A year out, DTC startups are still facing huge supply chain woes

Last year, many direct-to-consumer startups saw record sales -- but they also struggled to produce and ship enough product to keep up with customer demand. If the first few weeks of 2021 are any indication, those issues are likely to continue well into the new year. Since the beginning of the pandemic, startups have been scrambling to find ways to speed up production, mostly by adding more suppliers and placing orders for products further in advance. A year later, and the problems persist.

Top Stories Jan 22
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Why Amazon’s algorithm update takes direct aim at Walmart and Target

As Target and Walmart increasingly build up their e-commerce offerings, Amazon is trying to cling to its positioning in search results. As such, the e-commerce giant tweaked its algorithm to focus more on external search results. When customers type “leopard print bedding” into Google, Amazon wants to ensure that an Amazon product -- not a Walmart product -- comes up first. It's a small but important change, and signals a turning tide.

As gyms falter, ClassPass is rapidly expanding beyond fitness

ClassPass, which began as fitness boutique-booking app back in 2013, has been rapidly expanding into other areas such as wellness and beauty treatments. In the past year, the platform has added 6,500 non-workout venues to help diversify its marketplace offerings and potential revenue. And the company plans to double down on this area.

Why retailers are paying employees to get the coronavirus vaccine

Retailers are trying to get their employees vaccinated -- and fast. There's a clear incentive for retailers to encourage their employees to get vaccinated as quickly as possible: as more of their employees get vaccinated, it decreases the likelihood that one of them will contract the coronavirus at work. However, mandating that employees get the vaccine presents its own set of challenges.

Other news to know

  • Instacart announced that it was cutting more than 1,800 jobs, including those of its only unionized workers, as it pivots to a pickup model in some locations. Grocers who rely on Instacart for grocery pickup will use Instacart’s technology but will use their workers to fulfill orders, instead of Instacart’s in-store shoppers. Notably, these in-store shoppers are also part-time workers, rather than contract workers — which primarily make up Instacart’s delivery workforce.
  • American Eagle executives said during a virtual investors meeting on Thursday that they plan to close at least 200 stores in the coming year, while opening a couple hundred stores under its loungewear banner Aerie over the next three years.
  • Consumers 65 and older were the fastest-growing cohort of online shoppers in the U.S. last year, according to the NPD Group, thanks in large part to many of them becoming frequent adopters of grocery delivery services. The Washington Post has a new report looking at how retailers are adapting to better serve this cohort.
Number of shoppers Instacart hired in the spring to keep up with the initial grocery delivery boom


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'Big companies are not as good at innovation': Canteen Spirits CEO Brandon Cason on disrupting the hard seltzer industry

'Big companies are not as good at innovation': Canteen Spirits CEO Brandon Cason on disrupting the hard seltzer industry

Canteen Spirits was ready to take on the hard seltzer industry -- and then the coronavirus hit. According to co-founder and CEO Brandon Cason, the first few months of the pandemic were hard. But things began to quickly ramp up once the first coronavirus peak subsided -- and the beverage brand is in growth mode once again. Canteen makes canned vodka-based sparkling beverages. Cason joined this week's Modern Retail Podcast and described the year's journey.

What a price fixing lawsuit against Amazon says about antitrust

A new lawsuit alleges that Amazon was fixing the cost of ebooks through anti-competitive contracts with the five major book publishers. It's similar to an earlier one from 2012 involving Apple. These lawsuits offer a preview of what happens when two interrelated industries -- publishing and bookselling -- each become heavily consolidated. Publishing is one of the only high-profile industries to have recurring price-fixing problems, but as Amazon’s market share grows in other sectors, it might not be the last.

With YouTube's new shoppable tools, the video platform wars are heating up

With YouTube's new shoppable tools, the video platform wars are heating up

YouTube's build-out of its e-commerce capabilities has been slow, especially in comparison to other platforms like Facebook and TikTok. But starting this spring, the video sharing site will begin testing a more robust shoppable video tool, which could allows for more effective brand advertising.

Why e-commerce companies are turning themselves into banks

Walmart has big plans to enter the fintech space. Although few retail companies offer financial services in the U.S., e-commerce companies in Asia -- including Alibaba, Rakuten, Shopee and others -- have made themselves into hubs not only for goods but also for everyday banking needs. These companies give out loans to customers, take bank deposits and facilitate transactions that are not directly related to e-commerce -- like paying for utility bills -- and they offer one possible path forward for U.S. retailers looking to add a financial services arm.

Retailers are exiting malls -- and changing their store strategies

Retailers are exiting malls -- and changing their store strategies

As retailers increasingly open more stores in strip malls or open-air shopping centers, they're also rethinking what these locations should look like. Locations of Macy's new off-mall chain, for example run only 20,000 square feet, tens of thousands of feet smaller than the typical department store. As other retailers like Sephora and Foot Locker are looking at opening more off-mall locations, they're following similar playbook.

How Shopify became the new retail empire

For a decade, Shopify has been slowly growing, describing itself as a quiet no-nonsense back-end tool to help merchants grow their businesses. And over the last year it's become an empire. Now, as Shopify has create more programs to bring in new merchants, the company has become a new e-commerce default -- and it has big plans to expand beyond mere DTC brands.

Why Walmart is testing porch coolers for grocery delivery

Walmart is testing ways to keep consumers ordering groceries online long after the pandemic. As grocery sales slow down, the retailer is partnering with tech startup HomeValet to install smart coolers on customers' porches.

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Jan 22, 2021

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