We are excitedly counting down the months and weeks until the Consensus Great Brands Show (CGBS), which will take place September 25th, at the New York Times TimesCenter in Manhattan – https://greatbrandsshow.com/. With the date of the CGBS approaching, we are using this space each week to profile a different company that will be taking the stage in September. As we strive to assemble the most compelling slate of participating companies yet in the history of this event, we hope our weekly previews underscore our growing anticipation for this year’s show and give you a head start on learning about these dynamic brands and entrepreneurs.
Well-made, casual clothing designed for the moments in life that you love. That is the mission statement of men’s and women’s clothing and swimwear brand Faherty.
Faherty was founded in 2012 by twin brothers Mike and Alex Faherty, who left their corporate jobs in New York City to create a new brand and design the perfect pair of boardshorts. The brothers brought a unique combination of skills and experiences to the company. Mike’s eight years at Ralph Lauren suit him to the creative/design side of the business, while Alex’s background in private equity helps him manage Faherty’s financial and operational goals.
The Faherty brothers continue their boardshort-inspired mission today, though the brand has expanded over the years to include men’s and women’s shirts, hoodies, outerwear, and bottoms made from incredibly soft, washed, premium fabrics. Select key items include the All Day short, which is made from recycled materials, and the Hoodie Poncho, which comes in solid colors as well as stripes and tribal prints that lend a West Coast-inspired feel.
While other brands may focus purely on aesthetic, Faherty is also deeply committed to comfort, and sustainability. On the comfort front, the company develops its own fabrics with family-owned factories around the world to ensure the softest handfeel and best quality, and many styles have a relaxed, beachy fit. On the sustainability front, the Faherty brothers share a passion for preserving the world’s oceans, driving them to create innovative fabrics using recycled polyester from plastic bottles.
Faherty sells through its own stores and website, as well as select wholesale distribution. The brand has opened nine store locations on both coasts, all of which are designed by the twins’ mother, Ninie, who scours flea markets for vintage and antique finds to give each store its own character and personality. At wholesale, Faherty is sold in over 180 points of sale, including certain Nordstrom locations.
Faherty’s special blend of fashion, lifestyle, and environmental ethics have garnered the brand broad attention from the media, including features in The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and GQ. It has also clearly resonated with consumers, who have embraced the brand for delivering on its promise to outfit them for the moments in life that they love.
Headlines of the Week
Barneys New York is raising financing for a bankruptcy filing that could come as soon as next week, people familiar with the situation told CNBC. The company has been looking for a path to avoid bankruptcy to help cope with a liquidity crunch spurred by a rent hike at its Manhattan flagship. Options beyond filing for bankruptcy, though, have grown increasingly slim, the people said. Talks with one potential financing source fell apart Wednesday, one of the people said. As a result, Barneys has begun to raise debtor-in-possession financing to help support its business through bankruptcy. The exact size of the DIP financing is still to be determined. The people, who requested anonymity because the information is confidential, cautioned that a filing is not certain. Barneys is still exploring multiple paths, including those that would help it avoid bankruptcy.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. and Punch Bowl Social have entered into a strategic relationship with Cracker Barrel taking a non-controlling position in the Denver-based concept, the companies said Tuesday. Under the terms of the agreement, Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel will invest up to $140 million to acquire its initial non-controlling stake from private-equity firm L Catterton, which made a “significant investment” in the brand in 2017, and to provide growth capital for future development of the restaurant-entertainment concept. The restaurant-entertainment hybrid has 17 locations across 12 states and plans to open 11 additional units by the end of calendar year 2020.
Apparel & Footwear
Looking for pockets of growth in a tumultuous retail industry, Abercrombie & Fitch is betting it can find one in selling underwear and bras to teens and tweens. The retailer has struggled to meet analysts’ sales expectations in recent quarters, with momentum slowing at its Hollister brand, in particular. It continues to shut stores, including some flagships, as it remodels others and focuses on smaller-format versions. But Abercrombie says its recently reinvigorated lingerie brand, Gilly Hicks, has been outperforming other categories and could present one of the company’s biggest growth opportunities. Abercrombie announced Monday that it opened four new pop-up shops last week. All are expected to be open for about 12 months, according to the company.
In tune with its luxury peers, Manolo Blahnik is taking control of production, acquiring a top Italian women’s shoe manufacturer, Calzaturificio Re Marcello S.r.l. Founded in 1938 by the Re family, Calzaturificio Re Marcello has a single factory, in Vigevano, Italy, not far from Milan. It has produced women’s shoes for the Manolo Blahnik brand since 1990. Re Marcello’s facility employs 77 craftsmen who will now become part of Blahnik’s company, reinforcing the brand’s efforts to develop artisanal talent and preserve shoemaking skills for future generations, Manolo Blahnik said. As part of the acquisition, the current management team of Bruno Re and Giuse Galazzi will stay on for the foreseeable future, working alongside the Manolo Blahnik management team.
A former Walmart e-commerce director has departed to help build online kids clothing brand Rockets of Awesome. Scott Turner, a director for Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce team who had been working at Jet.com with Marc Lore before the company was acquired by the big-box retailer back in 2016, announced in a post on LinkedIn Sunday evening that he was leaving. At Rockets of Awesome, Turner will be a senior vice president responsible for digital and marketing. He’ll report to COO Anneke Jong and founder and CEO Rachel Blumenthal, who’s been building the business beyond its origin as a clothing subscription platform by allowing shoppers to buy the whimsical clothes a la carte. Turner will be responsible for overseeing the entire customer experience, including Rockets of Awesome’s marketing efforts, its creative strategy, digital push and customer support.
When Mindy Scheier’s son Oliver came home from school in 2014, the then-eight-year-old told her he wanted to start wearing jeans like his friends. It might seem like a common request, but for Mindy there was a challenge: Oliver has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which causes physical disabilities. Scheier founded Runway of Dreams Foundation, a nonprofit working to make fashion more accessible for people with disabilities, and partnered with Tommy Hilfiger in 2016 to launch a line of adaptive clothing for children. It wouldn’t be the last apparel retailer to enter the space. In 2017, Target added adaptive apparel made specifically for kids and toddlers with disabilities to its children’s line Cat & Jack. The same year, Zappos launched Zappos Adaptive on its website, where it began selling sensory-friendly clothing. Most recently, in June Kohl’s announced that it will introduce adaptive apparel to its three largest children’s brands.
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Vail Resorts announced it has entered into a definitive merger agreement to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding stock of Peak Resorts, at a purchase price of $11.00 per share, subject to certain conditions, including regulatory review and Peak Resorts’ shareholder approval. Through the acquisition, Vail Resorts will add 17 U.S. ski areas to its network of resorts, located near major metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Columbus, St. Louis, Kansas City and Louisville.
Nike, the world’s largest sportswear maker, is exploring options for its surfwear brand Hurley International, including its possible divestment, according to people familiar with the matter. Nike’s potential retrenchment from the surfwear market is emblematic of the stance of most major consumer companies towards the sector. Surf brands have lost their appeal among non-surfing consumers, who now prefer boutique brands and retro streetwear. Nike purchased Hurley from founder Bob Hurley in 2002 for an undisclosed sum in an effort to expand beyond athletic-focused apparel and into other sportswear for surfing, skating, and snowboarding.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
Young Living Essential Oils announced that it has acquired Nature’s Ultra. Nature’s Ultra, which has more than 1,500 acres of hemp farms in Colo., will continue to operate independently and provide CBD products that are legal under federal law, as well as natural, organic, gluten-free and vegan approved. In addition, the acquired brand’s farms and cultivation processes have received Young Living’s Seed to Seal approval, the Lehi, Utah-based company said. The Young Living essential oil-infused products that are to be sold by Nature’s Ultra, which can be found on the company’s website, will include Boost, Calm, Soothe and Zest CBD roll-ons, as well as a range of flavored CBD oils and muscle rub.
GNC plans to close up to 900 stores, which may cut its mall locations in half. As part of the retailer’s “store optimization” effort, CEO Ken Martindale said it’s likely the health-and-wellness retailer will end up closer to the top end of its original optimization estimate of 700 to 900 store closures as a result of “current mall traffic trends.” Sixty-one percent of GNC’s store base is located in strip centers, while 28% reside in malls. “The negative trends in traffic that we’ve seen in mall stores over the past several years has accelerated during the past few quarters, putting additional pressure on comps,” Martindale said. GNC is likely to reduce its mall store count by nearly a half, from a little over 800 stores malls today to 400 or 500, according to CFO Tricia Tolivar.
Shani Darden, the eponymous skin-care brand, has landed two investors and hired a chief executive officer. The line was founded by aesthetician Shani Darden with a product called Retinol Reform, selling for $95, in 2013. That product generated significant buzz online, which has continued due to Darden’s client roster: She works with Jessica Alba and Chrissy Teigen, for example. Now Darden has received a seed investment from BAM Ventures, the fund of serial entrepreneur Brian Lee, whom she met through Alba, and Beechwood Capital, an early investor in Tatcha (which was just sold to Unilever for nearly $500 million). Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry sources said Darden’s brand is on track to do $5 million in sales for the year.
Discounters & Department Stores
Millennials have killed department stores! Such headlines have been raging for years now, amidst other stories of the “retail apocalypse.” Mid-level department stores such as JCPenney, Macy’s and Sears have perhaps fared the worst, with the shopping convenience they once offered now overtaken by e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and superstores such as Target. The high-end sector is not exempt from the pressure; Hudson’s Bay Co. has closed 10 of its Lord & Taylor stores and one of its Saks Fifth Avenue outposts, while Barneys New York faces bankruptcy over rising rents — something millennials are no stranger to themselves. But that hasn’t stopped the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom from experimenting with new strategies in order to stay afloat and putting hefty investments into its stores in the country’s most competitive retail landscape — New York City. Those new strategies include creating seamless transitions between online and physical shopping and, perhaps most crucially, generating some much-needed buzz by taking a page out of the streetwear playbook.
Retail earnings overall this quarter aren’t looking good when compared with a year ago. A drop is being forecast for the industry. And department store chains in particular are still struggling to grow sales, whereas Walmart and Target have found pockets of growth in grocery, through their e-commerce businesses and with their in-house brands. There’s a growing gap between the strong and the weak — the retailers that are struggling with a buildup of inventory ahead of the holiday season, and those that have a better grip on what consumers are looking for. Nordstrom and Macy’s shares are down more than 40% over the past year, while J.C. Penney shares have cratered 65%. Kohl’s shares are down nearly 30% during the same time period. The declines have weighed on the S&P 500 Retail ETF (XRT), which has fallen 12% over the past year. Meanwhile, Walmart has climbed 27%.
Emerging Consumer Companies
Weller, a Boulder, Colorado-based maker of CBD-infused food and beverage products, raised $3 million in seed funding. The round was led by Brand Foundry Ventures, with participation from LivWell Ventures, Great Oak Ventures, CanopyBoulder, 7Thirty Capital, and Justin Gold, founder of Justin’s. The capital will be used for sales, marketing, and scaling production. The company previously raised a $1.25 million seed round in early 2018.
Outdoor Voices, the Austin-based activewear brand, has launched a website and a print and digital magazine designed to highlight the fun in outdoor activities rather than high performance. The first issue of the magazine, called The Recreationalist, includes an interview with Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon, during a hike up the Grouse Grind trail in Vancouver, as well as product recommendations, playlists, and city guides.
Bulletin, New York City-based retail tech company founded in 2015, announced it has closed $7 million in Series A funding led by Foundation Capital, with participation from Kleiner Perkins, Trail Mix Ventures, and Afore Capital. Since its introduction in 2015, Bulleting has made it easier for brands to expand into retail, helping hundreds of brands access physical retail space for the first time by opening its own physical retail stores featuring products from those brands.
Grocery & Restaurants
Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants announced today an investment by a fund managed by the Private Equity Group of Ares Management Corporation. Terms of the investment were not disclosed. KarpReilly sold its minority position in Cooper’s Hawk as part of the transaction. Countryside, Ill.-based Cooper’s Hawk’s, which was founded in 2005, is one of the fastest-growing casual-dining chains. The brand has differentiated itself from competitors with a wine club of nearly 400,000 members, in addition to a restaurant and tasting room. Cooper’s Hawk currently has 36 locations.
Jollibee Foods Corp., the Philippine’s largest restaurant operator and owner of the U.S.-based Smashburger brand, has agreed to buy the Los Angeles-based Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf brand in a $350 million deal. Manila-based Jollibee is investing $100 million for an 80% share of a Singapore-based holding company, Java Ventures LLC, and the remaining 20% will be owned by Jollibee’s partner in its Vietnam coffee and restaurant business, Highlands Coffee. As part of the transaction, Jollibee has agreed to invest another $250 million, part of which will be used to pay down Coffee Bean’s debt, Jollibee said.
Starbucks Coffee Co. has announced an investment in Brightloom, a restaurant technology company focused on creating an end-to-end digital customer experience platform for the food service industry. Starbucks said the investment will accelerate its offering of mobile ordering and payment options to improve customer convenience. As part of the investment, Starbucks will grant Brightloom a software license to certain components of Starbucks’ proprietary digital flywheel software, which includes mobile ordering and payment, app personalization and its rewards program. Additionally, Starbucks will take an equity stake in Brightloom and receive a seat on the company’s board of directors.
Toronto-based Onex Corp. said it was selling its stake in Jack’s Family Restaurants Inc. to an undisclosed buyer in a deal that will close at the end of the third quarter. Onex bought the Birmingham, Ala.-based quick-service hamburger chain in 2015 for $234 million. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Onex said it is more than tripling its investment in the Southeastern chain founded in 1960.
Home & Road
Paint and coatings supplier Sherwin-Williams Co. announced second-quarter 2019 consolidated net sales of $4.88 billion, a 2.2% increase compared with the same prior-year period. The company credited the sales increase to higher paint sales volume in North American stores, a new customer program launched in 2018 and selling price increases, partially offset by demand softness in some markets outside the United States and unfavorable currency translation rate changes, which decreased consolidated net sales by 1.5% in the second quarter and 1.8% in the first six months, respectively. Sherwin-Williams recorded a 16.7% increase in second-quarter net income to $471 million.
At Home’s stock shot up 15% Wednesday after investor Whitney Tilson referenced a member-only investors club report that said the home decor superstore retailer is in “an active sales process” with at least two potential buyers. In his own Empire Financial Daily newsletter, Tilson picked the Plano, Texas-based company as his “Stock Idea of the Day.” In the post, Tilson excerpted a ValueInvestorsClub.com report (calling it his favorite stock idea website), which recounted how the retailer’s stock priced plunged 57% on its fiscal first quarter earnings results and had been down another 30% since then and down 87% from its July 2018 high.
Jewelry & Luxury
The current malaise in the diamond industry is serious, but it will pass, De Beers Group chief executive officer Bruce Cleaver tells JCK following the recent release of the company’s financial results. “I’m not going to pretend it’s easy, because it’s not right now,” Cleaver says. “The midstream is being buffeted by a series of things that is making it tough for them. There is an oversupply of polished in the midstream, less restocking.” Still, he’s hopeful that the industry will pick up when demand does. “I don’t want to underestimate how difficult it is in the midstream right now, but there is a psychological element to this,” he says. “If we get a good season, this will pass.”
Earlier this year, Frederick Goldman Inc. announced the creation of its Jewelry Solutions Group, and, now, two manufacturing veterans have joined the team. Donna DeLucia has been named senior director of technical sales. She previously worked at fine jewelry manufacturer John C. Nordt and precious metals company LeachGarner. In a press release, Frederick Goldman noted DeLucia’s “extensive product knowledge” and “ability to forge deep customer relationships.” John Badee, meanwhile, has joined Jewelry Solutions Group as director of manufacturing and engineering. Prior to this, he was general manager at manufacturer Riva Precision.
Alex and Ani LLC filed a lawsuit against Bank of America Corp. Wednesday, alleging lending discrimination against the women-led company and asking for $1.1 billion in damages. According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, Bank of America granted the company a line of credit in 2016 to fund its operations but declared Alex and Ani in default in December 2018, allegedly without warning. The suit claims that Bank of America breached the credit agreement by “fraudulently alleging a default that didn’t exist,” as Alex and Ani made timely payments and complied with the terms of the agreement. Cutting its credit line cost the company more than $1 billion in expenses, lost revenue and reduced market value, as per the court filing.
An important stone has found its name. Lucara Diamond Corp. announced that the 1,758-carat rough diamond it dug up in April will be known as Sewelô, meaning “rare find” in Setswana. The mining company chose Sewelô from more than 22,000 submissions in a contest open to Botswana citizens. One of the largest rough diamonds ever recovered, the stone was found at Botswana’s Karowe mine, the same site that produced the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona. That diamond was named in the same manner as Sewelô, via a contest open to Botswana’s citizens. Upon announcing its discovery, Lucara described the stone as being “near-gem of variable quality,” meaning it is an industrial diamond with sections that could produce gem-quality stones.
Office & Leisure
France-based Raja Group has announced an agreement to acquire four of Staples Solutions’ European direct brands. The transaction covers four brands in three markets: the JPG, Mondoffice and Kalamazoo office supplies and furniture brands in France, Italy and Spain respectively, and the France-based Bernard jan/san supplies business. Raja said its strategy is to increase sales, expand its customer base and diversify its product offer – following the acquisition, it will have nearly 3,000 employees and annual sales of around €1 billion ($1.1 billion). The transaction is expected to be finalised in October following regulatory approvals and the completion of certain employee representative consultations.
Online campsite platform Hipcamp announced that it raised $25 million in Series B funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz. To date, Hipcamp has raised $41.8 million in investment funding. The largest online marketplace for finding campsites, San Francisco-based Hipcamp offers users everything from traditional tent camping experiences to glamping in treehouses to RV destinations. The site and app originally focused on getting urbanites into the outdoors, working with private landowners to unlock more land across the United States.
For the price of a decent one-bedroom apartment in a major U.S. city, you could hop around the world from one luxury property to another. A new offering from travel company Inspirato called the Inspirato Pass grants members unlimited access to more than 60,000 homes, hotels, and “Inspirato Only experiences” worldwide for $2,500 a month, nightly fees and taxes not included. It’s a lot of money, no doubt, but it’s a lot less than buying a night at these properties without the pass. Inspirato members can choose from five-star hotels and villas with concierge services including chateaus in Provence and high-end hotels in New York City. Of course, the convenience comes with a catch. Members can only book a new property after they’ve checked out of the previous one. For significantly more money, members can hold two reservations at once ($5,000 per month) or three reservations ($7,500 per month).
Technology & Internet
Alibaba Group Holding wants to help American small businesses sell to the world. Alibaba is best known for its retail e-commerce business serving Chinese consumers. But the company got its start with an international wholesale marketplace—Alibaba.com—meant to help China’s small companies reach buyers abroad. Now, Alibaba is opening the gate for American companies to sell their products on the marketplace as well. It is especially targeting smaller operations with limited online capabilities and access to international markets.
Etsy, the e-commerce platform for handmade goods, is acquiring music gear marketplace Reverb for $275 million in cash. The site, which sells new, used, and vintage musical instruments and accessories, will continue to operate as a standalone business.
In the first quarter since Amazon.com Inc. announced plans to transform its Prime loyalty program into a one-day free shipping offer, the retail giant’s sales jumped nearly 20%. The change drove consumers to buy more on Amazon. But it was also a “shock to the system” as Amazon exceeded the $800 million it planned to spend on the change, said Brian Olsavsky, the retailer’s chief financial officer, during a conference call with analysts. “We saw some lower productivity as we were expanding rather quickly,” he said. “We also saw some costs from [our need to] buy more inventory and move inventory around in our network to have it be closer to customers.”
EBay Inc. is taking another step toward free and faster shipping. The second-largest online marketplace in the U.S. will offer its U.S. sellers a new fulfillment service called Managed Delivery in 2020, eBay announced Wednesday at its annual eBay Open conference for its sellers in Las Vegas. Managed Delivery offers sellers the option to work with eBay to store, pack and ship their products. When sellers use Managed Delivery, they have the option to offer free shipping with faster delivery times (two days or fewer) to customers on eBay. EBay won’t be building its own warehouses or using eBay-branded trucks to facilitate sellers’ shipment of products. Instead, the marketplace has partnered with third-party logistics companies in the U.S., which will be storing, packing and shipping sellers’ orders.
Finance & Economy
The U.S. economy grew more slowly in the second quarter as a pullback in business investment and stockpiling offset strong spending by consumers. The results portrayed solid activity even as recession concerns continue to hover. The nation’s gross domestic product – the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S. — increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.1% in the April-June period, following a 3.1% gain in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. Economists expected a 1.8% increase in output. The report comes amid mounting worries that the sluggish global economy and President Trump’s trade war with China could lead to a recession by next year. Those fears have bolstered expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates next week for the first time in a decade to head off a potential downturn.
Orders to U.S. factories for large manufactured goods rose last month after sharp declines the previous two months, propelled by demand for commercial aircraft and cars. A category that tracks business investment had its biggest increase in four months. The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods — or items meant to last at least three years — rose 2%, after a 2.3% decline in May and an even bigger 2.8% drop in April. A category that serves as a proxy for business investment rose 1.9%, its best showing since February. Aircraft orders, typically a volatile category, jumped about 75%, after falling more than 50% in May and almost 40% in April. Orders for cars and auto parts increased 3.1%, its biggest increase since July of 2018.
The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, pointing to continued strong labor market conditions. First-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 206,000 for the week ended July 20, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Refinitiv had expected initial claims to increase by 3,000 to 219,000. Data for the previous week were unrevised at 216,000. The four-week moving average of initial claims — a more accurate measure of labor market trends, because it irons out week-to-week volatility, dropped 5,750 to 213,000 last week.