As many states are continuing to order non-essential retail stores to stay closed, and shoppers tighten their wallets, startup founders are having to take a look at what costs they can cut to ensure their can keep their business running through the coronavirus outbreak. Many startups are cutting their digital advertising spend. Others are trying to renegotiate leases. Many founders are taking extreme pay cuts themselves, and asking their executive teams to as well. And, ultimately many of them are also having to layoff or furlough staff, or asking them to take unpaid leave as well. Modern Retail will be tracking the job and salary cuts announced by startups, by date of when they were first reported, in order to get a better sense of how the coronavirus outbreak will impact the burgeoning direct-to-consumer industry.
There's more ways than ever for teens to make money. Some teenagers are foregoing the typical 20 hours per week part-time job in favor of starting their own side hustles, like promoting sponsored content on their Instagram pages or selling secondhand clothes. As a result, businesses that rely on a lot of young employees are having to offer more perks in order to convince teenagers to work for them
Nike took a hit to its China business during the third quarter thanks to the coronavirus outbreak there. Now, the company will look at what the outbreak, which is ramping up in the U.S., will do to its retail business, even as the company hopes that its growing DTC business and loyalty programs may mitigate the worst of the impact.
It's a critical week for U.S. retailers, as Friday will mark two weeks since many of them decided to temporarily shutter their stores. While most of them said that they would fully pay their store employees through the closure, they were also only initially planning on closing their stores for two to three weeks. With the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. only continuing to grow, it's likely that many of their stores will remain closed for longer than that. As such, trade groups like the National Retail Federation are more urgently pushing Congress to include relief for retail businesses in any bailout package.
For the past couple of years, investors have been urging direct-to-consumer brands to rely less on digital advertising to acquire new customers. While they may be hesitant to admit it, many direct-to-consumer advertising brands are pulling back on their advertising spend on Facebook and Google as they anticipate shoppers will tighten their wallets in the coming months.
As other types of retail businesses have temporarily closed their stores in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, grocery store workers and employees at big-box chains like Target and Walmart have found that their jobs have become more critical than ever before. Shoppers are flooding their stores looking for toilet paper, hand sanitizer and to stock up on two weeks worth of groceries. That leaves workers scrambling to fulfill order pick-ups and make sure the stocks are shelved before the stores are opened, coming in earlier than usual to unload extra trucks, and struggling to keep up with more frequent cleanings that have been ordered by corporate offices.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., grocery delivery services like Instacart and Amazon Fresh have seen a huge spike in demand. But other food startups are also seeing an increase in sales, as many shoppers stock pile snacks and fresh food while they work from home for the foreseeable future.
Some investors have speculated that the coronavirus could lead to a rise in sales for e-commerce startups, as more people shop online instead of visiting stores. But, that doesn't mean that these startups are completely in the clear. Direct-to-consumer startups, in their never-ending quest to acquire customers more cheaply, have been moving to open more stores in recent years. Others also rely on in-person events to reach new potential new customers.
Melanie Kahn, founder of Illinois-based beverage brand Poppilu Antioxidant Lemonade, was relying on the annual Natural Products Expo West event to help move her business forward in a number of ways. She was hoping to meet with potential investors during the event, which was supposed to be held between March 3 and 7 and get her company in front of new retailers. Plus, she had a new product to promote, for kids.
For years, IKEAs differentiator has been its store experience. The Swedish-founded furniture company relied on its maze-like layout, food court and low prices to get shoppers to stay in store longer and subsequently buy more. As the company rolled out digital features, many of them were aimed at supplementing the in-store experience, like an app designed to help shoppers navigate the stores.
Companies that sell primarily direct-to-consumer already faced a tough time raising venture capital funding in 2020. And that was before an outbreak of COVID-19. Most investors say it's too early to tell if other venture capital firms will prove less willing to make investments in the coming months, and certain categories like like travel may be more negatively impacted than others. But nearly all are counseling companies to rethink their growth projections for 2020, and start thinking now about how they can tighten up expenses in a worst case scenario.
Andrea Lisbona, founder and CEO of hand sanitizer brand Touchland, was hoping for a year of fast revenue growth. But her projections were completely shot out of the water thanks to a surge in demand over the past few weeks for hand sanitizer, caused by people buying more of the product over concerns of catching the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Lisbona said that within the past few weeks, Touchland has sold more than 250,000 orders, which works out to about 800% growth.
It seems like every retailer is relying on their e-commerce business to fuel double-digit sales growth. But there's still one group of brick-and-mortar chains that have largely resisted selling their products online: off-price retailers. Last week, Burlington Stores, Inc. announced that it would shutter its e-commerce business altogether, as it only accounted for 0.5% of its total sales. Here, Modern Retail lays out the case for and against off-price retailers investing in e-commerce.
During its fourth quarter earnings on Thursday, Kroger reported its biggest increase in operating profit all year, a sign that its cost saving measures are starting to pay off even as it makes costly investments to grow its online business. Kroger reported that fourth quarter identical sales, excluding fuel, were up 2%, while digital sales were up 22%. Total company sales were $28.9 billion, compared to $28.3 billion last year.
Last January, direct-to-consumer furniture brand Article took a step that's still relatively unusual for a startup: it launched an in-house last-mile delivery program. As an online-only startup that has yet to open a single store, Article viewed building its own in-house delivery operation as a necessary customer service investment. The biggest benefit of launching ADT is that it has allowed Article to reduce delivery times. The company is now able to deliver roughly half of its orders in under a week, compared to 30% in 2018
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