How a 27-year-old founder created Gen Z’s defining sunglasses, on track to rake in $6 million in under 2 years

Zane Saleh_Lexxola
Zane Saleh founded Lexxola in late 2019.

  • Zane Saleh launched sunglasses brand Lexxola in 2019, now a staple among the Gen Z “it” crowd.
  • The unisex eyewear is designed for city life and breaks a mold in the eyewear market.
  • Saleh spoke with Insider on growing the brand during the pandemic and its community-led approach.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you want to see the world through the eyes of Gen Z, just put on a pair of Lexxolas.

The sunglasses’ sheer tinted lenses have been spotted on everyone from Emma Chamberlain to Kaia Gerber to Sofia Richie. And beyond these members of Gen Z’s “it crowd,” many other members of the generation are taking to TikTok to share examples of affordable Lexxola dupes.

That’s because you have to shell out designer prices for the London-based indie brand’s ergonomically designed, sleek modern-meets-’70s vibe, which are priced from £190 to £220, or $200 to $260. The line continues to grow, with two new styles just launching, a cat-eye frame named “The Ally” and a more oval frame named “The August.”

For the record, Lexxola’s CEO and founder is a millennial, and the 27-year-old Zane Saleh told Insider that since launching less than two years ago, in late 2019, they’ve viewed everything as an experiment. “That freedom of thought to just say ‘try everything’ has really allowed us to figure out what’s working quite quick and figure out what isn’t and just push forward,” he said.

Along the way, Saleh says he hit upon a Gen Z-friendly business model: direct collaboration with his customers. Instead of designing based off his own inspiration, Saleh said he uses a community-sourcing model to create styles – a creation process that has the potential to reshape fashion retail.

A post shared by emma chamberlain (@emmachamberlain)

It’s a strategy that’s worked, as Lexxola might be small and young, but it’s growing. The company has evolved from just Saleh running the whole show to four employees working remotely. At time of publication, several styles were sold out, available only for pre-order, and with the US being its biggest market, Saleh said the company is planning to open a warehouse in Virginia and headquarters in New York City this year so it can offer domestic shipping rates to US customers.

Lexxola has operated under pandemic conditions for the majority of its existence, and the brand is growing at an unlikely time, as 2020 hit the retail industry harder than the Great Recession did. From February to April of last year, Deloitte found, retail sales plunged by 20%, with an 89% decline in clothes and accessories. By June, Insider Intelligence predicted that retail sales worldwide for the year would be down 5.7% from 2019.

But Saleh said that being a young, agile, and digital company at a time when brick-and-mortar stores were closing left it uniquely placed to grow and gather market share. A solely online presence speaks to a Gen Z community which often shares and expresses itself digitally, he said. According to screenshots of Lexxola’s analytics dashboard that Saleh sent to Insider, Lexxola’s sales grew by over 5,500% from February 2020 to February 2021, and annual revenues for this year are projected to exceed $6 million.

Saleh spoke to Insider about launching Lexxola, growing it through the pandemic, and his community-led approach. What’s emerged is a brand made by a millennial for a Gen Z audience, with social media at its heart.

Made for the city

Saleh originally studied economics, but said he quickly realized finance wasn’t for him. He found himself in the art world for five years, and he began getting Lexxola off the ground while he was working at Sotheby’s. He ultimately left, his full-time job three months before Lexxola’s official launch.

Growing up, he said he noticed that sunglasses marketing campaigns were always about summer. “It was the guy and the girl running down the beach,” he said. “Whereas the eyewear experience that I knew was about wearing a product year-round, it was something for city life.”

He long wondered why there wasn’t a brand speaking to that concept, and decided to fill the gap himself. The year prior to Lexxola’s 2019 launch, the global sunglasses market was valued at $14.5 billion and growing, thanks to an increase in disposable income. While sunglasses stores declined in revenue during the pandemic, IBIS World found, it predicts revenue to grow as the the economy rebounds. Americans are now sitting on more than $1.6 trillion in savings, some of which will likely be deferred disposable income.

ALLY Lexxola
‘The Ally’ is Lexxola’s latest style.

Saleh described beginning Lexxola as “diving into the deep end,” as he had no prior experience in the eyewear sector. He managed to source a factory in Italy and find a warehouse, both of which were hugely important, he said.

“When we first set up our warehouse, it was probably a bit early, but if we didn’t have that we’d for sure be out of business,” he said. “Putting the right building blocks into place in the first sort of six to eight months of the business, prior to the pandemic, really allowed us to springboard through it.”

A community-led approach

Saleh said he did everything when first launching, from packing boxes to answering customer service. Now that the team has expanded to four, he said he still has touch points in all aspects of the business.

Lexxola’s community-led creation process involves aggregating data on Gen Z consumers to create new styles for them. It’s a contrast from many fashion companies, Saleh explained, which are typically headed by a singular figure creating a product, putting it to market, and hoping that people like it.

“What we do is speak with our community,” he said. “We’re almost in a position where we’re a brand that actually acts as a service to create a product.”

A post shared by Jude Taylor (@jude)

But Saleh said this strategy has some challenges, such as ensuring they have styles that meets everyone’s needs. Continuous iterations of new sunglasses can also be quite labor and time-intensive, he said, but ultimately worthwhile. He cited a time when the team gathered product-return data, which helped it make specific changes to a product that led to 90% fewer returns.

The data process also enable them to design an upcoming frame named “The Antonio” combines the brand’s two best-sellers, “The Jordy” and “The Damien,” in what Saleh says is “almost a mathematical form.”

Product evolution is “never finished,” according to Saleh, “it’s just something that can get better.”

Speaking to Gen Z

Lexxola’s community-led approach helped Saleh understand and cultivate a Gen Z community, Saleh said, along with strategically hiring full-time and part-time Gen Z employees.

Saleh said the company found its feet with influencers six months in. Since then, it’s been a “knock-on” effect, as “People see other people wearing them and they become aware of the brand … it just sort of balloons that way.”

It helps, too, that Lexxola capitalizes on some of the things that matter the most to Gen Z when deciding where to spend their money. It’s part of a growing genderless market that WWD considers the future of the fashion industry. In recent years, designers have been launching genderless collections and unisex lines to appeal to changing norms and the Gen Z consumer. Lexxola was a step ahead by launching a unisex brand from the start.

More than half (56%) of Gen Z consumers shop “outside their assigned gendered area,” Phluid Project founder Rob Smith said at a 2019 WWD Culture Conference.

A post shared by Kaia (@kaiagerber)

Sustainability has also been a focus from the get-go. The sunglasses are produced in factories fueled by renewable energy, dispatched from LED-lit warehouses, transported via eco-integrated carriers, and delivered in recycled cardboard packaging. Lexxola also donates 1% of its annual sales to 1% For The Planet Organization.

That’s a plus for the 62% of Gen Z who prefer to buy from sustainable brands, according to a consumer spending analysis by First Insight. They’re more willing than any other generation (72%) to pay more for sustainable products.

There, too, is Lexxola’s curated modern aesthetic. A quick scroll through its Instagram grid shows colorful close-ups and selfies of the fashion-forward artfully posing against a backdrop of city streets or nature, making it difficult to discern campaign shots from real-life photos.

Such an integrated feed is part of Lexxola’s social strategy, according to Saleh, who said his audience loves to see real people wearing Lexxolas in real situations. Once the company began creating campaign content that visualized this and ran it alongside user-generated content, he said Lexxola’s social platforms took off.

A post shared by Lexxola (@lexxola)

“Gen Z are mobile natives, they’re digitally minded,” Saleh said. “They want authenticity and they’re extremely pragmatic.”

Right now, Saleh is focused on improving the way Lexxola designs new products. His team is currently working to develop an online page where customers can suggest new styles or colors they want to see.

What they’re really trying to do is build out more data points to inform future decisions for production, he said. “We try to build products that inspire confidence,” he added.

“Everyone’s still learning as we go,” he said. “It’s very much business as usual, and continuing to not rest on our laurels and improve.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

How much is Amazon Prime? A breakdown of Amazon’s membership plans and whether Prime is worth it

amazon prime packages
It’s likely worth it to purchase Amazon Prime if you shop online frequently.

  • A standard Amazon Prime membership costs $119 per year and $12.99 per month.
  • Amazon Prime also offers price discounts for students and EBT or Medicaid holders.
  • Prime is worth the cost if you often shop online because of quicker delivery and free shipping.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Amazon Prime is Amazon’s membership program, which allows users to access things like free two-day (or even two-hour) shipping on eligible items. If you haven’t hopped on the bandwagon yet, there’s a lot to consider.

One major factor that will impact your decision is how much Amazon Prime costs. The price of an Amazon Prime membership changes occasionally, and there are a few different options, so it’s good to stay updated on how much Amazon Prime is.

Here’s a breakdown of what it costs to get a Prime membership, what each membership covers, and other costs to consider before making your decision.

10 perks of an Amazon Prime membership

When you pay for Amazon Prime, you’ll be able to access the following benefits:

  • Free two-day delivery on Prime-eligible items (and yes, there are many of those – more than 100 million items, according to Amazon).
  • Free one-day and same-day shipping on select items (in millions), and free “ultra-fast” two-hour grocery delivery.
  • Amazon Day,” which lets you make orders and then specify the day everything you’ve ordered that week will be delivered.
  • Free release-date delivery on select items, like video games and music.
  • Discounted, expedited delivery.
  • Amazon Prime Day” deals.
  • Free streaming of Prime-eligible (as well as Amazon original) movies, TV shows, and Audible Channels.
  • Free streaming of more than two million ad-free songs in Amazon Music Prime, in addition to thousands of stations and offline listening.
  • Free games every month, including in-game content and a free monthly Twitch channel subscription.
  • Prime Reading, which provides you with access to over a thousand eBooks, magazines, comics, and more – across any device.

Is Amazon Prime worth it?

Overall, if you’re the type of person who frequently shops online and can afford the annual membership, the Prime membership may be a good way to save money.

Related Article Module: 13 reasons why an Amazon Prime membership is worth the $119 annual fee

The convenience factor is also quite high, since delivery can be as quick as two hours from ordering. And, assuming you take advantage of the various perks, it makes for a solid service. If you aren’t planning to spend more than the membership cost on deliveries in the next year, however, it probably doesn’t make sense to spring for the annual membership.

A monthly membership (or the free 30-day trial) might be a good option, if, for example, you knew you were going to be making a lot of orders in the next few weeks.

How to cancel an Amazon Prime free trial on desktop or mobileHow to cancel your Amazon Prime membershipWhat is Amazon Prime? The benefits of Amazon’s popular membership program, and whether it’s worth the costHow to cancel your Amazon Prime Video subscription through Amazon’s website

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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

The economy needs the wealthy to spend a lot more to get back on its feet

reading park
The end of solitary leisure is near.

  • Solitary leisure – people doing activities alone – defined the pandemic economy.
  • It left a hole in the economy worth billions, and the wealthy are the only ones who can fill it now.
  • A post-pandemic world will likely see a return to social leisure and the experience economy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The end of a lonely year is drawing near.

Bank accounts are freshly padded with $1,400 stimulus checks, any adult should be able to get a vaccine around May, and everyone is readying for a “hot vax summer.” Shut-in Americans are gearing up to spend and socialize after a year in which the experience economy was replaced by one defined by solitary leisure.

In a year marked by social distancing, activities enjoyed alone such as golfing and boating replaced the group activities typical of social leisure, like amusement parks and tourist attractions. At the end of last August, Google Mobility data showed that restaurants, theme parks, museums, and the like were down 77% from pre-pandemic levels, and visits to parks, beaches, and marinas were up 51%.

Spending on experiences in 2020 declined by 29% compared to 2019, per a February Bank of America Research note. Spending on leisure fell by 17% and spending on “stuff” was down by 6%. Spending on solitary leisure categories such as golf and bikes remained strong in mid-March, per a subsequent BofA note.

But the anticipated economic boom of 2021 that should follow a mass vaccine rollout signals that the US will soon say goodbye to solitary leisure. A full economic recovery depends on something else, though: how the wealthy will spend their money.

The wealthy need to spend

The drop in spending left a huge hole in the economy that spending on solitary leisure alone couldn’t fill.

That’s because the experience-based economy, which thrives on activities like sporting events and travel, only continues to grow as long as people have discretionary money, Daniel Yoder, the department chair of the Recreation, Park, and Tourism Administration at Western Illinois University, previously told Insider. But discretionary spending all but disappeared.

Now, Americans are sitting on $1.6 trillion in savings. BofA Research estimates that to hit $2 trillion by the time the economy reopens. The economic fate of the US, it said, depends on whether Americans view their excess savings as wealth or deferred income.

biker
Solitary leisure created a hole in the economy that the wealthy need to fill.

Much of that is in the hands of higher-income households, who have more of a propensity to spend. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of the American economy, and half of that is from the top 10% of American households, per estimates from Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, respectively. That means about one-third of US GDP comes from spending by the top 10%.

That all means it’s up to the wealthy to fill the gap from the solitary leisure era. “Higher income households are key to driving the recovery in consumption,” reads a recent UBS note led by strategist Keith Parker, which noted that more than half (52%) of Americans expect to increase their spending once life returns to “normal.” Those earning more than $80,000 annually anticipate increasing their spending the most – a more than 8% increase, compared to 5.2% for middle-income earners and 3.4% for those earning less than $30,000.

During the pandemic, spending among high earners was consistently 10% below pre-pandemic levels, compared to 5% below for middle-income earners. But spending less doesn’t mean they stopped spending entirely.

Instead of splurging on pricey gym memberships and educational trips as forms of discreet wealth, they began shelling out on nostalgia-tinged purchases from childhood collectibles to vintage fashion to rare books and art, from street art to cryptoart. Critics charged that the pandemic economy created various strange asset bubbles, but the common theme of people with money buying stuff online while bored at home was consistent throughout the year.

But that all might soon look a lot different.

A return to social leisure

As the economy continues to reopen amid the vaccine rollout, it increasingly looks like America will see the return of social leisure.

Restrictions are already lifting in states that had longer-lasting constraints, creating more opportunities to socialize and partake in experiences. Consider the restart of group fitness classes in New York City this week for the first time in a year and will resume limited live performances next month.

restaurants
2021 should see the experience economy bounce back.

There are also signs that travel is on the verge of a booming comeback as Americans itch with wanderlust. Airports saw their busiest time the weekend of March 12 since the pandemic began, and airline, hotel, and restaurant spending are all up this month compared to a year ago, although still not close to pre-pandemic times.

And, after a year of loneliness, Americans are ready for intimacy. Dating apps saw record-breaking use during the pandemic, and it looks like that won’t be abating any time soon. Several people told Insider’s Julia Naftulin that they’re looking forward to relentless dating and relieving pent-up horniness in a vaccinated world.

More in-person dates are certainly set to fuel the rebirth of the experience economy, inciting a shift from Facetime and socially distanced walks to nights at movie theaters and cocktail bars.

The caveat is that President Biden has been eyeing a tax increase on Americans making over $400,000. They could see their top income-tax rate increase to 39%, which could curb their desire to spend. So too, could the unpredictability of inflation as goods begin to get more expensive along with reopening.

The light at the end of the tunnel for a new “new” normal is within sight, but the wallets of the wealthy will determine just how bright it gets.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Victoria’s Secret parent L Brands jumps on revised guidance as latest stimulus boosts sales

Victoria's Secret
  • Shares of L Brands, parent of lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret, rose by nearly 7% on Friday.
  • The company raised its first-quarter earnings view to $0.85-$1 a share from $0.55 to $0.65 a share.
  • An uptick in sales appears to be driven by stimulus payments and easing COVID-19 restrictions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Shares of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands climbed Friday after lingerie retailer raised its quarterly earnings outlook, citing stimulus payments to Americans as a pillar of sales support.

L Brands now expects first-quarter earnings of $0.85-$1 per share, higher than its previous forecast of $0.55-$0.65 per share, excluding any charges related to the early extinguishment of debt. Analysts were looking for earnings of $0.62 per share, according to a survey of analysts at Yahoo Finance.

The shares tacked on 6.7% when they hit $63.40. This year, the stock has jumped nearly 60% and has risen over the past 12 months from about $12.50.

“Improved sales trends,” the company gauged, “are primarily driven by unusual shifts in consumer spending patterns, resulting from government stimulus payments, a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and other factors.”

The US government this month began sending out $1,400 checks to most Americans to help them deal financially with the COVID-19 health crisis. Meanwhile, more businesses have been reopening services with the vaccination of millions of people in the US against coronavirus. About 14% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The company said it’s seeing stronger activity at its Victoria’s Secret chain as well as its Bath & Body Works stores.

“The environment remains uncertain, and there is no assurance that these improved trends will continue,” L Brands said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

5 thoughtful, sweet gifts to give your grandma, from cute jewelry to unique gift boxes

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Artifact Uprising
Prints of loved ones on a classy easel make for a simple and special gift.

  • Express your gratitude and love for grandma with a thoughtful, useful gift.
  • Pair it with a phone or video call so she can see you and hear your voice.
  • Still looking for gifts fo other people on your list? Check out more gift ideas here.

From swooping in to change your diaper while your mom had her hands tied to slipping you an extra piece of candy after dinner, Grandma is another important woman in your life who you know always has your back.

Below, you’ll find thoughtful and useful gifts that you can give to make life a little more comfortable, efficient, and entertaining for her.

35 gifts to get your grandma:

A yearlong subscription to online courses taught by celebrities

masterclass

Gift an annual MasterClass membership, $180

MasterClass has over 80 classes taught by celebrities and industry leaders in subjects that range from cooking to architecture. With a subscription, she’ll have access to all of them for a year. She can keep busy, learn something new, and have something to pick up the phone and call you about whenever she’d like. If you’re interested, grab yourself a membership and take a class with her!

A customizable gift box

greetabl price varies

Gift a custom Greetabl box, prices vary

Choose a cute box design, personalize it with photos and a message, and fill it with a small gift like candy or a candle to surprise the grandma who insists she already has everything she wants.

A comfortable weighted blanket

luna weighted blanket

Gift the Luna Adult Weighted Blanket, $69.99

If she’d appreciate better, deeper sleep or a way to combat some anxiety, we’d recommend a weighted blanket. While research is still limited, recent studies show positive indications that weighted blankets can help reduce insomnia and ease anxiety. 

Our staff consistently rank weighted blankets as one of the most impactful sleep upgrades we’ve made — and Luna is our top-rated budget pick. It’s breathable, machine-washable, Oeko-Tex Certified, and a great quality item for the price.

 

A lightweight, convenient Kindle

Kindle Paperwhite

Gift the Kindle Paperwhite, $249.99

The latest version of the Kindle Paperwhite is the thinnest and lightest yet, plus it’s waterproof and has a longer-lasting battery. She can read a good book anywhere now — and carry a whole library around with her.

A cute and quirky tea infuser

Genuine Fred Slow Brew Sloth Tea Infuser

Gift the Genuine Fred Slow Brew Sloth Tea Infuser, $8.99

If she’d appreciate something cute and quirky from you that she can use every day, try this tea infuser in the shape of a happy sloth. On top of making tea, it’s adorable. And if you’re looking for something that’s more practical than cute, we’ve got suggestions for that, too — like the Finum Brewing Basket.

An AncestryDNA kit to learn more about your family history together

ancestryDNA

Gift an AncestryDNA kit, $99

Curious about family history? This AncestryDNA test tells you more about your genetic ethnicity — and opens up rich conversations about family heritage and personal stories. We like Ancestry because it surveys an extensive population and links you with relatives.

Comfortable, long-lasting compression socks

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Gift a pair of Women’s Compression Socks, starting at $24

Bombas make some of our all-time favorite socks; they’re soft and designed for next-level support, but they also last forever. We’d recommend any pairs from them, but compression socks may be especially thoughtful if your grandmother has ever mentioned swelling or achy legs.

A personalized cutting board with a handwritten family recipe

MOTHERS HANDWRITTEN RECIPE Engraved Cutting Board

Gift an Engraved Cutting Board, $45.00

If your family has cherished recipes, preserve one in your loved ones’ handwriting on an engraved cutting board that’s as sentimental as it is practical.

A set of uniquely-flavored chocolate bars

Raaka Chocolate

Gift the Raaka 8-Bar Organic Chocolate Gift Box, $30-$50

This set of organic chocolate bars in flavors she’s probably never tried before is an exciting iteration of a classic gift. They come in flavors like cabernet sauvignon, green tea crunch, ginger snap, and more. Plus, the box has a booklet that lets her go behind the scenes and see how Raaka sources and creates its chocolate bars. 

A cozy, lightweight robe

parachute robe

Gift the Parachute Cloud Cotton Robe, $99

This robe is lightweight, fluffy, and soft. It’s the perfect piece to make days spent lounging at home feel a little more comfortable. 

A box filled with her favorite food

pizza

Gift a box of gourmet food with Goldbelly, prices vary

Whether it’s New York pizza, New England seafood, or cannolis from a famous bakery, Goldbelly carries delicious gourmet food gifts from eateries all over the United States. A Goldbelly box makes a great gift if she loves food. Just add a personal note and you have a thoughtful gift that fills her belly and soul. 

A fun twist on a calendar

Gifts for Grandma The New York Times Puzzle

Gift The New York Times Crossword 2021 Calendar, $15.24

“The New York Times” daily crossword puzzles are iconic, and there’s a good chance that Grandma looks forward to them each morning. This calendar has a new crossword for each day of the year, and the answers can be found right on the back.

A new everyday mug

Gifts for grandma Anthropologie mug

Gift the Anthropologie Lottie Mug, $5.95

Regardless of whether grandma’s a coffee or tea drinker, she’ll likely appreciate this reminder of you when she wakes up each morning. Plus, the initialed pattern feels personalized while remaining affordable. 

A subscription to the biggest book club in the country

book of the month $44.99

Gift a 3-Month Book of the Month subscription, $49.99

Book of the Month offers five new book choices a month, and they’re always top-quality picks. The biggest struggle of being a Book of the Month member is deciding which one to read.

A pair of new glasses

zenni $25

Gift a Zenni Gift Card, from $25

Give her a gift card from this affordable and stylish glasses brand so she can pick out a new pair of frames for herself. Frames start at less than $10, and they’ll be on their way straight to her front door after she enters her prescription information online.

A set of art-inspired tea towels

gifts for grandma 4

Gift the Siren Song Old Masters Cotton Tea Towel, $30

Tea towels don’t have to be boring. These artistic still lifes bring a beautiful and dramatic flair to her countertop. 

The next-in-command cookware after her trusty cast iron

made in $69

Gift the Made In Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan, $89

No way is she going to part with the cast-iron pan that’s been passed down through generations. The carbon-steel pan is like a close cousin that will never directly replace the classic cast iron. With its heat control and cooking speed, it comes in handy when she’s cooking in a rush, and it’s lighter to hold, too.

A cushion that provides back support whenever she needs it

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Gift the Purple Back Cushion, $39

Purple Cushions feature the same Hyper-Elastic Polymer material used in its supportive, adaptive mattresses, so she can be comfortable whether sitting in a car, plane, or stadium. Unlike other pillows that might simply absorb weight, this one provides active support.

Thick and warm socks

gifts for grandma 7

Gift the United by Blue Ultimate Bison Sock, $38

United by Blue makes some of the most comfortable and warmest socks we’ve ever worn. They’re made of merino wool, bison down, and nylon, and have reinforced heel and toe areas. We’re also big fans of Bombas socks

A luxurious yet affordable candle

otherland

Gift an Otherland Candle, $36

The same candle from a designer brand might cost twice as much, but we all know Grandma would never want you spending that much on a single candle. Otherland provides a reasonably priced alternative that’s still sophisticated and formulated with clean ingredients. Choose from soothing scents like rosebud, peony blossom, and pear water.

A comfortable slip-on shoe

allbirds $95

Gift the Allbirds Wool Lounger, $95

The soft, cushioned, and lightweight Loungers are made for the grandma who’s always on her feet and needs to be comfortable.

A versatile, thoughtfully designed bag

lo and sons $118

Gift the Lo & Sons Catalina Deluxe Tote, from $205

A common problem — finding a bag that doesn’t hurt your back — inspired the founding of travel bag company Lo & Sons, so you know these totes will be comfortable for your grandma to carry. The canvas bag has a bunch of different organizational features, including a bottom pocket just for shoes and an expandable main compartment. Lo & Sons also offers deep discounts on all bags right now, so you can get this one for over 50% off. 

A triangle coin purse

cuyana $50

Gift the Cuyana Triangle Pouch, $45

The distinctive shape is easy to spot and feel in a purse, while the tiny size is made for spare change, earrings, and other small knickknacks. Make it personal by adding a monogram for an additional $15. 

A subscription-free way to watch live TV

fire tv recast 2018

Gift the Fire TV Recast DVR, $229.99

So you’ve convinced her to cut the cord, but she might still miss watching her favorite daytime shows as they happen. Amazon’s Fire TV Recast works with an HD antenna and Fire TV device to bring her live shows and events without the commitment of monthly fees.

Prints of your favorite moments together and a pretty stand to display them

Artifact Uprising
Prints of loved ones on a classy easel make for a simple and special gift.

Gift the Artifact Uprising Brass Easel & Prints, $55

The sleek brass display is a little different from the usual photo frame, and it weathers nicely over time. The set includes 12 prints printed on weighty, matte paper.

A pure silk sleep mask to help her fall asleep and stay asleep

slip sleep mask

Gift the Slip “Slipsilk” Pure Silk Sleep Mask, $50

Slip’s 100% pure Mulberry silk sleep mask is lightweight, super soft, and makes something as simple as going to bed feel luxurious. 

A warm burst of pink and red flowers

gifts for grandma 6

Gift the Bouqs Co. Strength Bouquet, from $54

If all else fails, a flower bouquet is a gift that stands the test of time. Make sure to place your order of these assorted tulips soon to ensure availability and timely delivery.

A subtle, personal necklace

gifts for grandma 5

Gift the Mini Gold Letter Charm Pendant, $250

No need to get excessive or gimmicky with the Grandma gear — pretty and simple convey thoughtfulness even better, in our opinion. 

A Fitbit fitness tracker

fitbit $99.95

Gift the Fitbit Inspire 2, $78.95

This tracker is more affordable than Fitbit’s other models, but still gives her all the necessary info to keep tabs on her fitness and health. She can monitor her calorie burn, heart rate, sleep patterns, walking and biking activity, and other important stats.

A lottery ticket that gives back

lotto love $20

Gift the Lotto Love Variety Pack, $20

LottoLove turns playing the lottery into a charitable act: When you buy a card, LottoLove donates to charities that help people receive clean water, solar light, nutritious meals, and literacy tools. She’ll scratch off the stickers to find out which cause she has supported.

A better-designed spatula

gir $39.95

Gift the GIR Ultimate Spatula, $7.95

GIR’s stronger, more flexible, and heat-resistant spatulas make Grandma’s baking prep a breeze (which means you won’t have to wait as long for her famous cookies to be ready).

A classic cashmere sweater with half the carbon footprint

Gifts for grandma Everland

Gift the Everlane ReCashmere Vintage Crew, from $47

The simple joy of a soft and cozy sweater can never be understated. Everlane’s take on the closet essential is doubly impressive because it’s made from recycled cashmere. We won’t blame you if you want to pick up a matching sweater for yourself. 

A journal to record her life story

my life story $30

Gift the “My Life Story – So Far” Journal, $30

You know that Grandma has an arsenal of entertaining stories and life wisdom up her sleeve. The best way to ensure they’re preserved and passed on to future generations is this journal that contains prompts ranging from the specific (“TV shows I watched while in school”) to the nebulous (“Some thoughts on love and marriage”).

A handmade stoneware sewing station

uncommon goods $58

Gift the Uncommon Goods Sewing Station, $60

Plastic sewing supply storage boxes may work, but this sturdy clay sewing station will actually get her excited to sit down with her tools.

A meaningful bracelet

Gifts for grandma Etsy bracelet

Gift the Grandma Bracelet, $19.80

When it comes to grandparents, it can be difficult to find gifts that provide meaning without feeling cheesy. This bracelet and its message strike this delicate balance well, and she’ll be especially proud to wear it.

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Your morning coffee is about to get more expensive

coffee shortage
There’s a coffee shortage.

When it rains, it pours, and when there’s a drought, prices go up.

In this case, the drought is in Brazil and it has the US running low on coffee. That means your morning cup of joe is about to get more expensive.

The drought has decreased crop production just as congested shipping ports have caused US coffee stockpiles to hit the lowest they’ve been in six years, Bloomberg reported. So far, roasters have been relying on their inventories instead of hiking prices, but that will only last so long and wholesale prices have climbed.

Potential losses from the drought could affect half of Brazil’s coffee crops next year, soft commodities expert Judith Ganes told Reuters in December. She said it was hard to determine how badly Brazil’s Arabica beans were hit, but “there will be major failure,” she said. “I saw areas with 100% losses, 50% losses, 30% losses.”

Arabica-coffee futures in New York have increased by nearly a quarter since the end of October, per Bloomberg. And Marex Spectron recently upgraded its global coffee deficit forecast from 8 million bags to 10.7 million bags, citing the drought.

Logistic problems have only compounded the shortage brought on by declining crops. Some facilities in Dinamo, Brazil, told Bloomberg don’t have enough containers to ship out coffee. Some containers and charter vessels aren’t currently available, causing back ups and delays at shipping ports.

David Rennie, head of Nestle’s coffee brands, told Bloomberg it could take two to three years for take-away coffee to return to pre-Covid levels.

But coffee isn’t the only goods shortage hitting the global economy as it reopens this year.

US shipping ports have become unusually congested as imports pick up speed due to surging and unpredictable consumer demand, delaying shipments of all types, from sneakers to meat. Companies struggled to estimate demand correctly, partly explaining the pileup, while factory production was halted off and on during the work-from-home economy of 2020.

The shortage is particularly acute in certain spaces, such as in the semiconductor chips needed to make personal electronics and products with electronic components such as cars. Finally, February’s Texas Freeze suspended much of the US oil sector and the manufacturers who rely on it, making gas harder to come by and things refineries produce, like plastics, more expensive.

That’s not to mention the shortage of things like bikes, fitness equipment, and even lumber, the latter of which has added to already high housing prices. As supply dwindles, all of these things become things Americans could end up paying more for.

But you know what they say, when it rains, it pours.

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Utz CEO says that Boulder Canyon potato chips are doing well with customers looking for healthier snacks

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  • Some buyers opt for healthier ingredients found in the Boulder Canyon chips, Utz Brands CEO Dylan Lissette told CNBC.
  • Utz Brands reworked the Boulder product since it acquired Inventure Foods in 2017, he said.
  • Utz plans to spend more on digital advertising to reach new customers, according to CNBC.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Some Utz Brands buyers are opting for snacks with healthier ingredients such as the avocado oil used to cook the Boulder Canyon potato chips, Utz Brands CEO Dylan Lissette told CNBC.

The snack company has been rebranding and developing the Boulder Canyon chips since it bought its manufacturer Inventure Foods in 2017, said Lissette on CNBC’s Mad Money.

“We’ve got a lot of excitement around those ‘better for you brands’,” Lissette said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, consumers had been buying healthier snacks. A summary report by Health Focus International found people are also willing to pay more for foods and beverages that are both healthy and indulgent.

Utz’s lineup of healthy snacks includes Veggie Chips, Half Naked Popcorn, and potato chips cooked in olive oil and avocado oil, according to the company’s website.

In the company’s earnings report on Thursday, Utz’s CFO Cary Devore said that the company saw a “significant” increase in new buyers and higher purchase repeat rates over the past year.

Food shopping habits changed during the pandemic as people resorted to comfort food and snacks more often, according to Consumer Reports.

This week, Sam’s Club CEO Kathryn McLay told The New York Times in an interview that the retailer’s customers went through phases when they were buying pizza, ice cream, and potato chips during COVID-19. Sam’s Club called those periods “carbs and calories,” she said.

Utz plans to grow sales and reach new customers in 2021 by increasing its digital advertising spend by 60% and potentially more, Lissette told CNBC.

Social media and digital ads do well compared to having one commercial that runs through the year “and realizing it didn’t really give you what you needed,” he added.

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GameStop slump and weak February sales data are pressuring a major retail ETF

GameStop
At a GameStop store in North Las Vegas.

  • GameStop on Tuesday was on course for a second straight loss, down as much as 20% during the session.
  • The video game retailer is the largest holding in the SPDR S&P Retail ETF.
  • The ETF was down after February retail sales fell by more than expected, with poor weather a big factor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

GameStop shares fell by more than 20% during Tuesday’s session. The move lower came alongside a slump in monthly US retail sales and putting pressure on a widely watched retail exchange-traded fund.

GameStop shares were on track for a second straight loss, though shares staged a recovery in the afternoon following a steep decline in early trading. The stock fell by as much as 22% to an intraday low of $172.35.

The video game seller was down alongside other retail stocks after the Commerce Department said early Tuesday retail sales fell by 3% in February. That result was worse than the 0.5% decline expected in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

GameStop is the top holding in the SPDR S&P Retail ETF with a weighting of about 12.4% as of Monday. The ETF, which had about $855 million in assets under management, on Tuesday fell as much as 3.6% to 90.08 before trimming the loss of 2.3%. Among the ETF’s other holdings, Signet Jewelers fell 1.2%, Kohl’s sagged by 2.5% and Rent-A-Center fell 4.1%. Best Buy, meanwhile, edged up 0.2%.

Sales in the electronics and appliances category in February fell by 1.9% month-over-month and on a seasonally adjusted basis. But analysts largely pointed to poor weather as a key reason that February retail sales declined. The loss also came after an upwardly revised increase in January sales.

The US government last week starting sending stimulus checks of $1,400 to most Americans as part of its coronavirus-relief package. That money “will lift disposable income by roughly 25% month-over-month in March, creating a massive tailwind for consumer demand,” Aneta Markowska, chief economist at Jefferies, in a note Tuesday.

Other analysts have said GameStop should benefit from customers having extra funds for discretionary items.

GameStop, the darling of retail investors active on Reddit’s Wall Street Bets community, earlier this month said Ryan Cohen will be in charge of a new committee aimed at driving a turnaround plan.

Cohen is the cofounder of pet products retailer Chewy and GameStop’s largest individual shareholder.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I went to the first Amazon Fresh store in the UK and felt like a shoplifter. Take a look inside.

Insider's Kate Duffy outside the first Amazon Fresh store in the UK
Insider’s Kate Duffy outside the first Amazon Fresh store in the UK.

  • Amazon has just opened its first cashierless Amazon Fresh store in the UK so I went to check it out.
  • Cameras and shelf sensors monitor what you’re putting in your bag and you’re billed after you leave.
  • The trip was hassle-free, but I wasn’t a fan of the hundreds of cameras dangling from the ceiling.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Amazon Fresh store in the borough of Ealing, west London, is no ordinary supermarket.

Retail giant Amazon opened its first physical store in the UK on March 4 so I decided to go along to see what all the fuss was about.

It operates in the same way as the cashierless 20 Amazon Go stores in the US – you go in, put the items in your bag, and wander back out.

I felt like the world’s biggest shoplifter, even when carrying Amazon’s green bag with “Just Walk Out” slapped on the side.

The whole shopping experience was hassle-free. There’s no dodging trolleys, speed-packing at the till or faffing with credit cards. You get billed after you exit the shop, although my receipt took two hours to come through so I didn’t know exactly how much I’d spent until then.

The location is only 2,500 square feet so it’s much smaller than a supermarket and it would be a struggle to do a weekly shop in there.

Overall, I was impressed at the organisation, cleanliness and efficiency of the store. What I didn’t like was the hundreds of cameras hanging from the ceiling, checking what was going into my bag. It had a dystopian feel.

The food wasn’t anything special, but what makes this store pop is its futuristic technology that means an effortless shopping trip.

Here’s what happened during my shopping trip to London’s new Amazon Fresh and what I bought:

The UK’s first Amazon Fresh store is located in Ealing Broadway shopping centre, West London.

Amazon Fresh UK store
Amazon Fresh store in Ealing, west London.

My first thought when approaching Amazon Fresh was: why Ealing? 

It takes over an hour on the tube to get from central London to Ealing. But the high street is home to some popular household names — the newest being Amazon Fresh.

The doors in the photo above are the exit to the store. The entrance is around the corner where I joined a line, downloaded the Amazon app and got directed by assistants in green jackets.

I visited around 14:00 p.m., just after the lunchtime rush, so the queue wasn’t very long. Considering the store has no tills, it noticeably cut down the waiting time.

As soon as you scan the QR code on the Amazon app, you’re timed. The receipt showed I was inside the store for a total of 17 minutes and 12 seconds.

To get into the store, you have to scan the QR code on the Amazon app, which opens the green barrier.

Amazon Fresh start
Shoppers’ first glimpse inside Amazon Fresh.

Amazon Fresh didn’t fail to give a good first impression. As long as you have the Amazon App downloaded, it’s a simple scan of the QR code and you’re in. 

Customers can take their own bags or pick up the medium-sized, reusable Amazon Fresh bags for £1 ($1.40). There are no trolleys or baskets, which made the whole experience much smoother.

But as a pedantic trolley-stacker, shoving things into a bag and not visually having my food in front of me to organise proved a little difficult.

 

If you look up, you’ll see loads of cameras pointing at the shelves. They track every item that goes into your bag.

Cameras hanging from the ceiling
Cameras hanging from the ceiling.

The main visual difference between Amazon Fresh and other supermarkets were the hundreds of cameras dangling from the ceiling. I felt like I was being watched, even though the cameras were just monitoring what was going into my bag.

On the flip side, it felt safe and secure. If the tech remains reliable, then shoplifting shouldn’t be a concern, as customers are tracked as soon as they enter the store via their Amazon account.

 

The cameras work in conjunction with weight sensors on the shelves to determine which items you’ve picked up.

In the bag it goes
Amazon’s own aubergine masala.

Halfway around the store, I realised I was putting items into the bag in a very exaggerated manner to prove I was set on buying the product and had nothing to hide. 

The aubergine masala was part of a takeaway deal of two mains and two sides for £10 ($14). 

You can’t hand items to other people to put in their basket. You have to pick them up yourself.

Shopping at Amazon Fresh
Amazon Fresh aisle.

It’s a solo shopping experience. If you pick up an item and pass it to another customer, the weight sensors and cameras will think you put the product in your bag so you’ll be charged. 

 

Amazon Fresh sells a range of its own branded food, including pizzas, ready meals and fresh fruit and vegetables at competitive prices.

Amazon's own food
Amazon’s own food.

The retail giant sources its food from British suppliers. Unexpectedly, around one third of the store was taken up by Amazon’s own branded products. And it all looks great!

Prices are average but competitive. It’s £4 ($5.60) for a medium-sized pizza, similar to other UK supermarkets such as Tescos and Sainsbury’s. But Amazon Fresh offered good deals. For the two chicken breasts in the photo above and a side, it’s £5 ($7). 

The store also had free-from, organic and vegan ranges, as well as lots of popular food brands.

 

Amongst all the Amazon food, there’s an Amazon Hub.

Amazon hub at Amazon Fresh
Amazon Hub.

At the back of the store, you’ll find the Amazon Hub where you can pick up and return items that you’ve bought online from the retail company.

In the pharmacy section, there are coasters that you can take to the Amazon Hub to exchange for medicine.

Drugs at Amazon Fresh
Medicine at Amazon.

What is usually a pointing game with a cashier behind a till, is now a case of picking up a coaster and handing it into the Amazon Hub to get drugs.

 

The alcohol is enclosed in a corner with a ‘booze bouncer’ checking people’s ID as they walk out.

Alcohol section at Amazon Fresh
Alcohol section.

The ‘booze bouncer’ welcomed me into the alcohol corner and proceeded to watch what I put into my bag — on top of cameras watching me. I picked up a beer and on my way out, she asked to check my ID. 

When I asked her if I could take a picture of the alcohol section, she told me: “Of course, lots of people are doing that at the moment.”

Given that attractions are shut due to COVID-19, the store has become a tourist magnet. There were certainly more tourists than genuine shoppers roaming around in there.

It was also noticeable that everybody in Amazon Fresh was young. This begs the question of whether older people will have the technology to shop there.

You can even get an Amazon Fresh meal deal.

Meal Deals at Amazon Fresh
Amazon Fresh meal deal.

The meal deal section was huge. There’s a wide variety of meals, snacks and drinks on offer. 

The meal comes at its standard price, then you add any drink and snack on top for £1. Some of the meals were really fancy, such as the lemongrass chicken and edamame mixed grain salad.

Behold Amazon’s ready-to-go hot food and bakery with fresh bread baked on site.

Hot section and bakery at Amazon Fresh
Hot counter and bakery.

Amazon Fresh is ideal for that lunchtime food dash. There was a lot of ready-prepared food, perfect for city workers on the run.

Customers can make a cup of coffee for £2.30. Oat milk was also an option.

Hot coffee at Amazon Fresh
Hot coffee section.

At the front of the store, there were two separate coffee machines, one for normal milk and one for oat milk.

The store itself was bright and vibrant with pop music. It felt exclusive.

Amazon Fresh aisle
The cold aisle at Amazon Fresh.

Amazon Fresh was comparable to a high-quality UK convenience store, such as Waitrose. It was clean, tidy and there was lots to choose from. 

The strangest bit was walking out without having to scan the items.

My receipt was emailed to me two hours after I left the store, which I became impatient for because I was eager to know whether the technology had charged me correctly.

It did — it logged every item in the order I put them into my bag.

The total cost for 13 items came to £20 ($28).

What I bought at Amazon Fresh
My Amazon Fresh treats.

Amazon Fresh makes it too easy to buy things…

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