Jeff Bezos posts his final letter to shareholders as Amazon CEO. Read the key takeaways and full note.

jeff bezos
Amazon cofounder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

  • Amazon CEO and cofounder Jeff Bezos is stepping down as chief executive later this year.
  • Every year since Amazon went public, Bezos has written a widely-read letter to the shareholders.
  • His final letter, below, includes what Bezos sees as the future of the company.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In 1997, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote his first letter to shareholders and set a precedent for decades of startups after it.

Despite Amazon’s tiny footprint at the time, Bezos’ letter to shareholders laid out a bold vision for the company: a relentless focus on customers above all else, and a prioritization of reinvestment over short-term shareholder returns.

Each year since, Bezos has written a new letter to shareholders that has become highly anticipated. With Bezos scheduled to step down as chief executive later this year, he just published his final letter.

In it, Bezos highlights a critical concept that has guided his oversight of one of the world’s biggest companies: “You have to create more than you consume,” Bezos says in the letter. “Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with.”

He also defends Amazon as “Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work” – a direct refutation of repeated allegations from delivery and warehouse employees who say they’re overworked, and are forced to pee in bottles to save time. “The fact is, the large team of thousands of people who lead operations at Amazon have always cared deeply for our hourly employees, and we’re proud of the work environment we’ve created,” Bezos says.

And he looks to the future as well, where Andy Jassy will take over as CEO. “It’s a hard job with a lot of responsibility,” he says. “Andy is brilliant and has the highest of high standards. I guarantee you that Andy won’t let the universe make us typical.”

Read the full letter:

To our shareowners:

In Amazon’s 1997 letter to shareholders, our first, I talked about our hope to create an “enduring franchise,” one that would reinvent what it means to serve customers by unlocking the internet’s power. I noted that Amazon had grown from having 158 employees to 614, and that we had surpassed 1.5 million customer accounts. We had just gone public at a split-adjusted stock price of $1.50 per share. I wrote that it was Day 1.

We’ve come a long way since then, and we are working harder than ever to serve and delight customers. Last year, we hired 500,000 employees and now directly employ 1.3 million people around the world. We have more than 200 million Prime members worldwide. More than 1.9 million small and medium-sized businesses sell in our store, and they make up close to 60% of our retail sales. Customers have connected more than 100 million smart home devices to Alexa. Amazon Web Services serves millions of customers and ended 2020 with a $50 billion annualized run rate. In 1997, we hadn’t invented Prime, Marketplace, Alexa, or AWS. They weren’t even ideas then, and none was preordained. We took great risk with each one and put sweat and ingenuity into each one.

Along the way, we’ve created $1.6 trillion of wealth for shareowners. Who are they? Your Chair is one, and my Amazon shares have made me wealthy. But more than 7/8ths of the shares, representing $1.4 trillion of wealth creation, are owned by others. Who are they? They’re pension funds, universities, and 401(k)s, and they’re Mary and Larry, who sent me this note out of the blue just as I was sitting down to write this shareholder letter:

Letter to Jeff Bezos, from shareholder (1)
Letter to Jeff Bezos, from shareholder (2)

I am approached with similar stories all the time. I know people who’ve used their Amazon money for college, for emergencies, for houses, for vacations, to start their own business, for charity – and the list goes on. I’m proud of the wealth we’ve created for shareowners. It’s significant, and it improves their lives. But I also know something else: it’s not the largest part of the value we’ve created.

Create More Than You Consume

If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.

Remember that stock prices are not about the past. They are a prediction of future cash flows discounted back to the present. The stock market anticipates. I’m going to switch gears for a moment and talk about the past. How much value did we create for shareowners in 2020? This is a relatively easy question to answer because accounting systems are set up to answer it. Our net income in 2020 was $21.3 billion. If, instead of being a publicly traded company with thousands of owners, Amazon were a sole proprietorship with a single owner, that’s how much the owner would have earned in 2020.

How about employees? This is also a reasonably easy value creation question to answer because we can look at compensation expense. What is an expense for a company is income for employees. In 2020, employees earned $80 billion, plus another $11 billion to include benefits and various payroll taxes, for a total of $91 billion.

How about third-party sellers? We have an internal team (the Selling Partner Services team) that works to answer that question. They estimate that, in 2020, third-party seller profits from selling on Amazon were between $25 billion and $39 billion, and to be conservative here I’ll go with $25 billion.

For customers, we have to break it down into consumer customers and AWS customers.

We’ll do consumers first. We offer low prices, vast selection, and fast delivery, but imagine we ignore all of that for the purpose of this estimate and value only one thing: we save customers time.

Customers complete 28% of purchases on Amazon in three minutes or less, and half of all purchases are finished in less than 15 minutes. Compare that to the typical shopping trip to a physical store – driving, parking, searching store aisles, waiting in the checkout line, finding your car, and driving home. Research suggests the typical physical store trip takes about an hour. If you assume that a typical Amazon purchase takes 15 minutes and that it saves you a couple of trips to a physical store a week, that’s more than 75 hours a year saved. That’s important. We’re all busy in the early 21st century.

So that we can get a dollar figure, let’s value the time savings at $10 per hour, which is conservative. Seventy-five hours multiplied by $10 an hour and subtracting the cost of Prime gives you value creation for each Prime member of about $630. We have 200 million Prime members, for a total in 2020 of $126 billion of value creation.

AWS is challenging to estimate because each customer’s workload is so different, but we’ll do it anyway, acknowledging up front that the error bars are high. Direct cost improvements from operating in the cloud versus on premises vary, but a reasonable estimate is 30%. Across AWS’s entire 2020 revenue of $45 billion, that 30% would imply customer value creation of $19 billion (what would have cost them $64 billion on their own cost $45 billion from AWS). The difficult part of this estimation exercise is that the direct cost reduction is the smallest portion of the customer benefit of moving to the cloud. The bigger benefit is the increased speed of software development – something that can significantly improve the customer’s competitiveness and top line. We have no reasonable way of estimating that portion of customer value except to say that it’s almost certainly larger than the direct cost savings. To be conservative here (and remembering we’re really only trying to get ballpark estimates), I’ll say it’s the same and call AWS customer value creation $38 billion in 2020.

Adding AWS and consumer together gives us total customer value creation in 2020 of $164 billion.

Summarizing:
Shareholders $21B
Employees $91B
3P Sellers $25B
Customers $164B
Total $301B

If each group had an income statement representing their interactions with Amazon, the numbers above would be the “bottom lines” from those income statements. These numbers are part of the reason why people work for us, why sellers sell through us, and why customers buy from us. We create value for them. And this value creation is not a zero-sum game. It is not just moving money from one pocket to another. Draw the box big around all of society, and you’ll find that invention is the root of all real value creation. And value created is best thought of as a metric for innovation.

Of course, our relationship with these constituencies and the value we create isn’t exclusively dollars and cents. Money doesn’t tell the whole story. Our relationship with shareholders, for example, is relatively simple. They invest and hold shares for a duration of their choosing. We provide direction to shareowners infrequently on matters such as annual meetings and the right process to vote their shares. And even then they can ignore those directions and just skip voting.

Our relationship with employees is a very different example. We have processes they follow and standards they meet. We require training and various certifications. Employees have to show up at appointed times. Our interactions with employees are many, and they’re fine-grained. It’s not just about the pay and the benefits. It’s about all the other detailed aspects of the relationship too.

Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t. I think we need to do a better job for our employees. While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success.

If you read some of the news reports, you might think we have no care for employees. In those reports, our employees are sometimes accused of being desperate souls and treated as robots. That’s not accurate. They’re sophisticated and thoughtful people who have options for where to work. When we survey fulfillment center employees, 94% say they would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work.

Employees are able to take informal breaks throughout their shifts to stretch, get water, use the rest room, or talk to a manager, all without impacting their performance. These informal work breaks are in addition to the 30-minute lunch and 30-minute break built into their normal schedule.

We don’t set unreasonable performance goals. We set achievable performance goals that take into account tenure and actual employee performance data. Performance is evaluated over a long period of time as we know that a variety of things can impact performance in any given week, day, or hour. If employees are on track to miss a performance target over a period of time, their manager talks with them and provides coaching.

Coaching is also extended to employees who are excelling and in line for increased responsibilities. In fact, 82% of coaching is positive, provided to employees who are meeting or exceeding expectations. We terminate the employment of less than 2.6% of employees due to their inability to perform their jobs (and that number was even lower in 2020 because of operational impacts of COVID-19).

Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work

The fact is, the large team of thousands of people who lead operations at Amazon have always cared deeply for our hourly employees, and we’re proud of the work environment we’ve created. We’re also proud of the fact that Amazon is a company that does more than just create jobs for computer scientists and people with advanced degrees. We create jobs for people who never got that advantage.

Despite what we’ve accomplished, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for our employees’ success. We have always wanted to be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company. We won’t change that. It’s what got us here. But I am committing us to an addition. We are going to be Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.

In my upcoming role as Executive Chair, I’m going to focus on new initiatives. I’m an inventor. It’s what I enjoy the most and what I do best. It’s where I create the most value. I’m excited to work alongside the large team of passionate people we have in Ops and help invent in this arena of Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work. On the details, we at Amazon are always flexible, but on matters of vision we are stubborn and relentless. We have never failed when we set our minds to something, and we’re not going to fail at this either.

We dive deep into safety issues. For example, about 40% of work-related injuries at Amazon are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), things like sprains or strains that can be caused by repetitive motions. MSDs are common in the type of work that we do and are more likely to occur during an employee’s first six months. We need to invent solutions to reduce MSDs for new employees, many of whom might be working in a physical role for the first time.

One such program is WorkingWell – which we launched to 859,000 employees at 350 sites across North America and Europe in 2020 – where we coach small groups of employees on body mechanics, proactive wellness, and safety. In addition to reducing workplace injuries, these concepts have a positive impact on regular day-to-day activities outside work.

We’re developing new automated staffing schedules that use sophisticated algorithms to rotate employees among jobs that use different muscle-tendon groups to decrease repetitive motion and help protect employees from MSD risks. This new technology is central to a job rotation program that we’re rolling out throughout 2021.

Our increased attention to early MSD prevention is already achieving results. From 2019 to 2020, overall MSDs decreased by 32%, and MSDs resulting in time away from work decreased by more than half.

We employ 6,200 safety professionals at Amazon. They use the science of safety to solve complex problems and establish new industry best practices. In 2021, we’ll invest more than $300 million into safety projects, including an initial $66 million to create technology that will help prevent collisions of forklifts and other types of industrial vehicles.

When we lead, others follow. Two and a half years ago, when we set a $15 minimum wage for our hourly employees, we did so because we wanted to lead on wages – not just run with the pack – and because we believed it was the right thing to do. A recent paper by economists at the University of California-Berkeley and Brandeis University analyzed the impact of our decision to raise our minimum starting pay to $15 per hour. Their assessment reflects what we’ve heard from employees, their families, and the communities they live in.

Our increase in starting wage boosted local economies across the country by benefiting not only our own employees but also other workers in the same community. The study showed that our pay raise resulted in a 4.7% increase in the average hourly wage among other employers in the same labor market.

And we’re not done leading. If we want to be Earth’s Best Employer, we shouldn’t settle for 94% of employees saying they would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work. We have to aim for 100%. And we’ll do that by continuing to lead on wages, on benefits, on upskilling opportunities, and in other ways that we will figure out over time.

If any shareowners are concerned that Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work might dilute our focus on Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company, let me set your mind at ease. Think of it this way. If we can operate two businesses as different as consumer ecommerce and AWS, and do both at the highest level, we can certainly do the same with these two vision statements. In fact, I’m confident they will reinforce each other.

The Climate Pledge

In an earlier draft of this letter, I started this section with arguments and examples designed to demonstrate that human-induced climate change is real. But, bluntly, I think we can stop saying that now. You don’t have to say that photosynthesis is real, or make the case that gravity is real, or that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level. These things are simply true, as is the reality of climate change.

Not long ago, most people believed that it would be good to address climate change, but they also thought it would cost a lot and would threaten jobs, competitiveness, and economic growth. We now know better. Smart action on climate change will not only stop bad things from happening, it will also make our economy more efficient, help drive technological change, and reduce risks. Combined, these can lead to more and better jobs, healthier and happier children, more productive workers, and a more prosperous future. This doesn’t mean it will be easy. It won’t be. The coming decade will be decisive. The economy in 2030 will need to be vastly different from what it is today, and Amazon plans to be at the heart of the change. We launched The Climate Pledge together with Global Optimism in September 2019 because we wanted to help drive this positive revolution. We need to be part of a growing team of corporations that understand the imperatives and the opportunities of the 21st century.

Now, less than two years later, 53 companies representing almost every sector of the economy have signed The Climate Pledge. Signatories such as Best Buy, IBM, Infosys, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, Siemens, and Verizon have committed to achieve net-zero carbon in their worldwide businesses by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. The Pledge also requires them to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis; implement decarbonization strategies through real business changes and innovations; and neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially beneficial offsets. Credible, quality offsets are precious, and we should reserve them to compensate for economic activities where low-carbon alternatives don’t exist.

The Climate Pledge signatories are making meaningful, tangible, and ambitious commitments. Uber has a goal of operating as a zero-emission platform in Canada, Europe, and the U.S. by 2030, and Henkel plans to source 100% of the electricity it uses for production from renewable sources. Amazon is making progress toward our own goal of 100% renewable energy by 2025, five years ahead of our initial 2030 target. Amazon is the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world. We have 62 utility-scale wind and solar projects and 125 solar rooftops on fulfillment and sort centers around the globe. These projects have the capacity to generate over 6.9 gigawatts and deliver more than 20 million megawatt-hours of energy annually.

Transportation is a major component of Amazon’s business operations and the toughest part of our plan to meet net-zero carbon by 2040. To help rapidly accelerate the market for electric vehicle technology, and to help all companies transition to greener technologies, we invested more than $1 billion in Rivian – and ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from the company. We’ve also partnered with Mahindra in India and Mercedes-Benz in Europe. These custom electric delivery vehicles from Rivian are already operational, and they first hit the road in Los Angeles this past February. Ten thousand new vehicles will be on the road as early as next year, and all 100,000 vehicles will be on the road by 2030 – saving millions of metric tons of carbon. A big reason we want companies to join The Climate Pledge is to signal to the marketplace that businesses should start inventing and developing new technologies that signatories need to make good on the Pledge. Our purchase of 100,000 Rivian electric vans is a perfect example.

To further accelerate investment in new technologies needed to build a zero-carbon economy, we introduced the Climate Pledge Fund last June. The investment program started with $2 billion to invest in visionary companies that aim to facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy. Amazon has already announced investments in CarbonCure Technologies, Pachama, Redwood Materials, Rivian, Turntide Technologies, ZeroAvia, and Infinium – and these are just some of the innovative companies we hope will build the zero-carbon economy of the future.

I have also personally allocated $10 billion to provide grants to help catalyze the systemic change we will need in the coming decade. We’ll be supporting leading scientists, activists, NGOs, environmental justice organizations, and others working to fight climate change and protect the natural world. Late last year, I made my first round of grants to 16 organizations working on innovative and needle-moving solutions. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals, and I’m excited to be part of this journey and optimistic that humanity can come together to solve this challenge.

Differentiation is Survival and the Universe Wants You to be Typical
This is my last annual shareholder letter as the CEO of Amazon, and I have one last thing of utmost importance I feel compelled to teach. I hope all Amazonians take it to heart.

Here is a passage from Richard Dawkins’ (extraordinary) book The Blind Watchmaker. It’s about a basic fact of biology.

“Staving off death is a thing that you have to work at. Left to itself – and that is what it is when it dies – the body tends to revert to a state of equilibrium with its environment. If you measure some quantity such as the temperature, the acidity, the water content or the electrical potential in a living body, you will typically find that it is markedly different from the corresponding measure in the surroundings. Our bodies, for instance, are usually hotter than our surroundings, and in cold climates they have to work hard to maintain the differential. When we die the work stops, the temperature differential starts to disappear, and we end up the same temperature as our surroundings. Not all animals work so hard to avoid coming into equilibrium with their surrounding temperature, but all animals do some comparable work. For instance, in a dry country, animals and plants work to maintain the fluid content of their cells, work against a natural tendency for water to flow from them into the dry outside world. If they fail they die. More generally, if living things didn’t work actively to prevent it, they would eventually merge into their surroundings, and cease to exist as autonomous beings. That is what happens when they die.”

While the passage is not intended as a metaphor, it’s nevertheless a fantastic one, and very relevant to Amazon. I would argue that it’s relevant to all companies and all institutions and to each of our individual lives too. In what ways does the world pull at you in an attempt to make you normal? How much work does it take to maintain your distinctiveness? To keep alive the thing or things that make you special?

I know a happily married couple who have a running joke in their relationship. Not infrequently, the husband looks at the wife with faux distress and says to her, “Can’t you just be normal?” They both smile and laugh, and of course the deep truth is that her distinctiveness is something he loves about her. But, at the same time, it’s also true that things would often be easier – take less energy – if we were a little more normal.

This phenomenon happens at all scale levels. Democracies are not normal. Tyranny is the historical norm. If we stopped doing all of the continuous hard work that is needed to maintain our distinctiveness in that regard, we would quickly come into equilibrium with tyranny.

We all know that distinctiveness – originality – is valuable. We are all taught to “be yourself.” What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical – in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.

You have to pay a price for your distinctiveness, and it’s worth it. The fairy tale version of “be yourself” is that all the pain stops as soon as you allow your distinctiveness to shine. That version is misleading. Being yourself is worth it, but don’t expect it to be easy or free. You’ll have to put energy into it continuously.

The world will always try to make Amazon more typical – to bring us into equilibrium with our environment. It will take continuous effort, but we can and must be better than that.

* * *

As always, I attach our 1997 shareholder letter. It concluded with this: “We at Amazon.com are grateful to our customers for their business and trust, to each other for our hard work, and to our shareholders for their support and encouragement.” That hasn’t changed a bit. I want to especially thank Andy Jassy for agreeing to take on the CEO role. It’s a hard job with a lot of responsibility. Andy is brilliant and has the highest of high standards. I guarantee you that Andy won’t let the universe make us typical. He will muster the energy needed to keep alive in us what makes us special. That won’t be easy, but it is critical. I also predict it will be satisfying and oftentimes fun. Thank you, Andy.

To all of you: be kind, be original, create more than you consume, and never, never, never let the universe smooth you into your surroundings. It remains Day 1.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey P. Bezos
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Amazon.com, Inc.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Jessica Alba’s Honest Company is filing for an IPO after selling $189 million worth of diapers and wipes in 2020

jessica alba
Jessica Alba in September 2019.

  • Honest Company, Jessica Alba’s consumer goods startup, filed for an IPO on Friday.
  • It generated $300.5 million in revenue last year, with diapers and wipes driving 63% of sales.
  • The company, which has never been profitable, plans to trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol “HNST.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jessica Alba’s consumer goods startup Honest Company is going public.

The company filed for an IPO on Friday with plans to sell shares on the Nasdaq under the symbol “HNST.” It listed a placeholder IPO value of $100 million.

Diapers and wipes accounted for 63% of the company’s $300.5 million in revenue last year. Skin, personal care, household, and wellness items made up the rest of its sales.

While the company’s 2020 revenue grew about 28% from the previous year, it reported a net loss of $14.5 million. It has never been profitable on an annual basis since its founding in 2012.

“We have incurred net losses each year since our inception and we may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability in the future,” the company wrote in the risk factors section of its S-1.

Honest Company’s 2020 growth was driven in part by a bump in digital sales, which represented 55% of its revenue last year. Digitally-native brands like Honest, which sells products on Honest.com and digital retailers like Amazon, benefited from a overall shift to ecommerce last year as brick-and-mortar stores shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. US e-commerce sales rose 32.4% in 2020 to $791.7 billion, according to the US Census Bureau.

“We see consumers increasingly self-educating on the benefits of clean and natural products through social media, influencers and other online content, driving digital engagement and purchasing that supports continued outsized growth of the ecommerce channel,” the company wrote in its prospectus.

Alba started Honest Company with a mission to make consumer products that the actress deemed “clean,” excluding chemicals and materials like parabens and sulfates. The brand’s approach to labeling its products has led to trouble in the past. In 2017, the company settled a lawsuit that claimed it fraudulently labeled some of its products as “natural,” “plant-based,” or “no harsh chemicals (ever!).”

“Health and safety incidents or advertising inaccuracies or product mislabeling may have an adverse effect on our business by exposing us to lawsuits, product recalls or regulatory enforcement actions,” the company wrote in its risk factors section.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon Prime Day will reportedly be in June instead of July to give the company a second-quarter boost

Parcels are stored in a truck in a logistics centre of the mail order company Amazon.
Parcels are stored in a truck in a logistics centre of the mail order company Amazon.

  • Amazon is holding its Prime Day shopping event in June 2021 instead of July, Recode reports.
  • The company delayed Prime Day in 2020 multiple times due to the pandemic, pushing it to October.
  • A source told Recode this year’s June Prime Day could be to boost its second-quarter earnings.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon is holding its Prime Day shopping event in June this year, a departure from the company’s decision to host it in July over the years, Recode reports.

Amazon pushed its 2020 July Prime Day event to October last year due to pandemic-driven logistical issues. Before last year, the company’s biggest shopping event had been held in July since its inception in 2015.

A source told Recode that Amazon may have pushed 2021’s Prime Day up a month to boost its second-quarter financial reporting since June falls in Q2 and July in Q3. Doing so could help the company show investors greater growth from Q2 2020 to Q2 2021.

In a statement to Insider, an Amazon spokesperson said, “we have not made any announcements about Prime Day.”

Insider’s Eugene Kim reported in March that Amazon sent emails to sellers inviting them to join 2021’s Prime Day.

Amazon enjoyed surging business during the pandemic, when customers were driven into their homes and resorted to online shopping. In its Q2 2020 earnings, the company reported $45.8 billion in global online store net sales, compared to $45.7 billion made in the 2019 holiday season just months prior.

Sources told Recode that the company has also discussed creating another shopping holiday in the fall in addition to Prime Day in the summer.

With Prime Day held in the fourth quarter of last year, coupled with what is always a busy holiday season for Amazon, the company surpassed $100 billion in revenue for the first time in history in Q4 2020.

Read more: Amazon beats Q4 expectations; Bezos to hand over CEO role to Andy Jassy

Amazon kicked off its Prime Day holiday in 2015 to entice people to purchase Prime memberships and bolster spending among existing customers. It typically refers to Prime Day as its biggest shopping day of the year, with sales surpassing that of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Read the original article on Business Insider

‘Hot vax summer’ is coming – and retailers are gearing up to finally sell going-out clothes again

Nightlife going out clothes
  • After over months of stretchy pants and sweatshirts, shoppers are ready to start looking good again.
  • Retailers expect a “peacocking effect” post-pandemic – and sales of dresses are already rising.
  • It’s part of a broader trend that people are calling “hot vax summer.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Going out clothes are back, baby.

Dress sales are on the rise. Jeans are coming back. People are shopping for dress shirts. After over 12 months of stretchy pants, sweatshirts, and no shoes, shoppers are ready to start looking good again.

As vaccinations rise nationwide and political leaders predict a return to normalcy by this summer, retailers are beginning to see a shift away from at-home clothes.

It’s part of a broader trend that some are calling “hot vax summer.”

The rise of comfy clothes

When it started to become clear last spring just how widespread the coronavirus was becoming and how much it would disrupt daily life, retailers took action.

By the end of March, H&M, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Ross Stores, and TJ Maxx canceled orders for new merchandise – by April, Gap nixed orders for both summer and fall in an effort to cut costs. An October report from workers rights groups found that between April and June of last year, retailers outright canceled or simply refused to pay for $16.2 billion worth of orders.

At the time, these reactions portended just how long and intense the pandemic would be. And while ecommerce sales flourished throughout the year – online consumer spending in 2020 was up 42% from 2019 – those purchases were mostly confined to comfy clothes and athleisure. From March to July 2020, sales of shorts, sweatpants, and sports bras were on the rise, despite overall apparel sales dropping 34%.

Which means that for more than 12 months, the market for going-out tops, sundresses, and high heels has been dormant – until now.

Parallels to the Roaring 20s

On March 11, President Joe Biden made an announcement: July 4, 2021 could officially become Independence Day from the coronavirus in the US. There was a “good chance,” he said, that we could all have small, outdoor parties to celebrate the 4th of July.

The announcement is thrilling on several levels. Most importantly, it means that months of suffering and death could finally be coming to an end, and that schools and businesses that have been disrupted during the last year might finally reopen.

But it also means that the fun elements of life – parties, nights out, weddings – can resume as well. Enter what many are calling “hot vax summer,” a time of general hedonism following this time of mass isolation.

“I’m most looking forward to having a ho phase,” Sherin, a 21-year-old Chicago resident, recently told Insider’s Julia Naftulin. She added that she can’t wait to go out with friends and flirt and hook up with whomever she pleases.

Hot vax summer has also been endorsed by brands, most notably Suit Supply, which put out a raunchy advertisement showing hot people licking each others’ faces. The tagline said: “The new normal is coming.”

“People are looking to get out and about again,” Fokke de Jong, Suitsupply’s founder and CEO, recently told Insider’s Kate Taylor. “Parallels to the Roaring 20s are being drawn on a regular basis.”

urban outfitters
A shopper holds up a top at Urban Outfitters.

A ‘peacocking effect’

But there can be no hot vax summer if we’re all still dressed in baggy sweatshirts, and retailers are already preparing for what’s ahead.

Amid the vaccine rollout, fashion retailer Revolve, a destination for trendy going-out clothes, has dedicated an entire section of its website to “vaccine ready” tops: shirts that expose the shoulders or arms to provide easy access when you go get your shot.

Gap’s CEO, Sonia Syngal, said last month that the company is very optimistic about a return to dressing to impress, forecasting what she called a “peacocking effect” that will happen as people emerge from the pandemic.

Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne said during the company’s most recent earnings call that while customers have been focused mainly on “casual, at-home, comfortable” clothes, the brand has “started to see that break a bit.”

The company, which also owns Free People and Anthropologie, has seen a “striking change” in what’s selling – during the last week of February, seven of the 10 top-selling items on Anthropologie’s website were dresses.

“We’re particularly excited by the recent uptick in demand for ‘going-out’-type apparel and believe this bodes well for our spring and summer seasons,” Hayne said.

According to a report from the Washington Post’s Abha Bhattarai, there’s been renewed interest in products like high-waisted jeans, blazers, dresses, stylish tops, and sandals in bright colors and patterns among shoppers at retailers like Everlane, American Eagle, and Madewell.

“All of a sudden apparel and footwear sales are starting to show some signs of life,” Marshal Cohen, a retail analyst for market research firm NPD Group, told the Post. People are planning to socialize and go on vacation again and look forward to a time after the pandemic.

“And so what are people doing?” he said. “They’re saying, ‘I need a new outfit. I need to feel good again. I need to feel alive and refreshed.’ “

Read the original article on Business Insider

Chewy shares leap 13% after surprise swing to quarterly profit

Chewy Taco Cat Halloween Costume
  • Chewy shares climbed by 13% Wednesday following the fourth-quarter results from the pet-products seller.
  • The company swung to a profit of $0.05 a share, surprising analysts who had expected a loss of $0.10 a share.
  • Chewy’s first-quarter sales forecast of $2.11 billion to $2.13 billion was above Wall Street’s target.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Shares of Chewy jumped Wednesday after the online pet-products retailer unexpectedly swung to a fourth-quarter profit, bolstered by millions of more people last year who took on duties of caring for animals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company late Tuesday posted fourth-quarter earnings of $0.05 a share, compared with expectations for a loss of $0.10 a share in a survey of analysts by Refinitiv. A year earlier, Chewy posted a per-share loss of $0.15.

Sales of $2.04 billion beat Wall Street’s target of $1.96 billion as the company dealt with “surging volume”. Sales a year ago were $1.35 billion.

Chewy shares climbed by 13% to $90.95, a move that sets up the stock to trim its year-to-date loss to less than 1%. The stock price began to decelerate in early February but it’s more than doubled from about $36 over the past 12 months.

The company added 5.7 million net active customers in 2020, representing 42.7% annual growth. It also said it widened its product offerings to include gift cards, personalized items, and vet services. “Pet adoptions surged in 2020 as millions of homebound people and families sought out the comfort, companionship, and joy of pet parenthood” during the pandemic, the company said.

Chewy forecast first-quarter sales of $2.11 billion to $2.13 billion, higher than the average analyst forecast of $2.07 billion.

Wedbush analysts on Wednesday raised their price target to $100 from $90 and reiterated their outperform rating on Chewy following the company’s “solid earnings beat, above-consensus guidance, and a path to a 2021 beat and even higher long-term earnings power.”

Chewy’s cofounder and former chief executive, Ryan Cohen, is leading a turnaround effort at video game retailer and Reddit-community favorite GameStop.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Wall Street darling Ryan Cohen is clearing house at GameStop, bringing in e-commerce experts to transform it into the Amazon of gaming

ryan cohen millennial activist investor 2x1
Chewy cofounder and former CEO Ryan Cohen.

  • Chewy cofounder and former CEO Ryan Cohen is bringing big changes to GameStop’s leadership.
  • By June, Cohen and his colleagues will control the majority of the company’s board.
  • Cohen has also overseen major changes to the company’s executive suite.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The co-founder and CEO who convinced Wall Street that pets are big business has a new pet project: Turning GameStop into the Amazon of gaming.

After taking a 12.9% stake last year through his investment firm RC Ventures, Cohen has made major changes at GameStop. First, he oversaw a string of c-suite departures and hirings. Then, he was appointed leader of a new committee overseeing a company-wide “transformation.” Now, he’s taking over the company’s board.

A whopping eight board members are stepping down, GameStop said regulatory filing on Wednesday. That leaves only Cohen, his former Chewy colleagues Jim Grube and Alan Attal, kindred spirit/activist investor Kurt Wolf, and current CEO George Sherman as board members.

From a board that currently has 13 members, the new GameStop board of directors will have just five. And at least four of those five members are working together: Cohen, Grube, Attal, and Wolf.

Notably, former Nintendo of America president and well-known video game personality Reggie Fils-Aimé is among the board members stepping down in June. He lasted just over a year in the position.

Reggie Fils Aime Nintendo Switch
Former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé.

As for the executive team, CEO George Sherman is the only remaining member from before Cohen got involved with the company. Jim Bell, the company’s CFO, is said to have been pushed to resign by the company’s board. Soon after, CCO Frank Hamlin resigned.

Cohen openly criticized Sherman, his c-suite, and GamesStop’s directors in a letter to the board about the company’s overall direction in late 2020.

Sherman, “appears committed to a twentieth-century focus on physical stores and walk-in sales, despite the transition to an always-on digital world,” Cohen said. He added that the board lacks “the type of strategic vision” necessary for GameStop, “to pivot toward becoming a technology-driven business that excels in the gaming and digital experience worlds.”

In his letter, Cohen said the company, “needs to evolve into a technology company that delights gamers and delivers exceptional digital experiences – not remain a video game retailer that overprioritizes its brick-and-mortar footprint and stumbles around the online ecosystem.”

Since Cohen joined the company’s board in January, taking charge of a “strategic” committee soon after, the company has made a string of high-profile hires from the likes of Amazon and – you guessed it – Chewy.

  • Former Amazon Web Services engineering lead Matt Francis was hired in February as the company’s new chief technology officer.
  • Former Amazon fulfillment director Jenna Owens was hired in March to serve as the company’s new chief of operations.
  • Alongside Owens’ hiring, Chewy’s former ecommerce lead Neda Pacifico was hired on as senior VP of ecommerce in March.

Cohen himself has kept quiet across the last several months.

He has repeatedly declined interview requests, and his Twitter timeline is primarily GIFs and images. His most recent tweet is a GIF from the movie “Ted,” of the titular character smoking a bong. On the most recent GameStop earnings call, Cohen did not appear.

Representatives for Cohen and GameStop did not respond to requests for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten jumps 24% after disclosing sale of stake to Walmart, Tencent

rakuten

Shares of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten jumped 24% on Monday after the company announced plans to raise $2.2 billion to shore up its logistics infrastructure from artificial intelligence to mobile in order to better compete with US heavyweights.

The company on Friday said it will sell shares to major investors such as Tencent Holdings, Walmart, and Japan Post Holdings.

In total, Rakuten plans to issue 211,656,500 shares at the equivalent of around $10.50 apiece with a payment date between March 29 and April 30.

Japan Post is expected to purchase 131,004,000 shares for an 8.3% stake while Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent is expected to buy 57,382,900 for a 3.6% stake. American retail giant Walmart is expected to get 14,536,000 shares for a 0.9% stake.

“These new investments in Rakuten indicate both high expectations for the growth and impact of the Rakuten Ecosystem with the mobile service at its core, as well as great potential for further collaboration with leading companies from the world’s three leading economies,” Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten Chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

The company, founded in 1997, also added that apart from boosting its technological backbone to keep up with the “rapidly changing internet industry,” the selling of shares is also to “strengthen the relationship with the panned allottees.”

Rakuten currently has over 70 businesses, and admitted in the statement that stable logistics services have become a “pressing issue,” especially amid the pandemic. This explains its partnership with the national postal service of Japan, which has a nationwide distribution network as well as a huge delivery volume and data.

As for Tencent, one of the largest businesses in China by market capitalization that specializes in social media and communication, it has been in contact with Rakuten for several years “especially on matters related to internet development trends,” the statement said.

“Rakuten has built a vibrant ecosystem through its membership and loyalty program, extending its [unrivaled] strength from e-commerce to FinTech and digital content,” Martin Lau, Tencent executive director and president, said. “We look forward to pursuing strategic cooperation across activities including digital entertainment and e-commerce, creating value for users and building the Internet ecosystem together.”

Walmart, meanwhile, is part of Rakuten’s push to ramp up the Japanese company’s online grocery business, “Rakuten Seiyu Net Super,” which has seen steady growth since 2018. Rakuten has also promoted the transition of the in-house official language into English since 2010 – a rare move for a Japanese company.

Rakuten, with its 1.5 billion members worldwide, has a market value of $16.5 billion.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The real reason why Amazon is lobbying for a $15 minimum wage as it tries to squash unionization efforts

Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said higher pay is a good business decision.

  • Amazon’s lobbying for a $15 federal minimum wage is a strategic business decision.¬†
  • Amazon already pays workers at least $15, so a higher minimum wage won’t hurt its bottom line.
  • However, it would hurt rivals like Walmart. And, lobbying could help improve Amazon’s reputation.¬†
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As Amazon lobbies for a higher minimum wage, experts say that the company is not making its decisions solely out of the goodness of CEO Jeff Bezos’ heart.¬†

“Anyone who says Amazon is supporting the federal $15 minimum wage out of their good will toward workers has to somehow explain the fact that Amazon is dragging its feet every way it can on allowing unions to organize their workers,” Michael Farren, an economist at the right-leaning think tank The Mercatus Center, told Insider.¬†

“Amazon is acting like a rational economic agent and trying to promote something that is relatively cost-less to it, but gives it social street cred, so to speak,” Farren added.

As a business, Amazon is pushing for a $15 federal minimum wage for a number of strategic reasons. Here are three of the most critical factors that Amazon likely considered before lobbying for a higher minimum wage. 

Paying workers more is good for business

Amazon has said that it pays workers $15 per hour because it is good for the company’s bottom line.¬†

“We believe $15 an hour is the minimum anyone in the U.S. should be paid for an hour of labor,” Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs,¬†wrote in a blog post in late January.¬†“We also believe it’s good for business.”

According to Carney, Amazon raising minimum pay to $15 per hour had an immediate positive impact on morale and retention. Applications to hourly positions more than doubled, Carney wrote in the post. 

“Paying a $15 minimum helps the company to recruit and retain staff, which is important for a growing business,” GlobalData managing director Neil Saunders told Insider. “This is probably not so much of an issue right now, but before the pandemic hit there was very full employment and hiring staff was sometimes tough.”

However, Amazon’s success with paying workers more does not fully explain why the company is pushing for regulation that would require other companies to do the same. (Amazon did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.)¬†

Higher federal minimum wage would hurt Amazon’s rivals, including Walmart

walmart worker
Walmart’s minimum wage is currently $11.

A higher minimum wage won’t hurt Amazon, but it will impact the company’s competitors.¬†

“Amazon has already implemented a $15 minimum wage so it has little to fear from this becoming a federal minimum,” Saunders said. “In fact, it is to Amazon’s commercial advantage if rival retailers also have to pay more – particularly Walmart.”¬†

Farren said that, consciously or unconsciously, it makes sense that Amazon would push for regulation that would hurt competitors. 

“It may sound a little cynical, but it’s probably pretty accurate that Amazon sees this as a tool to help it essentially drive a wedge against competitors – specifically against smaller competitors, but also against Walmart itself, who arguably is Amazon’s largest competitor,” Farren said.¬†

Amazon’s reputation could use the boost

Progressive activists have criticized Amazon for its anti-union campaign, as workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama attempt to unionize. 

“Amazon is keen to show that it is treating workers fairly and well,” Saunders said. The company is often criticized for its working conditions, and “not all of that criticism is justified,” he added. “So where it has a worker-friendly policy it is keen to showcase it.”

Farren said he believes that Amazon’s aggressive advertising around raising the minimum wage and its anti-union¬†campaign are closely linked.¬†

“I’m sure Amazon is trying to make as much Amazon news in the press be about their support for the federal minimum wage rather than their reluctance to have unions start organizing their workforce,” Farren said.¬†

Read the original article on Business Insider

Traders are sharing memes and desperately searching for Jack Ma’s profile on Bloomberg’s terminal to try and work out where the Chinese billionaire is

FILE - In this May 15, 2019, file photo, founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma arrives for the Tech for Good summit in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
FILE – In this May 15, 2019, file photo, founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma arrives for the Tech for Good summit in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

  • Financial traders around the world are trying to get the scoop on Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma’s whereabouts, after media reports the tycoon hasn’t been seen in public for two months.
  • Traders are using their access to the powerful Bloomberg Terminal, which shows real-time financial data, to check out his profile, which shows his online status.
  • One trader told Business Insider that Ma’s profile has been offline for “three days at least.” His profile is now among the most-viewed on the terminal, indicating intense global trader interest in the story.
  • Ma has been conspicuously absence since the Chinese government commenced a regulatory crackdown on his businesses Alibaba and Ant Group.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The apparent disappearance of Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and Alibaba cofounder, has provoked curiosity not just on social media but among global traders who have been searching for his profile on Bloomberg’s terminal service for clues on his whereabouts.

Ma, whose net worth stands at $51.5 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has not been seen in public for two months. His absence comes amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown on his businesses.

Bloomberg Terminal, often touted as one of the most powerful machines in the world, is a paid service that gives its users access to a range of financial data from daily breaking news to charts, lists, and company information. It is widely used by banks, financial firms, and media outlets.

Bloomberg terminal
A Bloomberg terminal.

Bloomberg’s software is known for its powerful features – but one more light-hearted function is the “MVP” or most-viewed profile. Each trader on the terminal has a personal profile which also shows when they are online, via a green dot. Traders can also chat with each other via their profiles.

The most-viewed function lets traders see who their peers are reading and talking about on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. Traders say this is a must for those who want to be plugged into gossip.

Amid rumors of his disappearance, the MVP of the week is currently Jack Ma, with traders around the world checking out the Alibaba billionaire’s status on the Bloomberg chat function (he remains firmly offline.)

“I have checked out his profile in the past out of curiosity and have seen him online. So it’s pretty bizarre that he hasn’t been online lately,” one trader told Business Insider on the condition of anonymity.

Jack Ma Bloomberg profile
Jack Ma’s offline status.

Jack Ma’s profile on the terminal was the second-most viewed on Wednesday, after that of Credit Suisse’ Global head of equity sales, Lucy Baldwin, Business Insider understands. Ma’s profile saw more than 700 hits as of Wednesday morning.

His profile is the third-most viewed profile this month, with his profile seeing over 2,100 hits since the start of January. And it’s the most viewed profile this week with more than 1,800 hits.

The source added that there is growing interest among the trader community on his whereabouts. “Memes, conspiracy theories as well as his offline Bloomberg profile status are being actively shared in WhatsApp groups. Everyone is interested to know where he is.”

Another trader, based in Australia, told Business Insider on the condition of anonymity that they have also checked out Ma’s profile a number of times on the Bloomberg terminal in the hope of seeing him online there. “He has been offline for the past 3 days at least. I have checked out his profile a number of times.”

Ma’s offline status on Bloomberg doesn’t give any clues on his whereabouts – “he may be on holiday,” as one trader said – but the mystery of his whereabouts has captivated the public.

On Sunday, Yahoo Finance reported that Ma hadn’t been seen publicly in more than two months. He also missed an appearance in November on a TV talent show that he had founded,¬†The Financial Times reported.

Chinese regulators have targeted Ma’s businesses after the entrepreneur publicly criticized the country’s financial regulatory system in October 2020. Authorities subsequently yanked a $37 billion IPO for Ma’s fintech firm Ant Group in November, and Alibaba also faces an antitrust probe.

CNBC’s David Faber on Tuesday said Ma hasn’t gone missing but is lying low.

“He is being less visible, purposefully,” Faber said after noting that he has closely covered Ma and his businesses. “And you can expect for that to be the case for some time,” Faber said, citing sources.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to cancel an order on Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade and vintage items

GettyImages 1207503767
Etsy is an online marketplace that offers handmade and vintage goods from independent sellers.

  • To cancel an order on Etsy, you must contact the seller or shop you purchased the item from directly.
  • Make sure to check the shop’s policies regarding returns, exchanges, or cancellations before placing an order.
  • Cancellation requests are at the discretion of the seller and not guaranteed.
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Etsy is a popular e-commerce website where customers can find handmade gifts, craft supplies, and vintage items from independent sellers. Items are often customizable and made to order, lending a personal touch to any gift, and purchases benefit small businesses. 

Before making a purchase, it’s important to note the seller’s policies – particularly when it comes to returns and exchanges. Some shops don’t accept returns, exchanges, or cancellations, while others do. When it comes to canceling an order, you need to contact the seller directly.

How to cancel an order on Etsy with an account

Etsy notes that accepting a cancellation request is at the discretion of the individual seller. Following the steps below starts the cancellation process, but it’s up to the seller to actually cancel your order.

1.¬†Go to etsy.com. Click “Sign in” at the top-right corner. Sign in.

Screen Shot 2020 12 30 at 7.49.19 AM
Click “Sign in” at the top-right corner.

2.¬†At the top-right corner, click your account icon (icon with “You” underneath).

Screen Shot 2020 12 30 at 7.49.59 AM
Click on your account icon.

3.¬†Select “Purchases and reviews” from the dropdown menu.

Screen Shot 2020 12 30 at 7.51.26 AM
Click on “Purchases and reviews.”

4.¬†Scroll down to find the order you wish to cancel, then click “Contact The Shop.”

5.¬†Write a message to the seller indicating that you would like to cancel your order, then click “Send.”

How to cancel an order on Etsy without an account

1. Open the email you received confirming your order from Etsy. It will come from the email address transactions@etsy.com.

Screen_Shot_2020 12 30_at_8_12_47_AM
Open the original confirmation email from your order to reply to it.

2.¬†Reply to the email with a message to the seller indicating that you’d like to cancel your order.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

Read the original article on Business Insider