Rent The Runway just announced plans to end its Unlimited rental option. This was a core part of its offering and hints at pain felt throughout the workwear and formalwear space. Fewer people are going to work and attending large events. As a result, demand -- both for department stores and platforms like Rent The Runway -- is cratering. In the middle of a pandemic with an unknown timeline ahead, the future of many of these companies looks ominous.
Retailers and tech companies are breaking a sweat trying to outgun one another in the red-hot subscription fitness space. Apple became the latest entrant on Tuesday, announcing at a product event that it would be launching a new service for Apple Watch users called Fitness+ by the end of the year. A big tech company like Apple entering the space brings a greater air of legitimacy to the idea that subscription fitness is set to be a lucrative revenue driver that many companies will want in on in the coming years.
On Monday, Walmart launched Free Assembly, a new private label line of men's and women's clothing with pieces ranging from $9 to $45 in price. It's not the only fashion move that Walmart has made as of late, as the big-box retailer has been looking for ways to get customers to buy more higher-margin items like clothing in order to make its e-commerce and store businesses as profitable as possible. But Walmart has a unique opportunity to grow apparel sales right now as people people are making fewer trips to stores, but looking to buy more in a single trip.
The rise of low and non-alcoholic cocktail alternatives has been in the works for some time. Now, specialty beverage brands like Seedlip, Ritual Proof Zero and Curious Elixirs are seeing additional demand for their products. As their founders see it, even alcohol drinkers are finding themselves needing to cut back on at-home consumption for health reasons.
Business interruption insurance has become a new sore spot for retailers during the coronavirus pandemic. When Century 21 filed for bankruptcy last week, the New York City-based department store chain blamed its demise on failing to receive payouts from its business interruption insurance. Typically, business interruption insurance policies don't explicitly list viruses or pandemics as an event that they will cover. So rather, retailers and other businesses are looking at the rest of their language in their policies, to see if there's a section that they can argue should be applied to pandemics.
Even though some shoppers are still hesitant to visit stores, not every retailer is shying away from opening new brick-and-mortar locations. Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald said on Tuesday during the company's second quarter earnings that it plans to open about 70 pop-up locations during the second half of this year. Before the coronavirus, Lululemon primarily used pop-ups to test out new markets that the company was considering opening permanent stores on. Now, the company is leaning on these pop-up stores to help the company mitigate long wait times in areas where it is seeing a lot of foot traffic.
Back-to-school season was retailers' first major test in the coronavirus era, and not every company passed with flying colors. While no major retailers have released exact figures about how sales were this back-to-school season compared to last, a few things have become clear. Retailers' spend on back-to-school advertising is down, and those that are spending are favoring digital advertising and social media campaigns rather than splashy national TV campaigns. And, the window of time during which people do their back-to-school shopping has grown. Both trends are likely to continue into the holiday season this year.
As customers continue to do more of their shopping online, retailers are also seeing huge increases in the number of customers downloading their apps. Best Buy reported during its second quarter earnings last week that the number of customers who have downloaded its app have doubled compared to the same time last year. Home Depot similarly experienced a record number of app downloads during the second quarter. While people are shopping more online than they are in store, the increase in mobile app usage has also been driven by the adoption of services like curbside pickup.
As beauty deal hunting and deal activity has picked up in the world of Covid-19, it's also extended to an unlikely group of investors -- those previously centered on the food and beverage categories with little beauty-specific segment experience. "We identified the better-for-you food and beverage space as an emerging sector back in 2014 and now see huge potential in clean beauty and wellness brands," said Jordan Gaspar, managing partner and president of AF Ventures.
The coronavirus has forced retailers to rethink how they approach key events this year. and the holiday season will be no exception. Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass said that the company is anticipating "early holiday demand beginning in October." Target CEO Brian Cornell also said this week that the company will be "spreading our best price holiday offers over a longer timeframe," in order to cater to customers who start holiday shopping in October. As retailers prepare for holiday shopping to begin earlier, they will have to think about how to build out their fulfillment and buying process to handle the unusual shopping patterns.
As it turns out, even meal kit enthusiasts are getting tired of the prep and clean up aspect of boxed ingredients. That's why the latest offerings by delivery services like Sun Basket and Home Chef are now including semi-prepared dishes that can be assembled and consumed within minutes. This modified model, a shift away from the simple novelty of pre-measured ingredients, has been a bet in recent years by the likes of smart oven manufacturer Tovala.
Home gym supply brands have seen record demand since the coronavirus first swept the world. Now, even though a few months have passed, the situation has only intensified. Many products remain sold out and companies in high demand are still dealing with supply chain woes to try and get their fitness items into customers' hands.
Once known for their ubiquitous yet irrelevant presence, quick response (QR) codes have made a comeback during the pandemic. The scannable tech's ease of use is now being applied to digital restaurant menus and checkout payment systems. But it's not just local businesses that are helping QR codes' popularity resurge, but also big companies like Instagram, CVS and Walmart that are investing in building their own.
In the space of a few months, a strawberry-patterned dress has all but taken on a life of its own online. First released in 2019, it was initially moderately successful, including being worn to the Grammys by the American model Tess Holliday in January 2020. But in the past weeks, it’s become almost omnipresent in certain corners of the internet, as a meme.
Even before the pandemic, malls were struggling to figure out how to diversify their tenant mix as fewer shoppers visit department stores. Now, the pandemic has exacerbated those challenges, as existing tenants stopped paying rent during March and April store shutdowns, and other types of businesses are concerned about signing new leases before the pandemic is over. Simon Property Group and Macerich's earnings from this week show that there is still a long ways for mall owners to go on the road to recovery.
Seventy-three percent of shoppers now use multiple channels to research and shop before making a purchase. And 90 percent expect consistent interactions across all of those channels.
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