It's been another week with far more retail news than there is time in the day. Below, we break down some things you may have missed during the week and what we're still thinking about.
From Spanx giving out $10,000 and trips around the world to H&M closing its Paris flagship, here's our closeout for the week.
What you may have missed
REI launches Path Ahead Ventures
REI is investing $30 million in 300 founders of color in the outdoor industry through an effort dubbed Path Ahead Ventures, the retailer said in a press release Thursday. By 2030, the outdoors retailer is aiming to have more than 15% of the products sold at REI come from brands that are either owned or led by people of color, adding 200 such brands to its assortment in that timeframe.
Path Ahead Ventures will help with that initiative by giving REI the ability to invest in new businesses and current ones to help with launching or scaling, respectively. The program will offer not just capital investment, but also access to REI's infrastructure like supply chain, product development and marketing, and connections to others in the outdoors space. The fund's "Embark" program for new businesses is accepting applications now for its first cohort, while its "Navigate" program for existing businesses will launch in 2022.
"Founders of color have historically been overlooked, under-resourced. The outdoor industry is a $459.8-billion-dollar sector, yet only about 1% of retail brands are owned or led by people of color," REI said in its release. "Retailers, including REI, have sourced products in ways that have made it difficult for smaller, newer companies to compete—which has had a disproportionate impact on founders of color."
Beyoncé deepens ties to Peloton
Peloton and Adidas x Ivy Park recently announced they've teamed up to offer a capsule collaborative collection of apparel and footwear. Ivy Park was co-founded by Beyoncé.
The collection, which drops Nov. 10, will include bike shorts, tights, bras and tees, among other things, and comes in sizes XXS to 3XL. Items in the collection are priced between $45 and $200.
The collaboration builds on Beyoncé's partnership with Peloton formed in 2020. It also deepens Peloton's apparel ambitions: The company had previously formed partnerships with Adidas, Athleta and Hill City, and earlier this year announced it would launch a private apparel brand.
West Elm and New York Magazine's The Strategist partner on co-branded collection
West Elm this week partnered with The Strategist, New York Magazine's editorial network that curates and recommends products to consumers. The collaboration marks the home good retailer's first partnership with a publisher, according to a company announcement.
The Strategist Shop at West Elm includes more than 40 West Elm products that were featured by the publisher's editors. The Strategist earns a commission on the sale of each product purchased in the shop.
While a tie-up between a retailer and a publisher may seem surprising, it's not new. Last year, Nordstrom partnered with Food52's Five Two brand, which introduced the brand's cookware, dishware and other kitchen items to the department store's audience.
Have too much money? Neiman Marcus will help you spend it
Evidently, some shoppers have cash burning such a large hole in their pockets that they feel compelled to spend hundreds of thousands or several millions of dollars on holiday gifts this year. As ever, Neiman Marcus has a solution to that problem. The retailer's Christmas Book is officially out, which means that overpriced holiday gifts are also out.
The department store's "Fantasy Gifts," which we can only imagine are so named because you must promise up your first born child to be able to afford them, are as colorful as usual. They feature everything from skiing with Lindsey Vonn ($235,000) — for embarrassment purposes? — to a $285,000 Hummer, which Neiman Marcus pitches as "the world's first fully electric super truck." The latter also features Neiman Marcus branding multiple times throughout the interior, because who wouldn't consider that a must-have feature for their once-in-a-lifetime gift? There is also your standard $6.1 million diamond, with stone naming rights, "thus linking to your family forever."
But Neiman Marcus is hip to the times, so sustainability has also somehow found a place in this over-the-top gift list. For a mere $345,000, shoppers can work with style advisors from Fashionphile and Neiman Marcus to choose which clothes they want to get rid of, "putting items back into the world to be reused and recycled." Once customers feel like they have made a difference, they can then refill their closets with a $100,000 Neiman Marcus gift card and personal shopping trip with Lisa Aiken. The "sustainably minded journey" ends with first-class flights to Fashionphile's headquarters to choose from a selection of vintage pieces. Purchasers are assured this is an "eco-conscious" experience.
Spanx founder's "thank you" to employees is out of this world
This summer, after Jeff Bezos came back to Earth following a space flight that underwhelmed compared to what the U.S. and Soviet Union accomplished decades ago, he graciously thanked his employees and customers for making it happen. Talk, as they say, is cheap, however, and arguably so is Amazon, considering that its workers take home a median income of $29,007, nearly 58 times below what Bezos made as Amazon's CEO last year.
As Spanx founder Sara Blakely demonstrated this week, there are better ways to show one's employees one's appreciation. After selling a majority stake in her two-decade-old smooth-underwear company to investment firm Blackstone, a move that valued her brand at some $1.2 billion, Blakely hoisted her lucky red backpack, and tearfully toasted her mother and grandmothers, who she said struggled as women with few opportunities compared to men. She, like Bezos, thanked her employees with grateful words. But, unlike Bezos, she also surprised them with two first class plane tickets each, plus $10,000 cash as spending money, as tokens of that appreciation.
"I really want every employee to celebrate this moment in their own way and create a memory that will last them a lifetime," she said in the video she posted to Instagram. "Cheers to 21 years of magic and many more to come."
What we're still thinking about
That's the number of subscribers Walmart+ is estimated to have, according to data from Morgan Stanley. On the higher end of the estimate, Walmart+ may have acquired up to 14 million members.
Morgan Stanley's data is on the lower end of the numerous estimates analysts have on the program's membership base. Deutsche Bank, for instance, projects that 32 million households are subscribed to Walmart+, according to a September note. Five months after its launch, data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners in February indicated that Walmart+ had garnered between 7.4 million and 8.2 million members. Walmart, on the other hand, has stayed mum on the subscriber count.
That is how much pre-2019 top-line and bottom-line financial data that Rent the Runway provided to prospective investors in its bid to go public. Founded more than a decade ago, the company said only that it has a "history of losses" and an accumulated deficit of $674.1 million.
"While this company has existed for over 10 years, only 2.5 years of financials are provided," MKM Partners Managing Director Roxanne Meyer said in emailed comments. "This compressed period (with over half negatively impacted by the pandemic) doesn't allow us to appreciate the extent of growth prior to 2019. ... With no subscriber data prior to 2019, it is tough to appreciate what normalized subscriber growth could look like."
What we're watching
These (flag)ships have sailed
H&M is reportedly preparing to close its Champs-Élysées flagship store in Paris as part of the company's effort to downsize its store fleet. The three-story space opened in 2010 after a five-year legal battle with a city that did not want the appearance of fast fashion commerce on one of its most famous avenues. It was made "to stand the test of time and act as a part of the history of Champs-Élysées and give the impression that it had always been there," according to an announcement at the time of its opening.
The retailer announced last October plans to shut stores and focus resources on strengthening its digital operations. The company is closing other important stores as well. The company shut its Shanghai flagship in June, one in Stockholm a few weeks ago and a West Coast flagship in San Francisco about a year ago.
In other store news, Ikea this week reportedly purchased the retail space that served as Topshop's London flagship for $520 million. This last piece of real estate completes the sale of Arcadia Group's assets, and the new Ikea store is due to open in 2023.
Washington vs. Wall Street
Retail workers affiliated with activist group United for Respect took part in a virtual town hall Thursday to help promote revived legislation aimed at reining in private equity firms. Sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the bill, dubbed the Stop Wall Street Looting Act, would expand the liability of partners in private equity firms, ban dividends from portfolio companies for two years, give workers priority in the bankruptcy process, and empower creditor committees to pursue litigation against company insiders.
Retail as an industry has highlighted some of the damaging consequences of leveraged buyouts and debt-funded dividends, with dozens of private equity-owned companies filing for Chapter 11 in the past five years. The Wall Street Journal noted Warren's bill "will likely face another uphill battle to win over Republicans and moderate Democrats before it can pass out of committee."