Digital consumer startups that happened to benefit during the pandemic are seeing renewed interest from investors. However, despite a return in fundraising activity, prospects of early stage venture backing remain stagnant. Later-stage consumer startups in hyper-growth mode have able to seek out fresh funding for extending momentum. That hasn't been the case, however, for early stage companies.
After months of stocking up on essentials, summer is proving to be a bright spot for struggling industries like apparel. Swimwear is an example in which brands with a dedicated following are reframing what their merchandise is used for. It can also mark a turning point for other stunted travel-related categories.
Amazon long-running goal to dominate fashion is seeing a new attempt during the pandemic. With the electronics-focused Prime Day still months away, the "Big Style Sale" could provide a much-needed stimulus for sellers whose categories suffered throughout the quarantine.
A cohort of former Everlane employees, the Everlane Ex-Wives Club, released a four-part statement highlighting the company’s alleged toxic workplace. The company, which recently faced criticism over alleged union busting-related layoffs, said this is the first it's hearing of the accusations in the 14 testimonies.
As Gap takes another legal hit from landlords, the physical retail world and commercial real estate worlds may continue to face mounting tension before new terms are set. While some retailers face lawsuits, others are trying to ink agreements to temporarily pause rent, with the understanding things will pick back up in the future. Some players are also renegotiating leases to encompass future unprecedented crises. Put together, it points to future commercial real estate contracts having a new look.
The coffee industry has had to grapple with the future of wholesale since the pandemic hit. However, it's also opened up new revenue streams. The combination of millions of customers working from home along with cafes operating at limited capacity forced roasters and distributors to quickly pivot to DTC.
United Sodas of America unveiled its line of 12 flavors of low-calorie soda last May, which came after two years of development. At the most recent Modern Retail+ Talk, co-founder and CEO Marisa Zupan said the compant surpassed forecast sales by 5x over the past month. “Learning about people’s behavior at their delivery preference was valuable during this period,” she said.
Startups catering to office-based employers are rethinking their services to fit the new workplace. Solutions for socially distant workplace designs is proving to be a major opportunity for some businesses. From health workstation partitions to individually packaged kitchen staples, here are some of the ways companies have changed their services to offer social distancing service.
Resale platform Mercari is letting sellers offer two-hour courier service via Postmates. Mercari Now, which it developed before the pandemic, allows users to accept local orders without packing and shipping them via parcel, said CEO John Lagerling. Mercari joins other companies investing in new same-day delivery services -- and Postmates has remained a popular business partner.
As one of the early DNVBs to incorporate physical retail, menswear brand Untuckit was hit hard by the pandemic. Many items saw demand slip and all of its stores had to close down. Despite the setbacks, founder Chris Riccobono told Modern Retail he doesn't have plans to permanently close any stores.
Starbucks' new store strategy aggressively favors digital orders and pickup, building on its experimental format from recent years. The post-pandemic look of its shops in the next 18 months will favor to-go over customers using its seating area for socializing.
Proof underwear's April launch could have gone many ways, but it happened to coincide with low CAC and an unexpected solution for quarantined women. "When people took their foot off the gas, we put ours on," said co-founder Lori Caden. She and her sister co-founder talked about launching their latest brands -- as well their earlier company that debuted in 2008.
Reopening stores, even just for curbside pickup, isn't as easy as it looks. Companies are performing cost-benefit analyses -- taking into account inventory reallocation, store staffing logistics, and whether try-ons are necessary enough to justify opening up. The reality is that for many smaller brands, “curbside alone can’t cover costs to warrant a reopen as the virus wave continues,” explained Lunya CEO Ashley Merrill.
Same-day delivery continues to see interest beyond food and alcohol, as services like Postmates and Ohi continue to see increased demand. “We’ll continue to offer Postmates going forward,” said Neighborhood Goods CEO Matt Alexander, including at the New York Chelsea Market location when it reopens.
Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson, who co-founded the coffee brand in 2018, spoke to Modern Retail about running a growing coffee brand. Their strategy helped Blk & Bold become the top selling coffee on Amazon during the pandemic, along with national distribution at Target and Whole Foods. While other coffee companies focus on placements in shops, Blk & Bold went a different route and went all in on retail.
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