Ikea is testing out a new way to incentivize customers to come to its stores during the holiday season. The Swedish furniture retailer announced on Tuesday that over Black Friday, it will be hosting an event called Buy Back in 27 countries, where it will encourage customers to bring in old furniture for Ikea to resell. Between November 23 and December 24, customers who bring in furniture previously bought at Ikea will get store credit. Ikea's efforts to build out a resale business -- the company will also be opening a secondhand shop in Sweden next year -- coincide with its efforts to find new customer acquisition channels.
The kitchen and home-focused media and commerce company announced last week that Nordstrom will begin selling its direct-to-consumer produce line. Food52, which was first known for recipes and food-focused digital media, has been slowly growing its own product line, called Five Two. Now some of those products will be in Nordstrom. For Food52, it presents a way to get more eyeballs. And for Nordstrom, it helps cushion the coronavirus retail blow.
Brands and retailers that have struggled to keep their businesses afloat are holding on to the notion that it’s all uphill from here. And, new research indicates that they’re looking to the election to cement hope for a brighter, recession-free future. In an early-October Glossy/Modern Retail survey of 67 brand and retail workers, 38.7% said the economy is a top-three issue that’s most important to them in this election.
On Thursday, Dollar General announced that it is launching a new chain called Popshelf, which is targeted towards wealthier shoppers and will carry crafting items, home decor, health beauty products. Ninety-five percent of items will be priced at $5 or less, according to a press release. It's part of Dollar General's play to increase average order value, and attract new shoppers, in order to increase its profits.
Following a wave of fashion brands launching voting merch, beauty brands are rolling out their own get-out-the-vote efforts — with some more partisan than others. With the U.S. election less than one month away, a growing number of beauty brands are promoting voter registration through social media campaigns and merch. Most brands have taken a stand on progressive issues, especially with their support for Black Lives Matter this summer. But in an America sharply divided along political lines, they are taking differing approaches on whether to directly (or indirectly) endorse a candidate.
A number of companies are fighting Apple over a tax it takes for apps that charge for digital events. It's a long brewing battle, and Apple recently gave a few a reprieve. But the issue doesn't target just a few big companies, but also smaller ones that are trying to diversify their offerings into digital services.
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.
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.
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.
With in-person sales largely out of the picture this holiday season, brands must adapt to deliver the frictionless experiences that online consumers expect and demand.
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