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 GameStop hiring hundreds of senior leaders to Wayfair announcing new stores, here's our closeout for the week.
What you may have missed
Pacsun launches a gender-neutral fragrance
This week, Pacsun announced it is expanding its gender-neutral lineup with the debut of Pacsun For All Fragrance. The retailer said the scent features sparkling bergamot, zesty grapefruit, spicy nutmeg and fresh mint with notes of amber wood and soft leather.
Pacsun has recently been launching gender-neutral products. In June, the company announced the launch of the new gender-neutral category, Pacsun Kids, which features apparel for children between the ages of 4 and 14. Pacsun also introduced its first fully dedicated gender-neutral brand, dubbed Colour Range, in September.
"Over 50% of our core consumers, Gen Z, are said to shop outside of their assigned gender," Alfred Chang, co-CEO of Pacsun, said in a statement. "Our gender-neutral clothing collections have been extremely well-received, and we knew it was time to evolve our fragrance category too and think outside the traditional gender lines."
J.C. Penney partners with Sports Illustrated
J.C. Penney and Sports Illustrated announced the launch of "Sports Illustrated for JCPenney," a new apparel line for men, women and children that will be available in stores and online starting Jan. 6, according to information sent to Retail Dive. The partnership kicked off at the Sports Illustrated Awards on Tuesday, which featured a halftime fashion show where the collection was unveiled.
The first collection, dubbed The Winter Drop, features activewear with "subtle SI branding" on items including tracksuits, T-shirts, shorts, joggers, crop tops, sports bras, skirts and outerwear. All J.C. Penney stores will carry mens and womens products, while 300 locations will have its plus offerings (including big and tall) and kids.
For women, sizes range from XS to 3XL, for men and big and tall sizes go from S to XXL and 1XLT to 3XLT. For children, boys sizes range from 4 to 20 and girls size range from 4 to 16.
Authentic Brands group is the co-owner of J.C. Penney and owner of Sports Illustrated.
KFC gets us all fired up
Ahhh this time of year is known for its great scents — gingerbread coming out of the oven, hot cocoa, and, if you are lucky, the scent of fried chicken on an open fire.
That's right, folks, KFC is bringing back its 11 Herbs & Spices Firelog once again. You can grab one at Walmart's website for $15.88 to experience its "enhanced extra crispy scent."
But wait! There's more! This year the good people at KFC are throwing a contest where the prize is a three-day, two-night stay for up to eight people at the KFC Firelog Cabin. When you purchase a firelog it comes with a unique QR code on its packaging. Consumers can use it to go to a webpage where they can enter to win.
The cabin is decorated with chicken-inspired home decor, the most important being a "Colonel Bearskin rug" which is something that sounds both horribly frightening and Instagram-worthy. Moreover, KFC's Head Chef Chris Scott will be there to make guests a five-course private dinner that includes dishes like Finger Lickin' Good Charcuterie, The OG Original Recipe Chicken Roulade, and Sweet, Southern & Sticky Toffee Pudding. Which brings us back to the old adage: Winner, winner chicken dinner.
Chanel comments on backlash over advent calendar
As part of the 100th-anniversary celebration of the Chanel No.5 fragrance, Chanel put out an $825 advent calendar. As it turns out, the price tag is the least shocking part of the whole ordeal. TikToker @eliseharmon posted a series of videos opening each box only to find items like a dust bag, miniature versions of Chanel products and a handful of stickers.
I may have had a bad day but Chanel really charged $800 for an advent calendar that was full of STICKERS AND A FLIP BOOK in it and everyone who bought it is pissed (and rightfully so because that's a total rip-off!)— Jan Jan (⌐❄️_❄️) (@LittleDovah) December 3, 2021
(Vid is from some tiktoks a lady did & I feel so bad for her) pic.twitter.com/xyyd6QMTOS
Social media users were quick to criticize the quality of the products. Soon enough, the series of videos gained millions of views. Content creators on the app went as far as creating their own videos to voice their take on the issue.
"This controversy is a bit of a shame because it was not what Chanel intended. Chanel thought it would please some of its customers by offering this type of product. Evidently, we see that you have to be careful and therefore, in future, we will certainly be much more cautious," Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel, told Women's Wear Daily.
What we're still thinking about
That's how many stores Wayfair plans to open next year: two for its AllModern brand and one for its Joss & Main brand. The planned locations are the first in a series of openings Wayfair is plotting for all its brands, which also include Perigold and Birch Lane.
Many digitally native brands have turned to physical retail over the years as the limitations of selling goods online — and trying to acquire customers — become more prevalent.
That is roughly how many senior hires GameStop has made this year as it tries to transform into a technology-driven company, according to CEO Matt Furlong, an Amazon vet who was among those hires after being appointed in June. As it looks to recruit tech talent, GameStop has also opened offices recently in Seattle and Boston.
So, what are all those new hires working on? Your guess is as good as anyone's at the moment. The company has been largely mum on specifics about its transformation strategy. GameStop's most enthusiastic investors seem unbothered by the open-endedness of its plans. While down from its wildest highs of this year, GameStop's stock still trades at more than $150. That is more than 10 times its value from a year ago.
What we're watching
Stitch Fix and the limits of the algorithm
In her essay in The Atlantic this week, "Iris the Bra Lady Knows Better Than Your Instagram Ad," author Xochitl Gonzalez never mentions Stitch Fix, but it could have been written for the subcription-apparel-box-retailer-turned-online-store. In it, Gonzalez describes her regret at ditching her beloved local lingerie shop and its proprietress, Iris, lured by the promises of DTC brands that boast about their algorithms and parade their wares on Instagram.
Gonzalez returns to Iris because, it turns out, tech wasn't able to outdo the woman's longstanding expertise in undergarments or the one-on-one (or two?) customer service she provided in her store. "It simply isn’t possible that a generalist focused on volume is going to offer the same product as a specialist who has built their livelihood on providing one niche service and providing it well," Gonzalez writes. "Just as it simply isn’t possible that an algorithm of any kind is going to provide the same kind of knowledge-base and wisdom as a working specialist."
Stitch Fix has its own "working specialists," a corps of stylists tasked with leveraging information gleaned by its algorithms and directly from its customers to put together boxes of clothes meant to surprise and delight. That workforce was recently downsized as the company opened up its direct buy option to all comers, renaming it "Freestyle" and thereby getting into the same business that the likes of Nordstrom, Macy's, Target and others do online every day.
While it may be drifting away from its stylists, Stitch Fix is all-in on its tech. In their conference call with analysts on Tuesday regarding the most recent quarter, executives focused on supply chain snafus and the expansion and refinement of its algorithm.
"We will be implementing new systems, and we are building new workflows," CEO Elizabeth Spaulding said. "All of this learning of new motions is in service of building a great customer experience, and we will need to optimize these. We do not anticipate a linear journey."
Most likely, Iris doesn't either. But she knows about bras.