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.
Walmart is starting off 2021 by losing one of its key e-commerce executives. Marc Lore, who has led Walmart's e-commerce strategy since the big-box retailer acquired his startup Jet.com for $3.3 billion, announced he was leaving Walmart after nearly five years. It leaves Walmart without the person who has previously been deemed the architect of its e-commerce strategy. All this during a year in which e-commerce is likely to once again experience tremendous growth — and as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.
The direct-to-consumer startup boom has also fueled the rise of a number of secondary industries — for example, buy now pay later services. Affirm just went public this week and if its Wall Street debut is any indication, it’s got some staying power. Affirm disclosed in its S-1 that it generates nearly 30% of its revenue from just one company: Peloton, one of the darlings in the DTC space. But the relationship between buy now pay later services and DTC startups runs deeper than that.
Outdoor furniture company Outer pays its customers to turn their backyards into "showrooms," which prospective new customers can check out as they're deciding whether or not to buy a sofa or a rug from Outer. It's something that the startup has done since launching in mid-2019. But 2020 was the year in which Outer started to prove that its model has traction. The company did more than $12 million in sales in 2020, up from $1.1 million in 2019. Now, the company plans to lean on its customers more to help fuel its growth, as it seeks to expand the showroom model.
For the past several years, more and more people have started abstaining from or cutting back on alcohol during the month of January, as part of a campaign known as Dry January. For startups that sell alcohol-free versions of beer, wine and cocktails, that means this is their month to shine. Modern Retail spoke with founders of startups like Curious Elixirs, Ghia and Ritual Proof Zero about how they are trying to attract new customers this month.
A boom both in online shopping and sales of home goods have helped give Bed Bath & Beyond new life. The big-box retailer has reported more than 75% growth in e-commerce sales during each of the last three quarters. The company's chief digital officer, Rafeh Masood, spoke with Modern Retail about how the company is seeking to capitalize on its e-commerce growth.
Shopify announced that it would be banning two online stores affiliated with President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Stripe has reportedly stopped processing payments for the Trump campaign. Rarely do political calls for action extend to e-commerce marketplaces or software providers. But recent actions signal that may start to change.
There's two competing narratives right now taking shape in the direct-to-consumer space: one, that venture capital funding is starting to fall out of favor with DTC startups. And two, that it's a great time to raise venture capital funding as a consumer startup, as more investors are finally waking up to the fact that there's a huge opportunity for these companies as more people do more shopping online. But these two concepts aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Some DTC startups are still raising venture capital money, they're just doing so later on. Or, if they take VC funding, they are taking steps to ensure their cash lasts longer.
Since taking over as CEO of Thinx in 2017, Maria Molland has sought to turn the startup -- and subsequently the period underwear category -- from a niche player into something that's at home on the shelves of mass-market retailers. To bring about this change, Molland has started to invest more in traditional advertising, running the company's first TV ad in 2019, as well as expanded its wholesale presence. Of course, like over other startup, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in Thinx's plans. Still, Thinx is closing 2020 with close to $80 million in revenue, and ended the year profitable.
The architect of JCPenney's most recent turnaround plan has left the company. Last week, JCPenney announced that CEO Jill Soltau was leaving the company effective December 31. During Soltau's two-year tenure, she started to take some steps JCPenney around, by paring down the company's in-store assortment, redesigning some of its private label brands, and had started to experiment with new store formats. But some analysts said she didn't move quickly before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, JCPenney's path forward under its new owners, Simon and Brookfield, is unclear.
Direct-to-consumer startups were among the biggest beneficiaries of more people doing their shopping online in 2020, with some startups like Brooklinen and Prose reporting that their sales more than doubled or tripled this year. Now, going into 2021, DTC startups are out to prove that the sales growth they reported this year isn't just a flash in the pan.
The DTC bubble was supposed to pop in 2020; instead, it became even more inflated. Fears that the pandemic would lead to a dip in consumer spending never panned out for most DTC startups, as the people most likely to be their customers -- young professionals working from home -- subsequently spent more of their money shopping online. Over the course of the year, companies in categories as disparate as hair care and bedding reported that their sales doubled or tripled over the course of the year, even as stores were ordered shut. Now, going into 2021, direct-to-consumer startups are trying to figure out how to best capitalize on the growth they saw this year.
In 2020, retail workers could no longer just be salespeople. They also had to be safety officers, virtual stylists and shepherds of buy online, pickup in-store orders. The job of the employee changed every single month," said David Marcotte. senior vice president of cross-border retail at Kantar Consulting. In 2021, retail workers shouldn't be pulled in as many different directions -- but the lines between roles will likely continue to blur.
In 2020, new-to-market startups started to do away with branding tactics that have historically been popular on Instagram. Pastels and Sans Serif font have been replaced by bright colors and oversized lettering, while startups are centering their social media centering their social media strategy around busting taboos or reaching customers that have historically been overlooked. As the direct-to-consumer startup space has gotten more crowded, startups have found that they need a different proposition than just creating a new e-commerce experience for mattresses or luggage -- and that requires a new branding playbook
Telehealth experienced a boom in 2020, as the pandemic forced people to replace in-person services with online alternatives. That also means it's been an explosive year for telehealth startups like Ro, which is projecting that it will end the year with $230 million in gross revenue, up 55% from the year prior. The scope of Ro's role in health care also changed dramatically this year, as the startup launched its own digital pharmacy and acquired a software startup called Workpath, that assists in deploying nurses for at-home visits. Ro's co-founder and chief growth officer Rob Schutz spoke with Modern Retail to share more details about the company's vision.
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