment (additions such as adaptive wear, maternity bras and period panties, as well as personal care and home fragrances) and a greater emphasis on the core lingerie segment, all in the hopes that Victoria’s Secret will be the leading lingerie retailer around the world, not just in the U.S. It’s an ambitious plan, Waters admitted — “that will be a lifetime of work in the next three years” — and slightly larger than the company’s previous plans to become an advocate for all women. But the chief executive officer is doing it by focusing on what the new Victoria’s Secret (now known as VS & Co.) is, even if the retailer has lost the attention of some consumers in recent years. “The reality is, for many people, they just haven’t noticed [the transformation]; they haven’t had the occasion to either come to our site and see what the change looks like, or come to our stores and see what the change looks like,” Waters told WWD in an exclusive interview. “But we know from our research that when those people do discover the new Victoria’s Secret, they love it.”



Athletic & Sporting Goods

Nike Adds New Restrictions for Resellers

Nike has added new terms and conditions to prevent resellers from purchasing footwear and reselling it on the secondary market.  As the Wall Street Journal first reported, Nike said it now reserves the right to “cancel orders, charge restocking fees, impose purchase quantity limits, decline to issue refunds or take returns, deny access to any Nike Store, and/or suspend or close any account.”  Previous sanctions that remain in place include the company’s ability to restrict sales, cancel orders and suspend or close accounts of suspected resellers, according to Complex.  Previous iterations of Nike’s terms also include a cancellation clause for unusual or potentially fraudulent orders, but the update specifically states that Nike could cancel those orders placed with bots. It also added that it could cancel orders if an account had an excessive amount of returns or exceeded product purchase limits.

Bollé Brands Group Announces the Sale of Cébé Brand to D.MO/RACER

Bollé Brands has announced the sale of Cébé to D.MO/RACER. Founded in 1892 in the Jura region, Cébé is a pioneer in sports eyewear. In the 130 years since its founding, Cébé has earned a reputation for producing stylish and technically advanced high-quality sport performance sunglasses, ski goggles and helmets. Since joining the Bollé Brands Group in 2009, the brand’s reputation has been enhanced by continued investment in innovation and its strong partnerships with renowned athletes, most recently Francois D’Haene, the record-breaking four-time winner of the men’s title at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. D.MO specializes in project management, and industrialization of products in the outdoor world and its executive team of Sébastien Delsaux and Maxime Bos are former employees of Cébé. RACER is a French entity created in 1927 with expertise in manufacturing gloves and protective equipment. D.MO/RACER have joined forces to buy Cébé; the acquisition is supported by RACER’s historical finance partners, Upperside Capital Partners and 123 IM.

Cosmetics & Pharmacy

Walgreens Boots Alliance accelerates full acquisition of CareCentrix

Walgreens Boots Alliance announced the acceleration of its plans to acquire full ownership of CareCentrix, expanding its reach into the growing homecare sector and advancing its healthcare long-term growth strategy. WBA has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the remaining 45% stake for approximately $392 million, which is based on the exit multiple agreed to at the time of WBA’s initial majority investment announcement in CareCentrix. WBA also announced that John Driscoll, CEO of CareCentrix will assume a new role as executive vice president and president, U.S. Healthcare at WBA, including Walgreens Health, later this month. CareCentrix chief financial officer, Steve Horowitz, will assume the role of CareCentrix CEO. CareCentrix is an industry leader in the $75 billion post-acute and homecare industry, providing care coordination and outsourced benefit management services. WBA’s full acquisition of CareCentrix follows WBA’s 55% majority investment in the company, which closed on Aug. 31, 2022.

Walgreens Boots Alliance reports Q4, fiscal 2022 results

As it undergoes a transformation to be a more consumer-centric healthcare company, Walgreens Boots Alliance in reporting Q4 and fiscal year results, reported that sales from continuing operations decreased 5.3% from the year-ago quarter to $32.4 billion, a decrease of 3.2% on a constant currency basis. Sales growth at Walgreens and in the international segment, and sales contributions from the U.S. healthcare segment were more than offset by a 660 basis point impact from the sales decline at AllianceRx Walgreens, the company said. Fourth quarter operating loss from continuing operations was $822 million compared to operating income of $910 million in the year-ago quarter. Operating loss in the quarter reflects a $783 million non-cash impairment charge related to intangible assets in Boots U.K. and higher costs related to the Transformational Cost Management Program. Adjusted operating income from continuing operations was $744 million, a decrease of 38.2% on a constant currency basis, reflecting lower U.S. pharmacy operating results as it lapped higher volumes of prior year COVID-19 vaccinations and growth investments in U.S. Healthcare.

Forma Brands Considering Restructuring Options, Including Chapter 11

Forma Brands, the parent company of Morphe, Lipstick Queen, and Jaclyn Hill’s Jaclyn Cosmetics, is considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has about $600 million to $700 million of debt, as reported by Reorg Research. People familiar with the process told BeautyMatter that the company was looking at various options to strengthen its financial position, stressing that a definitive direction has yet to be decided. A company spokesperson said, “Forma Brands is engaged in constructive discussions with our financial stakeholders regarding ways to strengthen the Company financially and enable us to reinforce our focus on the opportunities we see ahead for our brands. We are excited about the products we will continue to bring to our customers.”

Parfums de Marly Owner Weighs Sale of Luxury Scent Maker

The owner of Parfums de Marly is weighing a sale of the luxury scent maker, whose products can sell for more than €300 a bottle, people familiar with the matter said. The brand’s founder Julien Sprecher is working to gauge interest in the company he founded in 2009, according to the people. The company could fetch at least €500 million ($495 million) in a sale, they said. The business could attract other perfume makers, family offices and buyout firms, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. Deliberations are ongoing and there’s no certainty they’ll result in a transaction. A spokesperson for Jefferies declined to comment, while Sprecher and a representative for Parfums de Marly couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Ulta makes its debut with Tanger Outlets

Outlet networks that traditionally rely on tourist sales for volume are now mixing in tenants to secure more steady local business. Here’s the latest: Tanger Outlets opened a 10,000-sq.-ft Ulta Beauty store at its center in Rehobeth Beach, Del., the first Ulta location to appear in any of the 37 outlet centers nationwide. The line that formed outside its doors during the soft launch on Sept. 30 is a testament to the loyalty of Ulta’s customer base and shows how mainline brands drive foot traffic. The addition of Ulta is part of Tanger’s multi-year strategy to transform its centers and enhance the shopping experience. Last month, the outlet center operator introduced new home décor, furniture, outdoor recreation, swimwear and shapewear brands, which included Serena & Lily (Hilton Head, S.C.); Regatta Great Outdoors (Deer Park, N.Y.); St. John, Crate & Barrel, and Wolford (Riverhead, N.Y.); Salt Life (Foley, Ala., Hilton Head, S.C., and Rehoboth Beach, Del.); and a Summersalt pop-up shop (Myrtle Beach, S.C.).

Discounters & Department Stores

Activist investor pushes Kohl’s for board refresh

Activist investor Macellum Advisors on Thursday issued an open letter to Kohl’s shareholders calling for a shakeup of the company’s board of directors. Macellum is pushing for an “immediate and targeted refresh” of the board, rather than waiting for the retailer’s annual meeting, which will happen next year. The investment firm, which has a nearly 5% stake in Kohl’s, is calling for the ousting of Chairman Peter Boneparth and other longtime directors. In particular, Macellum took aim at John Schlifske, Stephanie Streeter and Jonas Prising, who have all served on the board between seven and 15 years. Macellum Advisors said they have attempted to work privately with the board for over two months on a plan to replace current board members with independent retail experts.

Nordstrom touts events, services ahead of the holidays

With deals kicking off early, Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack announced a series of events and services for shoppers this holiday season, according to a Wednesday press release. The retailer is also releasing a holiday campaign featuring Emmy-nominated actress Christina Ricci and Grammy award-winning performer Leslie Odom Jr. Beginning Nov. 4, Nordstrom will offer gifting stations in select locations where shoppers can find a curated selection of men’s, women’s, home, beauty and other products for stocking stuffers or last-minute gifts. At Nordstrom Rack, customers can buy grab-and-go boxed gifts and browse gift shops with items under $25, $50 and $100.

Walmart laying off 1,500 at Atlanta-area fulfillment center

Walmart by Dec. 2 will lay off 1,458 employees at a facility in Fulton County, Georgia outside Atlanta, according to a filing with the state’s department of labor. Rival Amazon similarly has scaled back its fulfillment capacity after embarking on a massive expansion amid surges in online demand during the height of the pandemic, canceling or delaying dozens of warehouses. Walmart didn’t immediately return a request for more information and comment.

Target starts Black Friday deals early

Target said that it is starting its holiday savings three weeks earlier than last year, according to a company announcement. Weeklong Black Friday Deals run now through Nov. 26 and are available in-store, online or through the retailer’s app. A new batch of promotions debut each Sunday through Thanksgiving weekend. Deal of the Day specials run through Dec. 24, and feature “hundreds more items than last year, all at Black Friday pricing” and can be accessed online and through the Target app, per the company.



Emerging Consumer Companies

Bite-size waffle cone snack startup, Muddy Bites, raises $5 million

Muddy Bites, maker of its eponymous chocolate-filled bite-size waffle cone snacks, announced it has raised more than $5 million to support its distribution and expand its team. Reformation Partners, RXbar founder, Peter Rahal, and barkTHINS founder, Scott Semel, among others, participated in the round.  Founded in 2018, in Ames, Iowa, the brand has since expanded its distribution nationwide to more than 5,200 retail stores and expects to expand to more than 15,000 stores in 2023. Earlier this year, the brand inked a partnership with 7-Eleven, increasing its retail footprint 10x. The brand is currently in talks with several other major national retailers, with plans for continued yet deliberate growth.

Sneaker marketplace Goat to acquire Grailed

Sneaker and streetwear resale marketplace Goat Group has agreed to acquire Grailed. Under the reported deal, Grailed will continue to function as a separate platform and will integrate Goat’s operations infrastructure, including shipping and payments. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Goat recently invested in Grailed, leading a $60 million funding round along with Groupe Artemis and Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri, in September last year. That followed a series A funding round that saw the New York-based brand raise $15 million from investors, led by Index Ventures.

XCJ, direct to consumer Chinese food brand, raises $10 million

Growing direct-to-consumer Chinese food brand XCJ has raised $10 million in their Series A financing round led by Imaginary Ventures, joining actor Simu Liu, Goldhouse Ventures, and Hyphen Capital along with founders Colin McCabe (Chopt), Jason Wang (Caviar), Gabi Lewis (Magic Spoon), Katrina Lake (Stitch Fix), Scott Cutler (StockX), Shan-lyn Ma (Zola), and more. The startup ships restaurant-quality soup dumplings and Chinese BBQ skewers nationwide, and today debuts new noodle kits which include a plant-based option developed in collaboration with Impossible Foods, featuring the brand’s Impossible™ Pork product. The company was founded in 2020 by second-generation Chinese Americans, who are on a mission to share honest representations of the food they grew up eating and open consumers’ minds and palates to new and exciting flavors, textures and aromas.



Food & Beverage

Parent company of Bang Energy files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

The parent company of Bang Energy filed for Chapter 11 protection in Florida as it seeks to recover following multiple costly lawsuits that have weighed on its business, the company said in a press release. Vital Pharmaceuticals, which produces Bang, said it has lined up $100 million from lenders, and noted in its bankruptcy filing that both its assets and liabilities were between just over $500 million and $1 billion.  Vital said the filing “is a restorative action to help the company recover from recent challenges.” Bang plans to use bankruptcy protection to put in place a new distribution network, the company said.  In addition to the financial toll of the lawsuits, Vital claimed Bang struggled with declining market share during its tumultuous partnership with PepsiCo, which the company said resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales.

Soli Organic raises $125M to further expansion plans

Soli Organic is one of the many indoor agricultural companies positioning itself to change the way people get access to fresh produce, but it isn’t a newcomer to the game. Previously known as Shenandoah Growers, the company was founded in 1989. AgFunder News reported last year that it had 35% of the U.S. market for herbs. According to Soli’s website, the company currently serves 20,000 retail locations nationwide and is the top national grower of fresh, organic culinary herbs. The company had been transitioning into greenhouses and indoor farms for years. The funds raised last year allowed Soli to move 90% of its production to its seven indoor facilities. The company then said it planned to build eight more farms. Soli announced the construction of a new 100,000-square-foot farm in Anderson, South Carolina in August 2021, and another larger farm to be built in Marysville, Washington in February. Production at the South Carolina farm is set to ramp up this month.

Pulp Culture and The Every Company partner to create protein-boosted alcohol

Alcoholic beverages don’t seem like the type of products to which a manufacturer would want to add protein.  However, Pulp Culture is a different kind of alcoholic beverage company. It launched in 2020 as the maker of clean label, better-for-you alcoholic drinks. The company uses 100% raw juice that ferments for three months, resulting in naturally occurring probiotics, organic acids, vitamins and a 4.9% ABV. At the end, superfruits and adaptogens are added to the mix. Pulp Culture’s target consumers are likely the type who want protein in their alcoholic beverages. “This launch further proves Every Protein’s capacity to unlock never-before-seen-or-tasted innovations,” Arturo Elizondo, Every Company’s co-founder and CEO said in a statement. “It’s exciting to continue unveiling new categories for food and beverage brands delivering the bullseye of what today’s consumers want.”

Murry’s acquires foodservice baked foods provider

Murry’s Inc., a portfolio company of San Francisco-based private equity firm Encore Consumer Capital, has acquired Bake Crafters Food Co. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Founded in 1989 and headquartered in McDonald, Tenn., Bake Crafters manufactures and distributes breakfast and other baked food products, primarily to the K-12 foodservice channel. The company’s products include pancake and waffle breakfast sandwiches, low-sodium bread, break bars and french toast bites. According to the company, more than 420 million servings of its whole grain products were used in schools during the 2020-21 school year.



Grocery & Restaurants

Savory Fund acquires majority interest stake in The Sicilian Butcher

Private equity firm Savory Fund has announced its 10th emerging brand investment — acquiring a majority interest stake in Joey Maggiore concept, The Sicilian Butcher. This is the second investment Savory Fund has made in a Maggiore brand, following the $20 million investment in Hash Kitchen in Nov. 2021. This time around, Savory Fund is allocating up to $30 million for the meatball and charcuterie brand, as well as its sister concept, the Sicilian Baker. Founded in 2018, the Sicilian Butcher’s unique three-unit, Arizona-based concept is known for its family-style meat and cheese platters, bruschetta boards, and build-your-own meatball platters. The Sicilian Baker’s three locations are attached to each Sicilian Butcher restaurant and offer up a cannoli bar, Pasticceria, and homemade gelato. Moving forward, the Maggiore and Savory team hopes to rapidly expand The Sicilian Butcher into new markets including the Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio markets in Texas, as well as Las Vegas, with a long-term goal of opening 20 units over the next four years.

Domino’s same-store sales turn positive with staffing improvements

Against the backdrop of continued inflation and industry-wide staffing shortages, Domino’s Pizza delivered positive domestic Q3 results Thursday morning, including a same-store sales increase of 2%. This is compared to a negative 2.9% in Q2. In fact, three of the past four quarters have been negative for the brand – a trend the company hasn’t experienced in a decade as it lapped anomalously positive trends throughout the first two years of the pandemic. In a statement, CEO Russell Weiner said, “Our team members and franchisees around the world continued to show the agility and perseverance required to operate in a volatile macro-economic environment. As we begin the fourth quarter, I believe Domino’s is poised to emerge from these volatile times stronger than ever.” During the company’s earnings call Thursday morning, Weiner and CFO Sandeep Reddy outlined reasons for their optimism. For starters, the company is experiencing sequential improvements on staffing, which has been a major hindrance throughout the past several quarters, leading to unfulfilled orders and trimmed operating hours at some locations.

Home & Road

Bassett Furniture rejects CSC’s buyout proposal

Like Flexsteel, Bassett has called CSC’s acquisition proposal “opportunistic.” Bassett Furniture has rejected the acquisition offer from CSC Generation Holdings, saying the proposal “significantly undervalued the company.” The offer was made to buy Bassett at $21 a share, or roughly $191 million. Bassett’s share price closed 8% higher today to $17.83 after news of the offer broke. “CSC’s effort to make the proposal public does not change the fact that it undervalues the company,” said Bassett CEO Robert H. Spilman in a statement. “The board, with the assistance of independent legal and financial advisors, carefully considered both offers as well as the comments related to CSC’s digital first strategy and determined that the proposals substantially undervalue the company, are highly opportunistic given recent turmoil in the stock markets, and not in the best interests of the company and its numerous stakeholders.”

Orian Rugs acquired; here is what it means for the rug manufacturer

The domestic rug manufacturer Orian Rugs has been acquired by Sage Park, a global operations focused acquisition group. Sage Park announced that the acquisition of substantially all assets of Orian Rugs has been completed. Orian operates in two segments: the design and manufacture of woven rugs for national, specialty and e-commerce retailers, and the manufacturing of specialized yarn products which support the commercial furniture, home and automotive industries. “For more than 43 years, Orian built a successful American-made brand using U.S. and globally sourced components with a well-earned reputation among its loyal customers for designing and creating quality products,” said Sage Park Chairman and CEO Robert Joubran. “We are committed to building on Orian’s rich heritage and investing in continued innovation. We look forward to partnering with Orian’s management team to continue growing the comprehensive manufacturing capabilities Orian developed in both yarn and rug products, while enhancing our relationships with Orian’s customer base.”

New England furniture fixture Rotmans to close

Absent a successor within the family and unable to find a purchaser following efforts to sell the retail business earlier this year, Steve Rotman is closing the eponymous family furniture business. In a letter to stakeholders obtained by Furniture Today, Rotman indicated that the company is conducting a going-out-of-business sale with a goal of drawing things down by the end of 2022 or early 2023. In the letter, Rotman noted that the retailer had been running a sale to liquidate excess inventory, consolidate its remote warehouse and improve its financial condition as well as reduce expenses.

Jewelry & Luxury

Lightbox Mulls Opening U.S. Stores In 2024

Lightbox, De Beers’ lab-grown diamond jewelry brand, may open brick-and-mortar stores in the United States in 2024, according to an Oct. 1 filing with Companies House, the U.K. corporate registry. “Lightbox is exploring the option of opening one or two own-brand brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. from 2024 onward in support of building the brand and plans to continue with e-commerce as a focus for the business within the next five years,” it said. In the past, the brand has erected pop-up stores in New York City, Los Angeles, and Florida. When asked for comment, De Beers tells JCK: “Since launching Lightbox Jewelry in 2018, we have continued to expand the brand’s offering through new product innovations and retail partnerships and continue to explore a range of potential expansion opportunities for the future.”

Sales at the world’s largest luxury brand jump on strong demand

French luxury goods giant LVMH beat market forecasts in the third quarter, posting a sharp rise in sales as wealthy shoppers splashed out on fashion and Americans in Europe made the most of the strong dollar. The world’s biggest luxury group, home to fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and Dior, got an added boost from improved business in China as Covid-19 curbs eased. But it warned that sales at jeweler Tiffany & Co were slowing in the U.S. Demand for luxury goods has so far proved resilient from inflationary pressures, with affluent consumers less impacted by a cost-of-living crisis that has led the less well-off to cut back on discretionary spending. “The relief of getting out of the pandemic alive has trumped any bad news. Consumers who can embrace a ‘carpe diem’ attitude: nobody wants to be the richest person in the graveyard,” said Bernstein analyst Luca Solca, who added that a recovery in China could come as consumers in the West begin to sober up from the post-pandemic euphoria.

Jared Aims High With New Jewelry Collection

Jared is stepping up its jewelry game, offering a limited-edition collection of elevated styles. Dubbed “Jared Atelier,” the collection features 21 diamond and gemstone jewels in limited quantities, with one to three editions of each piece. The collection is divided into three subcollections. “Aris” features mixed fancy shapes while “Monaco” employs mainly princess-cut diamonds in its styles. “Reign” is comprised of diamond and gemstone pieces. The jewels were crafted by London-based high-end designers as well as internal designers, said Jared. London guest designers included Jerry Greig, a fine jewelry specialist with nearly 20 years of experience with Cartier, De Beers, and more, and Catherine Budd, who was a Designer of Excellence finalist at the U.K.’s annual Jewelry Show.


Office & Leisure

Camp offers immersive Encanto experience at its NYC flagship store

Experiential retailer Camp is continuing its partnership with Disney. Camp, which describes itself as a family experience company, has opened “Disney Encanto x CAMP” at its New York City flagship on Fifth Avenue. The 6,000-sq.ft. experience is designed to transport families into the magical world of Disney Animation Studios’ Academy Award-winning Encanto, which is about a multigenerational Colombian family, the Madrigals. Inspired by the film and created in collaboration with Disney, the experience includes an hour-long visit to the Madrigals’ Casita. The experience also includes a retail component, with exclusive merchandise inspired by the film. Guests can shop in the Encanto town square for customizable character-based clothing and accessories, books and felt jewelry, with the items all displayed in a series of colorful merchant carts.  Camp was a participant in the 2021 Disney Accelerator, a business development program designed to accelerate the growth of innovative companies from around the world. Launched in 2018, Camp operates nine retail locations, with stores in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Texas.

Mini-Golf Upstart Puttshack Gets Big Investment from BlackRock

Puttshack has big plans to double its U.S. footprint in the coming weeks, and thanks to a fresh infusion of $150 million in cash from its latest funding round, the company has the fuel it needs for even bigger growth in 2023. The mini-golf brainchild of Topgolf founders Steve and Dave Jolliffe completed a growth capital funding round, led by BlackRock and British private equity firm Promethean Investments. Puttshack’s website says that the company’s Boston location was supposed to open over the summer. While it missed that deadline, just a day after the funding announcement the company announced that the Boston location will be opening this fall. “This new capital from BlackRock will allow us to further expand and bring our one-of-a-kind concept to more cities across the country,” Puttshack CFO Logan Powell said.  Puttshack describes itself as the world’s first and only upscale tech-infused mini-golf experience.  There currently are only two locations in the U.S. (Atlanta and Oak Brook, outside of Chicago) and four in the U.K. But now the company plans to open the Boston location as well as a Miami location before the end of the year. Puttshack locations are expected to open in Dallas, Denver, Houston, Nashville, Philly, Pittsburgh, and Scottsdale in 2023. The company also has plans to open a second Atlanta location.

Technology & Internet

Amazon shoppers shrug off second Prime Day sale

Amazon shoppers appear to have shrugged off promotions for discounted phone chargers and air fryers during this week’s Prime Day-like sales bonanza. The 48-hour event, dubbed the Prime Early Access sale, ran through Wednesday. For Amazon, the event tested how members of its Prime subscription program would respond to two major discount events in the same year, after the company’s main Prime Day sale in July. Amazon on Thursday said that tens of millions of Prime members ordered more than 100 million items from third-party vendors. It disclosed little else about the results, such as sales figures. But data collected by third-party analysts gives a deeper look into how the Prime Day sequel went over with shoppers compared to Amazon’s sales event in July. Sales during this week’s event seemed “lighter” compared to Prime Day in July, Bank of America analysts said. They estimate Amazon brought in $5.7 billion in revenue from the Prime Early Access Sale vs. $7.5 billion in July. Commerce data company Klover said it observed slower spending and volume, noting transaction frequency was down 30% between the July event and October event.


Amazon cost cuts under Andy Jassy reflect new reality after 25 years

Throughout its first 25 years as a public company, Amazon has operated under a singular mantra, often to the chagrin of Wall Street: growth is more important than profits. Founder Jeff Bezos laid out that strategy in his first investor letter in 1997. “We will continue to make investment decisions in light of long-term market leadership considerations rather than short-term profitability considerations or short-term Wall Street reactions,” Bezos wrote. But with three-quarters of 2022 in the books, it’s clear that the tone has changed. Andy Jassy, who took over as CEO in July 2021, has been in cost-cutting mode to preserve cash as Amazon confronts slowing sales and a gloomy global economy. The stock is down 33% for the year, more than the 25% drop in the S&P 500 and is on pace for its worst year since 2008. The wave of frugality is unfamiliar to Amazon investors and an employee base that swelled to 1.6 million last year from under 650,000 in 2018. In recent months, Amazon has shut down its telehealth service, discontinued a quirky, video-calling projector for kids, closed all but one of its U.S. call centers, axed its roving delivery robot, shuttered underperforming brick-and-mortar chains, and is closing, canceling or delaying some new warehouse locations.


Finance & Economy

Inflation increased 0.4% in September, more than expected despite rate hikes

Prices consumers pay for a wide variety of goods and services rose more than expected in September as inflation pressures continued to weigh on the U.S. economy.  The consumer price index increased 0.4% for the month, more than the 0.3% Dow Jones estimate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On a 12-month basis, so-called headline inflation was up 8.2%, off its peak around 9% in June but still hovering near the highest levels since the early 1980s.  Excluding volatile food and energy prices, core CPI accelerated 0.6% against the Dow Jones estimate for a 0.4% increase. Core inflation was up 6.6% from a year ago, the biggest 12-month gain since August 1982.  The report rattled financial markets, with stock market futures plunging and Treasury yields moving up as traders priced in likely more aggressive interest rate hikes ahead from the Federal Reserve.

Wholesale prices rose 0.4% in September, more than expected as inflation persists

Wholesale prices rose more than expected in September despite Federal Reserve efforts to control inflation, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The producer price index, a measure of prices that U.S. businesses get for the goods and services they produce, increased 0.4% for the month, compared with the Dow Jones estimate for a 0.2% gain. On a 12-month basis, PPI rose 8.5%, which was a slight deceleration from the 8.7% in August.  Excluding food, energy and trade services, the index increased 0.4% for the month and 5.6% from a year ago, the latter matching the August increase.  Food prices helped boost the increase in goods inflation, with a 1.2% monthly increase. Energy rose 0.7% after posting massive gains the previous two months.  Inflation has been the economy’s biggest issue over the past year as the cost of living is running near its highest level in more than 40 years.