With the massive shift in consumer purchasing over the last eight months from brick and mortar to ecommerce, it should be no surprise that Amazon sales during the two-day event last Wednesday and Thursday called Prime Day increased versus last year. Amazon announced that Prime Day sales of its third-party sellers increased 60% to $3.5 billion, but unlike announcements made in prior years, the company did not provide information on total sales volume. Third party estimates of the overall sales increase range between 36% and 45%, prompting at least one analyst to call the results of the event “underwhelming.”
Prime Day was previously held in July, a particularly slow month for retail, but Amazon postponed the event as it caught up from the demand surge caused by the COVID-19 lockdowns. Holding the event closer to the holiday season should have had some positive impact on sales volume, but with many conflicting economic signals as the U.S. deals with the months long impacts of the pandemic, it’s not clear what the results of this year’s event mean, including whether Amazon continue to stage Prime Day in October in future years.
The increase in Prime Day sales came despite continued but improving high unemployment and the struggles of traditional retail businesses, so the Prime Day results may be more of a shift of where consumer dollars are being spent than a sign of economic vitality. And despite, or maybe because of, strong Prime Day publicity, analysts estimated that during Prime Day, non-Amazon web sales increased 69% globally and 76% in the U.S., driven by competing events at Walmart, Target and Best Buy, among others.
Online sales have likely benefited from the host of services and related goods that consumers are not spending money on today, particularly anything and everything related to travel. While the reported web spending increases are significant and strong, they are not reflective of the entire universe of consumer spending. But the economy is showing strength despite the pandemic, with September spending rising 1.9% driven by increases in sales of vehicles, clothing and home improvement.
Can we really judge the state of the economy based on the results of two days of sales in October? Probably not, but if you happened to miss Prime Day, Amazon has already launched its next promotional event – Holiday Dash. It is 15 times longer than Prime Day, and you don’t have to be a Prime member to participate. Perhaps this month-long event will be more telling of the state of the consumer than this year’s unique Prime Day.
Headline of the Week
Amazon.com Inc.’s sixth-annual Prime Day is in the books. And it marked yet another record-breaking event for the retail giant, with sales surpassing last year’s 48-hour event by 45.2%, a Digital Commerce 360 early analysis shows. Digital Commerce 360 estimates Amazon’s sales on Prime Day hit $10.40 billion globally over the two-day period spanning Oct. 13 and Oct. 14, up from $7.16 billion during the 48-hour event in July 2019. Marketplace sellers were the big winners this year, selling a record of more than $3.5 billion worth of goods during Prime Day, Amazon says. Sales of marketplace sellers’ products grew nearly 60% and—most notably—grew faster year over year than sales of Amazon’s own products, which includes its private-label goods, Amazon devices and products it buys from manufacturers to sell itself.
Apparel & Footwear
Ascena Retail Group on Tuesday said it has an agreement to sell the intellectual property, e-commerce business and other assets of its Justice tween brand to Premier Brands Justice for $35 million, according to court documents filed Tuesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. With that, Premier Brands Justice becomes the stalking horse bidder for a planned auction as part of the apparel conglomerate’s bankruptcy, as noted in an Ascena press release. A couple of years ago several observers noted how Ascena’s sprawling operations, with several brands to manage within several subsectors, were becoming increasingly troublesome. Even before its bankruptcy the company seemed to address that by liquidating Dressbarn and all its 544 stores and selling a majority stake in Maurices last year. Within bankruptcy this year the company has plans to close more than 1,000 locations, most of them Justice stores. All Catherines stores are also closing. Despite rumors that private equity firm Sycamore Partners is interested in its Ann Taylor brand, Ascena on Tuesday said it continues to operate the Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant and Lou & Grey brands through stores and online.
StreetTrend LLC announced that it has acquired the European based sneaker brand P448 from NoThanks SpA, headquartered in Forli, Italy. The new consolidated entity will be called P448 SpA and will become part of the StreetTrend portfolio of footwear and fashion brands. StreetTrend LLC, a fashion footwear and street wear brand company was launched in 2017 by Wayne Kulkin, former CEO of Stuart Wetizman for more than 25 years, in a joint venture partnership with the financial services and brand investment firm Hilco Global and its CEO Jeffrey B. Hecktman. Karen Katz has also been tapped as Chairman of StreetTrend’s Advisory Board. Katz previously served as President & CEO of Neiman Marcus Group LTD LLC and has since been seated on several boards, including Under Armour and Casper. As a self-described “sneakerhead” and as the CEO of StreetTrend, Mr. Kulkin first discovered the P448 brand in 2017 while traveling to Italy to source brands for his new street wear company. After several visits, Kulkin signed an agreement with P448 to serve as the exclusive distributor and marketing partner for United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan under StreetTrend LLC.
French Connection warned of further permanent store closures in the coming months as the high street store reported that sales have plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic. The struggling retailer, which closed nine stores in the first half, said it continued to target the closure of non-contributing sites and expects to shutter more in the second half. Chief executive Steven Marks said the pandemic had been the most challenging period the firm, which he founded in the 1970s, had ever faced. French Connection reported group revenue of £23.9m, down 53.1 per cent from £51m last year, due to the impact of the pandemic. The retailer’s underlying loss widened from £3.6m last year to £12.2m this year, driven by the steep decline in sales and additional one-off stock provisions. Wholesale revenues plunged 49.3 per cent to £13.8m due to the closure of customers’ stores, although some deliveries continued to online operators. Retail revenues dropped sharply by 57.6 per cent to £10.1m, reflecting the UK coronavirus lockdown as well as the closure of nine French Connection stores.
Centric Brands LLC (the “Company”), a leading lifestyle brands collective, announced that it has completed its financial restructuring and emerged from voluntary Chapter 11 proceedings, implementing the Company’s Plan of Reorganization (the “Plan”) that was approved by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. In accordance with the Company’s Restructuring Support Agreement (“RSA”), Centric Brands has substantially reduced its funded indebtedness by approximately $700 million and has emerged with a stronger capital structure. The Company is well-capitalized with access to substantial cash and liquidity. Centric Brands is now a private entity with a strategic plan to continue harnessing growth opportunities in its core business segments while identifying new areas for future success in partnership with Blackstone (“Blackstone”), its majority sponsor, Ares Management Corporation (“Ares”), and HPS Investment Partners (“HPS”). “The completion of this reorganization marks a major milestone for our Company. Throughout this process, we operated seamlessly without interruption and remained focused on serving our valued partners.” said Mr. Jason Rabin, CEO of Centric Brands.
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Retro Fitness, a leader in the high-value, low price fitness space, announced a prominent investment from Boston-based venture capital firm, Arena Capital Partners. The partnership supports the high demand for the fitness franchise to expand and develop health clubs throughout the greater Boston market, with plans to initially open 10-12 locations. Over the next year, the expansion across Boston is slated to create hundreds of jobs for the local community with the ability to service over 40,000 members, elevating the focus on health and wellness starting in Middlesex and Essex counties. With exercise, health and overall fitness top of mind across the country, Retro Fitness saw a spike in franchise sales amid the pandemic. Founded in 2004, Retro Fitness began as a regional gym concept in the Northeast and has evolved into a leading national fitness franchise with more than 140 gyms open or in development across the country.
Nautilus, Inc., the innovation leader in home fitness for over 30 years, announced today that the Company has completed the sale of its commercially focused Octane Fitness business to TRUE Fitness Technology, Inc. for $25.0 million. TRUE also assumed $3 million of warranty liabilities and $0.5 million of vendor recourse lease obligations. “The sale of Octane Fitness aligns with the larger strategic enhancements we are making as a business to streamline our operations and accelerate the transformation of the consumer side of our business”, said Jim Barr, CEO of Nautilus, Inc. “We are focused on dramatically enhancing connected in-home fitness and continuing to provide our customers with cutting-edge technology and a superior customer experience. We will use the proceeds of this transaction and our improving balance sheet to continue the transformation of our leading fitness offerings.”
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
Even amid a pandemic, Walgreens Boots Alliance managed to deliver fourth-quarter and full-year results near the top of its projections, due largely to the strength of Walgreens in the United States. For the fourth quarter, WBA saw net earnings decrease by 44.9% to $373 million year over year, with earnings per share down 42.8% to 43 cents — both of which the company attributed to a 46-cent adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, lower U.S. pharmacy gross profit and year-on-year bonus charges. At the same time, the company has been working to turn around Boots U.K. while expanding its omnichannel efforts in the United States and expanding in China. Between a partnership with DoorDash, personalization efforts and more pick-up options, the company noted that Walgreens pick-up use more than doubled from the third quarter. Additionally, the company has conducted more than 1 million COVID-19 tests across 440 sites in 49 states. Operating income for the full year decreased 26% to $650 million
British fragrance brand Perfumer H closed a minority investment from Patina Brands to support global expansion. Perfumer H is the British fragrance house created by perfumer Lyn Harris in 2015 in an uncompromised desire to pioneer naturals back into perfumery. Patina is an investor and active advisory house, secured by a global beauty holding company, that intends to strategically align with beauty brands that strongly resonate with the consumer values of today. Each member of the founding team arrives with expertise in an area integral to success in today’s market; collectively, these strengths enable the team to provide comprehensive, one-stop support for the growth of its portfolio brands. The investment, which was born out of a natural alignment between the perfumer and the Patina team, will support the brand’s ongoing global expansion at the tail end of its strongest year to date.
Discounters & Department Stores
Macy’s on Wednesday announced that Adrian Mitchell, a partner at Boston Consulting Group, will take the chief financial officer job on Nov. 2, according to a company press release. Before BCG, Mitchell was CEO of home furnishings retailer Arhaus from 2016 to 2017. Before that he was CFO at Crate and Barrel, also taking on chief operating officer duties and later also serving as interim CEO. Before joining Crate and Barrel in 2010, he held management positions at Target, and began his career at McKinsey & Company, where he co-founded the NA Lean Operations Retail Practice.
Belk now offers same-day delivery for orders placed on Belk.com before 2 p.m. ET, the company announced on Tuesday. When customers order goods through the website and select “Same Day Delivery” at checkout, a Belk personal shopper will fill the order and deliver it to them by 9 p.m. Orders placed after 2 p.m. ET will be filled the next day, the company said. The company will charge customers $9.95 for delivery of select merchandise on orders $49 and up and $14.95 on orders under $49. The company will denote items that qualify for same-day delivery with a special icon on the website, per the company statement.
Nordstrom partnered with Balsam Hill to create Christmas tree lots for holiday shoppers at 21 Nordstrom stores across 13 states, Balsam Hill announced on Tuesday. It’s a first-time partnership for both companies. Nordstrom began debuting the tree lot displays Oct. 8 through Oct. 15, and they will remain available throughout the holiday season. Among the Nordstrom locations that will feature the tree displays are the Nordstrom Stores in New York City, the Mall of America in Minnesota and California’s South Coast Plaza, per the company statement.
Walmart is continuing to leverage its massive parking lots for marketing purposes with more than 140 football and Halloween contact-free events outside stores nationwide, the retail giant said in a blog post Monday. Its “Halloween Camp” extends a similar virtual summer camp offering. Plus, starting Thursday and continuing through Halloween, the retailer will hold socially distanced trick-or-treat events for kids and families. A series of farmer’s market-style events that will include local vendors are slated for “six spirited college towns in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin” to provide a tailgate alternative for college football fans.
Emerging Consumer Companies
JAXJOX, a Redmond, Washington maker of tech-enabled workout products like dumbbells, raised $10 million from investors that Dowgate Capital Ltd. and entrepreneur Nigel Wray. The funding will help research and development of the JAXJOX InteractiveStudio, a fitness platform that combines connected strength-training equipment with live and on-demand content, enabling users to track their own performance in real time during classes. The InteractiveStudio is available for pre-order at JAXJOX.com and retails for $2,199 with a $39 monthly subscription. JAXJOX has raised $17 million to date.
DYPER, a subscription-based diaper service that delivers high quality bamboo-based compostable diapers directly to customer’s doorstep each month, raised $20 million. The round was led by The Craftory with participation from existing investor, HCAP. The diapers are free from chlorine, latex, alcohol, PVC, lotions, TBT or Phthalates and unprinted, unscented, soft to the touch, while still extremely durable and highly absorbent. DYPER packaging is made from oxo-degradable materials, and DYPER purchases carbon offsets that actively promote reforestation for each delivery. An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used annually in the US, resulting in 3.4 million tons of used diapers added to landfills yearly. Scientists estimate a discarded disposable diaper containing plastic takes approximately 450 years to decompose.
Steph Korey, co-founder of Away, has stepped down as CEO. Stuart Haselden, who joined Away in January, is taking over as the CEO of the company effective immediately. Korey’s plan to step down this year had been in place since “the beginning of this year,” the company said in July. Korey initially announced she would step down in December 2019 and then reversed that decision a month later and resumed the CEO title alongside Haselden. She will continue to serve on the board of directors. Away also announced an expanded executive team that includes several executives outside of the travel space.
Grocery & Restaurants
Albertsons Cos.’ Acme Markets plans to acquire 27 Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lover’s Markets for $96.4 million in cash under a bankruptcy auction. Malvern, Pa.-based Acme said Wednesday that it expects to finalize the transaction later this fiscal year, pending customary closing conditions and regulatory and court approvals. KB US Holdings, parent of Kings and Balducci’s, put the chains up for sale in August upon filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time of its Chapter 11 filing, Parsippany, N.J.-based KB Holdings — whose majority owner is GSSG Capital Corp. — said it had accepted a $75 million stalking-horse bid for the Kings and Balducci’s stores from New York investment firm TLI Bedrock. Plans call for the upscale Kings and Balducci’s grocery stores to retain their banners and become part of Albertsons’ Mid-Atlantic division, which operates Acme and Safeway supermarkets on the East Coast
While living in Texas, Brandon and Zane Hunt yearned for pizza that reminded them of their Detroit upbringing. So the two brothers launched Via 313 in a trailer in Austin, Texas nine years ago. The concept was the first pizzeria outside of their hometown to hawk so-called “Detroit-style” pizza. Via 313 has since grown to two trailers and three brick-and-mortar locations in Texas. The emerging brand generates annual sales of more than $12 million. Taking note is Savory, a $100 million growth fund and new division of Salt Lake City-based Mercato Partners. Savory announced plans Tuesday to invest and grow the brand to more than a dozen new locations over the next 24 months.
Private-equity firm 10 Point Capital has made a growth investment in Walk-Ons Sports Bistreaux, the companies announced Tuesday. The Baton Rouge, La.-based casual-dining Walk-On’s, which has more than 40 units in nine states, said the investment by the Atlanta-based 10 Point Capital would enable the brand to add new locations. Walk-On’s said it would continue to target strategic franchise development in key markets throughout the Southeast and Midwest.
Home & Road
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. has struck three separate deals as it continues to streamline its portfolio and shed its non-core businesses. The home goods retailer, which expects to close about 200 stores during the next two years, has entered into an agreement to sell Christmas Tree Shops to Handil Holdings, which is based in Sudbury, Mass. The agreement includes all 80 Christmas Tree Shop locations and a Middleborough, Mass., distribution center. Handil Holdings expects to continue operating Christmas Tree Shops as a stand-alone retail brand. In addition, Bed Bath & Beyond is selling its institutional Linen Holdings business to The Linen Group LLC, an affiliate of Lion Equity Partners. (Linen Holdings provides linen, terry, amenities, case goods and apparel to businesses in the global hospitality and healthcare industries.) The sale is expected to close in October 2020. The retailer is also selling its distribution center in Florence, N.J. to an institutional buyer. The companies have agreed to a transition service agreement, following the close of the transaction, to help ensure business continuity, particularly during the upcoming holiday season. The transaction is expected to close in November 2020. Bed Bath & Beyond expects to generate a total of approximately $250 million from the sales.
Furniture and home furnishings store sales continued their upward trajectory in September, carrying on a year-over-year and month-over-month increase streak started in August. Rising 4.6%, sales year-over-year reflected the confirmed reports that furniture buying boom that many retailers have been experiencing post-COVID-19 quarantine did not slow for the month. That same boom may explain the relatively flat 0.5% rise month-over-month as the industry is already experiencing a high number of sales. Additionally, month-over-month, the slight increase in sales totals could be contributed to the presence of a prominent retail sales holiday, Labor Day, in the month, which, according to several retailers, went remarkably well despite COVID-19 and supply shortage complications. In total, the category did a projected $10.41 billion in sales during the month. August’s adjusted $10.36 billion total is up from a previously reported $10.23 billion total for the month, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce report released today.
Jewelry & Luxury
The stalking-horse bid for the Dominion Diamond Mines has fallen apart, raising doubt about the future of Ekati, the pioneering Canadian mine that it owns. An affiliate of Washington Companies, which owned Dominion before its April filing for insolvency protection, submitted the $126 million stalking-horse bid in May. Dominion had hoped to win court approval for Washington’s bid at a court hearing at the Queen’s Bench of Alberta on Wednesday.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Sterling Jewelers’ appeal of a court ruling that will allow 70,000 female employees to participate in a massive class-action arbitration that alleges that the company systematically discriminated against them. The court case dates back to 2008, when a group of 14 female Sterling employees filed a gender-discrimination complaint in New York federal court. The suit, which sought class-action status, claimed that female employees were paid less than their male counterparts because of certain company policies, including a “tap on the shoulder” promotion system.
Tiffany & Co., whose business practices have come under fire by its now-reluctant acquirer LVMH, announced that its sales declined in September and October even as profits soared. LVMH agreed to acquire Tiffany last year for $16.2 billion but is now arguing that Tiffany’s pandemic-related problems represent a “material adverse event” that requires the deal be canceled. Tiffany has filed suit to hold LVMH to the deal in the Delaware Court of Chancery. Tiffany typically releases financial information by quarter, rather than by two-month periods, so it certainly appears that the company has released this information as a preemptive rebuttal to any arguments LVMH intends to make in court.
Fine jewelry brand Sparkle Cut debuted in 2019 as an e-commerce diamond jewelry brand that innovated in the gem-cutting space: It pioneered a proprietary diamond cut that delivers a 50%–100% increase in sparkle, via a series of nano-cuts that are around one-fiftieth the width of a human hair. Now the company is pivoting to a wholly B2B model. Company cofounder Jo Lawson, a veteran of Apple and Movado, has moved on from Sparkle Cut and is now an executive position at PayPal, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Office & Leisure
Popular gaming platform Roblox announced that it filed confidentially for a public offering. The company previously submitted a draft registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell shares of its common stock, according to a press release. Roblox’s platform offers users several different games across gaming consoles and mobile devices. Though the platform itself is free, users can spend money on in-game items. The company announced in July it has more than 150 million monthly active users. Roblox also expects to rake in more than $250 million this year, up from $110 in 2019. The company could target a valuation as high as $8 billion depending on market demand, according to the report. Roblox was last valued at $4 billion in February after raising $150 million in a Series G funding round. Roblox hadn’t decided whether to make its public-market debut through a traditional initial public offering or a direct listing.
Five Below has joined the fast-growing esports craze. Nerd Street Gamers, the national network of esports facilities and competitive gamer events, has partnered with the tween and teen discount retailer to open LocalHost esports facilities connected to two Five Below stores, in Philadelphia and Georgetown, Texas. An additional location is due to open later this month at a Five Below store in St. Louis, Mo., with additional locations to follow. The LocalHost facilities enable gamers of all skill levels to take part in esports competitions, training sessions, bootcamps and hourly play across a wide variety of video games. The facilities will also offer live in-person events. This news follows Nerd Street Gamers’ Series A funding led by Five Below in October 2019. As part of the deal, the companies agreed to build these initial stores as a pilot in 2020 and, based on learnings from the pilot, determine future rollout plans that could include as many as 70-plus locations over the next few years.
With many independent bookstore owners facing the most dire financial crisis in their lifetimes, the American Booksellers Association has teamed with an award-winning advertising agency known for “culture hacking” to dramatize the threats of the pandemic and the growing dominance of Amazon.com. On Tuesday, the trade group launched the “Boxed Out” campaign, for which a handful of bookstores around the country will have windows boarded up and boxes piled up out front that resemble Amazon delivery containers, with one label reading “Don’t Accept Amazon’s Brave New World.” The beginning of what the booksellers association hopes will be a conversation in stores and online, “Boxed Out” was designed by DCX Growth Accelerator. “Boxed Out” coincides with Amazon Prime Day, when the online giant offers special deals to its members. While the overall market for books has been surprisingly solid in 2020, Amazon.com has apparently fared best as the public increasingly makes purchases online. According to a report issued last week by the antitrust subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, “Amazon accounts for over half of all print book sales and over 80% of e-book sales” in the U.S. market.
Technology & Internet
Apple has officially announced its 2020 flagship iPhones: the $999 iPhone 12 Pro and $1,099 12 Pro Max, featuring support for 5G and a new squared-off design that’s reminiscent of the iPhone 4. It’s also the first major redesign for Apple’s full-screen smartphones since it introduced the bezel-less design with the iPhone X in 2017. One of the biggest new additions on this year’s models is 5G.
Amazon held its first-ever e-commerce holiday — Prime Day — in July 2015. Over the past five years, the annual online shopping event has become a symbol of how e-commerce is transforming customers’ habits, driving sales and reshaping the entire retail industry. Even before the e-commerce giant dreamed up the event, it was already a powerful force that’s pushed rivals to let go of a nearly singular focus on bricks-and-mortar and cater to consumers who want to go on a shopping spree from their couch. Prime Day kicked off Tuesday. It’s spanning 48 hours and reaching additional countries than in past years. Analysts expect it will bring in a record $9.91 billion in sales globally this year, up 43% from a year earlier, according to eMarketer estimates. Sales were just $1.5 billion during Prime Day 2016, the earliest year of eMarketer estimates. With its dominance on the web and massive base of Prime members, Amazon has become an existential threat for companies — adapt, invest in websites and warehouses, or risk falling behind.
Finance & Economy
Consumers spent at a much faster pace than expected in September, with retail sales rising 1.9% in a sign that the U.S. economy’s biggest driver remains healthy. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected sales to rise 0.7%, up from a 0.6% rise in August. Excluding autos, the gain amounted to 1.5%, which also was better than the 0.4% estimate. Clothing and accessories led the gains, rising by 11%, while sporting goods, music and books jumped 5.7%. Electronics and appliances was the only major sector that was negative, dropping 1.6% from the August levels.
Bank of America (BofA) said that it is seeing a full restoration of customer spending, along with declines in delinquencies on credit cards, car loans and mortgages, even as the pandemic rages on. “Year to date, across $2.3 trillion in spending at Bank of America, customers have spent more than they did last year,” CEO Brian Moynihan told investors and analysts on a conference call following the company’s 3Q earnings release. “What we are seeing as we turn into October is that spending by our consumers is still solid and about 10 percent ahead of last year.” Moynihan said America’s second-largest bank sees consumer and commercial demand continue to improve, alongside a U.S. economy that has recovered 97 percent of its previous gross domestic product size.