Insider Retail: ScarJo’s healthy investment – Ulta CEO’s legacy – Future of hybrid work

Happy Thursday! Welcome back to Insider Retail, your weekly delivery of deep dives spanning shopping, fast food, startups, and so much more. This week we’re kicking things off with an A-list investment, a chat with Ulta Beauty’s CEO, and the departure of Walmart’s health leaders. So let’s take a look at what’s in our cart…

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scarlett johansson
Scarlett Johansson is an Oscar-nominated actor.

Scarlett Johansson is now a creative director and investor in HumanCo, a new food company that’s raised millions. The founder plans to get the next generation of healthy snacks on store shelves.

More on ScarJo’s investment.

FINAL Ulta_MaryDillon_Final WWD Honors
Ulta Beauty’s CEO, Mary Dillon. “Younger shoppers care more about what a company stands for and does.”

Mary Dillon changed the face of $18 billion Ulta Beauty. Here’s how the 8-year CEO reached the top of corporate America and built a legacy of inclusivity.

Read our conversation.

Walmart Health
A Walmart Health clinic with counseling, labs, optometry, primary care, dental, and hearing services.

A number of Walmart’s healthcare leaders have left the company in recent months. Walmart slowed its push into primary care. Now with nine key healthcare leaders gone, the clinics are no longer in the spotlight.

What we know.

livestream shopping growing popularity 2x1

Livestreaming is taking the place of Main Street shopping – and businesses are making thousands of dollars per stream. Our guide breaks down the top livestream platforms, how to get started, and tips from sellers.

Here are the best apps.

Remote work

The future of hybrid remote work is here – and these startups that have raised hundreds of millions in venture capital stand to benefit.

See our roundup.


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Insider Retail: Instacart power players – Bed Bath & Beyond shakeup – SPAC fitness boom

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.

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instacart power players list 2x1

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.

These are the 11 power players you need to know.

Mark Tritton Bed Bath & Beyond store CEO

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.

Here’s how the CEO refined his strategy.

Beachbody ondemand

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.

These firms are on the hunt.


Andreessen Horowitz just ranked the leading e-commerce marketplaces of 2021 – including Instacart, StockX, MasterClass and OldSchool. We have an inside look at the top 20.

Check out the top e-comm marketplaces here.

McDonald's chicken sandwich

McDonald’s is seeking damages after a chicken price-fixing scandal rocked the world of fast food. The fast-food giant told franchisees it had informed Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride that it will pursue damages.

We have the details.


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Insider Retail: Nike’s tech play – Barry’s Bootcamp 101 – Mschf’s endgame

Happy Thursday. Welcome to another edition of Insider Retail. If this was forwarded to you, sign up here. See more of our newsletters here.

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.

John Donahoe Nike CEO cropped
John Donahoe attends the 2011 Women In The World Conference at The Hudson Theatre on March 11, 2011 in New York City.

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.

Inside Nike’s big changes.

The tanker is blocking the Suez Canal.

The Suez Canal has reopened after a hulking cargo ship was unmoored – and experts warn the impact will be seen on the supply chain for months to come.

We have the details here.


Barry’s Bootcamp had to innovate quickly after the pandemic forced it to close all 75 of its studios. Now, it’s developing a new app and going all in on digital fitness for the first time.

The scoop from the Barry’s Bootcamp CEO.

SnowDays HumanCo
SnowDays pizza bites from HumanCo

An entrepreneur sold his chocolate company to the maker of Oreos for $340 million. Now he wants to help new healthy snack foods get on store shelves with $288 million in SPAC funding.

Here’s his plan.

Lil Nas X Satan shoes

Getting sued by Nike for its Lil Nas X Satan blood sneaker might just be the best thing to happen to Mschf, the Brooklyn art collective that sells memelike products in drop-style launches.

Why it’s the ultimate endgame.


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Insider Retail: Americans are fretting over ‘shipageddon,’ BarkBox goes public, and brands play fast and loose with ‘plant-based’ moniker

taylor swift willow
Taylor Swift sings about Olive Garden, hilarity ensues.

Happy Friday! 

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. 

Tensions rise over ‘shipageddon,’ as holiday orders overwhelm capacity limits and cause shipping delays

fedex amazon
FedEx CEO and founder Fred Smith often refers to the idea that Amazon could compete with his package giant as “fantastical.” But Amazon is starting to seriously encroach on FedEx.

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. 

In order to account for the increased demand, FedEx announced this week that it will place daily package limits on select businesses. The decision follows UPS’s choice of telling drivers earlier this month to stop picking up orders altogether from large retailers like Gap and Macy’s. 

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 goes public as the $100 billion petcare industry continues to skyrocket 

Scoob! BarkBox
Scoob! BarkBox.

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. 

‘Plant-based’ foods are everywhere now as brands cash in on the growing $5 billion industry

Impossible burger grocery shelf

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.”

Everything else you need to know:

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