Good morning! Welcome to another edition of Insider Retail, where we bring you our top deep dives of the week. Today we’re taking a look at the power players at Instacart, the SPAC fitness boom, and the most recent development in a chicken price-fixing scandal. Now, without further ado, let’s get right to it.
Instacart is firing on all cylinders lately. Last year, it added more than 200 new retailers to its marketplace – and its latest round of funding more than doubled its valuation to $39 billion. As the company eyes an IPO, we took a look at the power players working to keep its dominant position in grocery delivery.
Mark Tritton shook up Bed Bath & Beyond when he took the CEO reins in late 2019, overhauling the executive team and shuttering hundreds of stores. We spoke with him about how he’s fighting to keep up morale amid all these changes.
A rising number of SPACs are focused on growing health, wellness, and fitness companies – and taking them public. Here are the six biggest blank-check companies focused on health, wellness, and fitness to watch for in 2021.
It’s April Fools’ Day – but let us assure you that this newsletter is no joke (unlike Volkswagen’s “Voltswagen” prank gone awry). Today we’re looking at the changes at Nike, the Suez Canal blockage’s impact, and so much more. Let’s get to it.
Nike’s new Silicon Valley CEO has big plans to transform the shoe giant from a marketing-first company into a technology brand. But company insiders tell us that mass layoffs and team restructuring are creating internal turmoil.
Somehow we’ve almost reached the end of this cursed year, and I, for one, could not be more pleased to give a not-so-fond farewell to 2020. Sadly I am not spending the holidays with my family due to the pandemic, and instead will be staying home and crossing my fingers that my holiday gifts arrive on time. (See more on the retail “shipageddon” below.)
In the meantime, I’ve had the lyrical stylings of Taylor Swift to ease my woes. Not only were we blessed with a surprise album from the singer-songwriter last week, but also an iconic mention of Olive Garden. The restaurant chain makes an appearance in “No Body, No Crime,” a murder-mystery ballad Swift sings alongside Haim, the trio of sister wunderkinds with hair as impeccable as their vocal skills and an enthusiasm for unlimited breadsticks.
The internet, of course, promptly lost its mind. Olive Garden was even so touched that Gene Lee – the CEO of Darden Restaurants, the chain’s parent company – thanked Swift on a call with investors earlier today. “When Taylor Swift drops our name in a song, our brand becomes very, very relevant. Thank you to Taylor Swift for dropping Olive Garden in her song,” Lee said.
Anyway, a lot happened in the world of retail this week, so let’s dive in. If you haven’t already subscribed, click here to get me, Bethany Biron, and my colleague, Shoshy Ciment, in your inbox every Friday.
Though retailers warned consumers to get holiday shopping done early this year to prevent shipping delays, it appears many missed the memo. Now, tensions between retailers, carriers, and consumers are rising over what some are calling “shipageddon,” as the US Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx struggle to navigate an unprecedented volume of online orders during the pandemic, leaving many Americans anxiously tracking the status of their holiday packages.
Meanwhile, brands like Walmart advised shoppers making last-minute holiday purchases using two-day shipping to do so no later than December 19 to ensure gifts arrive by Christmas, a full three days earlier than last year. Other companies have simply conceded that it is already too late, a challenge that Amit Sharma, CEO and founder of customer experience platform Narvar, said brands should be as transparent about as possible.
“Even if it’s not good news, I would expect a retailer to inform me,” Sharma told Madeline Stone this week.
BarkBox, the popular subscription service for pet owners, announced it will file an initial public offering this week, coming on the heels of a huge uptick in pet adoption during the pandemic and massive growth for the petcare industry.
The IPO – which notably follows competitor Petco’s IPO just one month ago – is a result of a $1.6 billion merger with special acquisition company (SPAC) Northern Star Acquisitions Corp. The deal also marks the latest in a string of SPAC-backed IPOs over the last year.
Sales of pet products are expected to reach $100 billion this year, as pet owners increasingly look beyond traditional retailers to buy food, toys, and treats for their furry friends. Alex Bitter reported this week that the pivot to e-commerce has been particularly advantageous for brands like Chewy and BarkBox, as consumers continue to find ways to purchase pet items online amid the pandemic.
The plant-based food industry swelled to an estimated $5 billion this year, as meat alternatives like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger took over grocery store shelves and cropped up on menus everywhere from Burger King to Disney World.
However, as Alex Bitter and Catherine LeClair reported this week, the nebulous definition of “plant-based” has led several companies to use it as somewhat of a marketing catch-all. Beyond the popular meat alternatives, some brands – including those that have always been plant-based or that even contain a percentage of animal protein – have started adopting the term in an effort to cash in on the lucrative business. As a result, some experts are concerned the term is being over-used and may not accurately depict the contents of a product.
“The reason they’re doing it is they’ve seen the data that we have,” said Michele Simon, the founder and executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association. “It’s no secret to anyone following the food industry that plant-based foods are strongly growing and skyrocketing in popularity.”