TikTok Star ‘Tami’ Talks Feeling ‘Shook’ by Shein Design

TikTok Star ‘Tami’ Talks Feeling ‘Shook’ by Shein Design

As a TikTok standout for her styling and designing, Tamara Strzelecki is accustomed to putting herself out there. But she was stopped cold earlier this month when one of her followers shared an image of a Shein dress imprinted with what she feels resembles her profile.
Strzelecki, who is known on TikTok simply as “Tami,” first was clued in about the Shein dress on Jan. 11. “Shocked” by the seemingly strong resemblance to herself and her likeness, she said she must have looked at it 10 times before laughing nervously. “Then it started creeping me out a bit. I like to talk about my life in general with my TikTok so I went to TikTok and made the video about feeling shook after seeing this dress that looks just like me,” Strzelecki said.

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Executives at Shein did not respond to requests for comment Thursday or Friday.

While her online business Sugs’ Shoppe has been running for 15 years, it became successful last year after one of her getting-ready videos — for a visit to her therapist — went viral, she said. More than 1 million viewed it, liked her style, realized she sold online and started supporting Sugs’ Shoppe. Strzelecki previously worked in hospice care, but a bout with long COVID-19 in 2020 sidelined her for an extended period of time. That prompted her to join TikTok and figure out how to earn more money.  

She said she raised her concerns about the similarities and requested more information about the dress design in two emails to Shein, but received no response. The stylist bought the $20 dress to see for herself, despite having never purchased anything from the fast fashion, ”which is not really my thing.” After posting another video of herself wearing the Shein dress, an attorney follower offered legal assistance and suggested sending a cease-and-desist letter. Two subsequent cease-and-desist e-mails have not been responded to yet, Strzelecki said. With a small business to run, she said she only has so much time to press this legally.

The way she sees it, the issue is her logo is based off of her likeness, her style is hers alone, too, and something that she takes a lot of pride in. “Seeing somebody else capitalizing on my likeness just made me really uncomfortable. It didn’t feel fair,” said Strzelecki, adding that there are copyrights to protect one’s likeness in her home state. “A huge influx” of people were “quite rude,” posting claims that she didn’t look anything like the dress, she said. That made her consider the possibility of a doppelganger, but her 2022 viral experience on TikTok makes her think that the design was more intentional.

The dress has subsequently sold out on the Shein site. Having felt “really creeped out in the beginning” by the design, she said is trying not to stress out too much now. Acknowledging that it would be nice to hear back from Shein, Strzelecki said she will probably play off the dress more “especially if I haven’t heard from them.”

The stylist and designer has posted a few videos of herself wearing the Shein design.

Some followers have speculated that an image was used by Shein via AI and Strzelecki noted how Shein has faced copyright infringement allegations from designers in the past. The 38-year-old said her husband found the dress to be funny, and her 7-year-old and 9-year-old children deemed the similarity “so cool.” She said, “I am just trying to not be completely overwhelmed by the whole thing. But it’s crazy.”

Having polished up some new handbag designs recently, the designer will also soon introduce some Michigan-made rompers that she has been working on. The Shein controversy has made a “bunch of people” suggest to Strzelecki that she design shirts or dresses with her likeness to sell herself online. “I have been talking to a friend about getting some designs together. I figure, if Shein is going to make money off of my face, I might as well try to do the same.”

Inside Jill Martin’s Immersive Shoppable TV Platform

Inside Jill Martin’s Immersive Shoppable TV Platform

Jill Martin has been incredibly busy. After introducing a new business to the world, another entrepreneur might take a break to unwind from all the stress and preparations. Instead, the “Today” star got married.
Just over a week since she unveiled her immersive new TV shopping platform, Shop the Scenes, this month, Martin tied the knot with banker Erik Brooks at the New York Public Library. The “Steals & Deals” host let WWD in on a little-known detail about the event: French haute couture designer Pierre Cadault was a key figure at her wedding — which is fascinating, because he doesn’t actually exist outside of Darren Star’s Netflix series, “Emily in Paris.”

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The character, played by actor Jean-Christophe Bouvet, appeared in luggage form, his face emblazoned on an army of rolling bags for guests, Martin told WWD in an exclusive interview. They were dead ringers for the customized Rimowa trunk from season two, a popular item that sent fans blanketing the Internet to secure their own. They weren’t available to purchase then, but they will be via Shop the Scenes.

Pierre Cadault luggage from “Emily in Paris” stands at attention at Jill Martin’s September wedding in New York. Photo exclusively for WWD.

Turns out, those bags weren’t just wedding swag. They were a preview of a signature STS offering: The business is actually manufacturing fictional “in-show brands” like the Cadault bags, manifesting invented products from beloved TV series into actual ones available for sale. Other items from real-world brands will be sourced directly from the shows, and cast as 3D graphics that fans can shop inside virtual WebVR environments, each designed to reflect a given show.

Think of it as a multifaceted approach to bring immersiveness to shoppable TV.

As for Martin, she’s been absorbed in the shows since she cofounded the business with her partner, entertainment company 101 Studios. She has been living and breathing “Yellowstone” and “Emily in Paris,” even decorating her home with the series’ merchandise. She somehow balances that, while still focusing on her broadcast work, including showcasing her own brands on QVC.

And, of course, she also had a wedding to plan. So perhaps some overlap was inevitable.

“I’m so grateful for all the opportunity and what we’re building in all of these arenas,” she said. “The thread that keeps it all together, all of it, is just passion and love for what I do…it’s part of my life, and so the shows [were] incorporated into my wedding.”

Guests even sipped Champere, the abysmal champagne from “Emily” now transformed into a delicious sparkling wine. The bubbly will join a broad but highly curated selection of merchandise ranging from $10 to $10,000 across clothes, beauty products, furniture, jewelry, home goods and more, as seen on beloved TV shows.

Jill Martin at the New York Public library

Courtesy photo/Ben Finch

Shop the Scenes appeared at Martin’s wedding via merchandise.

Courtesy photo/Ben Finch

Jill Martin and Erik Brooks’ pop a very special bottle of bubbly.

Courtesy photo/Erika Dame

Champere, the terrible champagne from “Emily in Paris,” is now a delicious sparkling wine, said Martin.

Courtesy photo/Erika Finch

Wedding guests were among the first to sip the transformed wine.

Courtesy photo/Erika Dame

A celebration of Champere

Courtesy photo/Erika Dame

In a retail market bursting with e-commerce platforms, shoppable TV efforts, virtual worlds and initiatives targeting fan communities, it’s natural to wonder if there’s room for yet another, or how this one can distinguish itself from the pack.

But what those businesses don’t have is Martin herself.

A former sportscaster and a New York Times bestselling author, the Emmy-winning media personality has built a career as a fashion and lifestyle authority and e-commerce expert with a knack for igniting sales. Her bio credits her as the first to pioneer the concept of bringing shopping into unscripted television. One media report claims she drove as much as $60 million in revenue for “Today” in 2018 alone.

In other words, she has an innate understanding of what consumers want. Her partner, entertainment company 101 Studios, knows what the studios want. This blend, she said, is Shop the Scenes’ secret sauce.

“[Longtime friend and 101 cofounder David Glasser] understands, from a showrunner perspective, why it’s so important for products to be organic and available to the consumer,” she explained. “And I come at it from a viewer perspective and a consumer perspective of how we make that environment seamless and enjoyable. And so with the merging of 101 Studios and David and myself…we have all the areas covered.”

Together, they aimed to flip the old model — retail’s use of storytelling as a tool to drive sales — to show storytellers how the shopping platform can expand the worlds they’ve created to the real world, in real time.

“Rather than ad placements, we’re coming at it by working with the showrunners, working with the costume and set designers, and that is where the difference is, where it’s never been done before,” she continued. “There are so many times that you’ve watched something and you love it, and you’re scouring the Internet, and [wondering,] ‘Where do I get it?’ Now the behavior will just be there, to know that you could go to Shop the Scenes and just get it with one click. It’s an authentic and organic way to shop your favorite show.”

As if to punctuate the point, she held up her hand. She was wearing Rip’s ring from “Yellowstone.”

It’s an ambitious play to redefine what an immersive fan experience can be, and according to Martin, creators like Darren Star find it rather compelling: “I flew to Paris to meet with Darren and Stephen [Joel Brown, producer], and they gave me insight into the brands that will be pitched in this coming season,” she added. “And so when Emily pitches that brand, you will be able to buy that particular item, as in real time.”

That’s notable, since TV productions are usually locked down to prevent leaks. But it speaks to the platform’s appeal.

“We are so excited to be partnering with Shop the Scenes and to bring the world of ‘Emily in Paris’ directly to fans of the show,” said Brown, Star’s producing partner on “Emily In Paris,” in a statement provided to WWD.

“Our partnership will, for the first time, make the brands and products exclusively created for the show immediately shoppable. Fans will be able to buy everything from Champere to Pierre Cadault luggage to Chez Lavaux kitchenware,” he added. “Bringing the show to life in the real world has always been a goal of ours and our partnership with Shop the Scenes makes this a reality.” Martin and Star are even working on an undisclosed beauty product.

From the fans’ point of view, the experience should feel seamless. By scanning a QR code that will air onscreen, visitors can step inside richly detailed virtual locations that match the show — like rooms at Dutton Ranch from “Yellowstone” — and, as the platform’s name suggests, shop those scenes. In the future, the environments may include digital collectibles or NFTs, Martin said. But for now, the experience is decidedly crypto-free.

Shop the Scenes’ QR code

Shoppable virtual Dutton Ranch environments will be available via WebVR at Shop the Scenes.

Courtesy image

Other retail and shoppable TV initiatives have been using QR codes for years, from NBCUniversal — Martin’s stomping grounds — to a recent Coinbase Super Bowl commercial. In essence, they’ve trained consumers to view the codes as commerce gateways. For Shop the Scenes, they’re also a branding opportunity. Its QR code, which resembles a bag or a production clapboard, was designed to be an icon that viewers will immediately recognize as a doorway to Shop the Scenes’ shopping environment, exclusive content, contests and curated product selection.

Martin is particularly proud to support small brands, in addition to established labels. She even partnered with a tech firm to digitally scan and render products in 3D, removing an obstacle for small operators.

“The item is then placed, and it will look real on the virtual set, so you get a better sense of what it looks like up close,” she explained. “Then the product page will tell you about the small business owner that might have made it.

“We’re able we have hundreds of small businesses, which is so exciting to me. With a lot of women-owned businesses, where if somebody has to hand-make them or make 10 of them, they’re not able to go into retail,” she elaborated. “But because we have a centralized warehouse [in Texas] and distribution, we’re able to help those small businesses, so I’m really jazzed about being able to do that.”

Shop the Scenes will open for business on Nov. 12, timed with Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone” season four marathon, followed by the season five premiere on Nov. 13. Fans will be able to explore select virtual environments at Dutton Ranch styled with products from or inspired by previous seasons. The company is planning to offer watch party kits, gifts, contests, VIP memberships and exclusive content. For the season five premiere, key items from the show will be available for purchase.

The buzz has already begun. Paramount Network aired a Labor Day Marathon with past seasons of “Yellowstone,” with several spots introducing Shop the Scenes to viewers. According to the company, the response was overwhelming. The flood of sign-ups looked like a proof of concept, prompting the business to continue innovating. In addition to virtual shopping via WebVR, the e-commerce site will offer shoppable video and “stills,” and it is exploring partnerships to shop via remote.

Dates for “Emily in Paris,” plus a “Today” holiday pop-up shop on the platform, will be announced at a later time.

But it won’t end there. So far, STS has secured NBC, Paramount Media Networks and MTV Entertainment Studios for its initial wave of shows, but talks are underway with other potential partners. In the coming months, the company plans to announce 25 more shows for next year.

Some could include programs with a younger demographic, so Martin formed a junior advisory board over the summer. The 10 members, ranging in age from 10 to 25, weigh in on topics like gamification or how to appeal to parents.

When STS launches, it will arrive with some 1,000 stock keeping units, Martin estimated — including “Yellowstone” items such as John Dutton’s cowboy hat, from heritage brand Burns Cowboy; the horse saddle that appeared in season four; Beth’s faux fur coat from Geneva-based brand Faz Not Fur, and a very limited collection for Rip’s wedding ring, with only 300 produced.

The “Emily” line of merchandise will feature a limited edited of the Pierre Cadault suitcase and the de Lalisse Champere, in addition to other home goods, beauty, fashion, accessories, travel items and kitchenware.

Sounds like Martin, whose home is already decked out with Pierre Cardeau pillows, blankets and more, may need to get a bigger place.

Huda Beauty’s Mona Kattan on The Luxury Closet’s Global Ambition

Huda Beauty’s Mona Kattan on The Luxury Closet’s Global Ambition

The Luxury Closet, a leading resale platform in the Middle East, is launching in the U.K. on Tuesday, as it looks to expand its footprint in Europe.Mona Kattan, an investor in The Luxury Closet alongside her sisters Huda and Alya, believes the platform’s VIP concierge service would do well in the U.K., as many affluent Middle Easterners flock to London year-round, residing in areas including Knightsbridge, Belgravia and Edgware Road.
The Kattan sisters are among the principal shareholders of The Luxury Closet, alongside Middle East Venture Partners, GMP Capital, Wamda Capital, Knuru Capital and Precinct Partners. They took a stake in 2020 via their private office Huda Beauty Investment.

The company has raised a total of $32 million since launching in 2012.
Kattan, the cofounder and global president of Huda Beauty, recalled in an interview how Kunal Kapoor, chief executive officer and founder of The Luxury Closet, was talking passionately about how he wanted to make fashion more accessible.

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“That’s something I relate to because, growing up, I couldn’t afford luxury things,” she said. “Even in university when I got my first job, it took me a while to be able to afford a Chanel bag. So for me, what The Luxury Closet stands for is not only sustainability, it’s also accessibility.
“I’m all about inclusivity. Like our beauty brand, and everything that we touch, it’s about making people feel included. Fashion is one of the most exclusive industries there is, and I hate that part of it. It’s 2022. Everyone should be going into stores and feeling good about themselves, but it’s still not the case,” she said.
“Platforms like The Luxury Closet are giving people an opportunity to feel they’re part of a brand. I also love that they’re big on making sure things are authentic because I used to go shopping in vintage stores, and I bought things that were counterfeit by mistake,” Kattan added.
Kattan said she recently purchased an Hermès classic Togo leather 25 black Birkin with gold hardware from the site.
“I actually stopped buying so much from the Hermès stores after investing in The Luxury Closet because I can get exactly what I want. Yes, I’m paying a premium, but I don’t have to buy a saddle, which I don’t even know where I’m gonna put in my house,” she said.
Kattan was referring to the brand’s habit of encouraging customers to buy other items alongside their big-ticket, in-demand bags. Hermès has said it does not endorse such a policy.

Landing page of The Luxury Closet.

Having established itself as the leading player in the booming luxury resale market in the Middle East, the company is now looking to expand to other markets.
“We’re really focusing on the U.K. and Europe right now. And we do have an appetite to go into the U.S. because I am an Arab American. For me, the U.S. has always been an important market,” Kattan said.
She added that the company picked the U.K. as the launch pad because there is a big overlap between those who go to the U.K. and Dubai, and the talent pool for luxury e-commerce is much bigger in London.
The platform offers the concierge service for home pick-up when the seller is listing more than five items and takes a commission from each sale. With certain items, the site will also buy items if they have a strong resale value, such as the Chanel Classic Flap, and Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra bracelets.

While global expansion is on the agenda, Kattan thinks Dubai is still the best place to have the business headquartered because “the inventory the platform gets is next level because people there don’t hoard what they have. When they’re done with it, they pass it on and they’re ready to let go versus other markets.”
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Lululemon Is Moving to Spain

Lululemon Is Moving to Spain

Lululemon is moving to Spain. On Tuesday, the Canadian athletic apparel, accessories and retailer revealed plans to open two stores in Spain this fall, as well as a Spanish e-commerce site this summer. The move marks the company’s first European expansion since pre-pandemic times in 2019. 

Lululemon expanded its assortment to include a hike collection in June.
Courtesy Photo ASATO iiDA

​​“As a brand [that] supports wellbeing, Lululemon has a strong synergy with the active, balanced lifestyle enjoyed in Spain,” said André Maestrini, executive vice president, international. “We’re looking forward to connecting with Spanish guests through our website and at our first retail stores opening in Madrid and Barcelona. The strength of our model across product innovation, guest experience, community and culture provides a unique advantage as we introduce Lululemon to our newest market.”

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The e-commerce site lululemon.es will launch later this month, followed by two stores — one in Madrid and one in Barcelona — in September. Lululemon has nearly 40 stores across eight countries in Europe: France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. Internationally, the retailer has 579 stores. 

Lululemon unveiled its first collection of sneakers in March.
Courtesy Photo Jenna Saint Martin

Meanwhile, Lululemon continues to grow, improving on top and bottom lines in the most recent quarter, despite industrywide headwinds. In April, the retailer set its sights on a $12.5 billion revenue target by 2026. At the time, company executives said it also had plans to open new stores in Thailand and Italy within the next 12 months. In addition, a second experiential store will open in Houston later this year. 
The firm is also deep in product expansion mode, releasing women’s sneakers; workout hijabs; hiking, golf and tennis apparel; bags made from mushrooms; resale, and at-home fitness, all during the pandemic. Lululemon is also the official outfitter of Team Canada (a role it will retain through 2028).
“We’re in the early innings of growth,” Calvin McDonald, Lululemon’s chief executive officer, told analysts in April.

Walmart Earnings Fall Short Thanks to Rising Gas and Food Prices

Walmart Earnings Fall Short Thanks to Rising Gas and Food Prices

Walmart is proving that even the nation’s largest retailer may not be immune to the economic pressures that are causing consumers to reevaluate their spending habits. 

Rising food prices meant more shoppers flocked to Walmart in the most recent quarter in search of grocery deals.
Courtesy Photo

The Bentonville, Ark.-based firm revealed quarterly earnings Tuesday before the market opened, improving on top-line revenues, but failing to meet Wall Street’s expectations after falling short on bottom-line profits. Company shares fell nearly 9 percent at the start of Tuesday’s trading session. 
“Bottom-line results were unexpected and reflected the unusual environment,” Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart, said in a statement. “U.S. inflation levels, particularly in food and fuel, created more pressure on the margin mix and operating costs than we expected. We’re adjusting and will balance the needs of our customers for value with the need to deliver profit growth for our future.”  

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For the most recent quarter, or the three-month period ending April 30, total revenues grew 2.4 percent to about $141 billion, up from more than $138 billion a year ago. Comp sales at Sam’s Club grew 10.2 percent, and 17.4 percent on a two-year stack. Membership income rose 10.5 percent. 
Walmart U.S. e-commerce sales increased 1 percent, or 38 percent on a two-year stack. Last August, McMillon said the company’s global e-commerce business was on track to reach $75 billion in revenues by the end of the year. The company still hasn’t said whether it has reached that goal yet.
Meanwhile, ​​net sales at Walmart International fell $3.5 billion during the most recent quarter, or 13 percent to $23.8 billion, negatively impacted by $5 billion, due to divestitures. The retailer logged $2.05 billion, down from $2.73 billion during last year’s first quarter, as a result. 
The results are a mixed bag. Walmart’s affordably priced food selection means consumers are increasingly flocking to the mass channel for their grocery needs. But McMillon added on Tuesday morning’s conference call with analysts that inflation is also lifting the average ticket price. Shoppers are responding by purchasing fewer discretionary items, resulting in smaller overall basket sizes. 
“As expected, consumers are increasingly drawn to the lower price points that Walmart can offer for groceries and Walmart is taking market share in food, but higher food sales is also putting pressure on gross margin,” Moody’s retail analyst Mickey Chadha wrote in a note. He added that the higher inventory levels “could lead to increased promotional cadence in the coming quarters if consumers continue to pull back, which could increase pressure on earnings. It is increasingly difficult to pass on higher prices to consumers while dealing with higher wages and employee costs.”
In terms of food costs, McMillon said there’s been double-digit inflation. “And I’m concerned that inflation may continue to increase. As it relates to Walmart U.S. general merchandise sales, we knew that we were up against stimulus dollars from last year, but the rate of inflation in food pulled more dollars away from [general merchandise] than we expected as customers needed to pay for the inflation in food,” he said.

Aside from rising consumer food and gasoline prices, executives on the call told analysts that additional headwinds came from higher-than-expected inventory levels (up 32 percent for the quarter, year-over-year), added fuel costs in the supply chain and increased labor expenses. 
“As the Omicron variant case count declined rapidly in the first half of the quarter, more of our associates [who] were out on COVID-19 leave came back to work faster than we expected,” McMillon said. “We hired more associates at the end of last year to cover for those on leave. So we ended up with weeks of overstaffing. That issue was resolved during the quarter, primarily through attrition.”
In addition, U.S. fuel cost the retailer more than $160 million more during the quarter than originally expected.

Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart
Courtesy Photo

Still, McMillon expressed optimism for the future. 
“Across our businesses, we had a strong top-line quarter,” he said. “There were some things that happened during the quarter that were different than we expected and we’re trying to be very transparent about those things. There seems to be more uncertainty now in a very fluid environment. And so, we’ll just deal with that.”
One way will be by slashing prices in high-margin areas, such as apparel, in an effort to manage excess inventory. While this might seem counterintuitive, McMillon said shoppers on a budget are more likely to notice. 
“Part of what’s at play here is [that] you’ve got food inflation moving up, but we’ve got general merchandise categories, like apparel and some of our hardlines categories, to play with,” he said. “And the beauty of it is [that] customers are even more price sensitive right now. They’re attention to fuel prices and high-food prices is high. And so when you bring [a price of] something down in sporting goods or hardware, one of these other categories, they notice even more than they would notice before and that makes the elasticity impact be different than it would be otherwise, which blends the mix up.” 
In addition, some tailwinds for the quarter included things like game consoles, as well as patio furniture, grills and gardening supplies, thanks to warming temperatures.

“In terms of the consumer themselves, we’ve seen strong growth with higher-income consumers, middle-income and lower-income, but we do see a definite strength with high-ticket items,” John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., said on the call. “With some consumers and others, we do see some switching, which would include switching specifically from brands to private brands. And where we see the switching from brands to private brands, we’ll continue to watch that for a group of customers, but we’ve got to all work harder to keep prices low for the American consumer.”
McMillon added: “It’s important to recognize that there’s more than one consumer. We serve the whole country. [With] the U.S. in particular, we’ve got a breadth of customers and they behave differently. [With] some customers, we are seeing some indications of change throughout the quarter, but that’s not true for all of them.”

Pieces from Walmart’s Love & Sports brand.
Courtesy Photo

Walmart has worked hard over the last few years to expand its assortment of merchandise, particularly in fashion. The big-box retailer now sells more than 1,000 third-party apparel, accessories, and beauty and wellness brands — such as Levi’s, Reebok, Free People, Jordache, Eloquii, Space NK and Kris Jenner’s home cleaning brand Safely — and continues to add to the scale and breadth of its portfolio of brands each quarter. Earlier this month, the firm expanded its distribution of period-panty brand Proof to approximately 4,000 Walmart stores.
In addition, Walmart has an extensive list of its own apparel brands, three of which are worth more than $2 billion, although the company declined to say which ones. The list includes sustainable innerwear and maternity brand Kindly, swimwear and activewear brand Love & Sports, and apparel brands Free Assembly and Scoop, of which luxury designer Brandon Maxwell serves as creative director.
“Maintaining price competitiveness is the key risk for Walmart in today’s inflationary environment,” Landon Luxembourg, senior analyst at research firm Third Bridge, wrote in a note. “As consumer wallets come under pressure, private brands will likely take the stage as consumers trade down from a pure decision of opting for lower-cost items. Walmart’s private brand portfolio, which was a focus area over the last four to five years, has now doubled its assortment. However, it has not grown consumer mind share and lack recognizability versus Target and Costco’s competing private assortment, which may be more sought after by consumers.”

Walmart anticipates current quarter revenues will increase more than 5 percent, excluding divestitures. U.S. comp sales are also expected to grow — between 4 percent and 5 percent — excluding fuel, while earnings per share are expected to be flat to up slightly, excluding divestitures.  
For the full year, the company expects net revenues will rise about 4 percent, excluding divestitures. Walmart U.S. comp sales are expected to increase roughly 3.5 percent, excluding fuel, while earnings per share for the year will decrease about 1 percent, excluding divestitures.
The company ended the quarter with $11.8 million in cash and cash equivalents and more than $32 million in long-term debt. 
Shares of Walmart, which closed up 0.11 percent Monday to $148.21, are up 6.7 percent, year-over-year.
“We don’t expect this miss to become a norm, seeing that Walmart has historically outperformed competition during tough economic times,” Arun Sundaram, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research, wrote in a note. His firm maintained its “buy” position on Walmart’s stock, but cut the 12-year price target by $3 to $162 a share. “The good news is most of these issues seem to be isolated to the quarter and margins should improve in the second quarter and the back half of the year as Walmart works through excess inventory and better matches pricing with costs.”

EXCLUSIVE: Roman Sipe Named Creative Director of Men’s Division at Cosabella and Journelle

EXCLUSIVE: Roman Sipe Named Creative Director of Men’s Division at Cosabella and Journelle

Cosabella’s men’s division has a new creative director.Starting this month, Roman Sipe will take the helm as creative director of the men’s division at the Italian innerwear and underwear brand, as well as creative director of men’s at luxury boutique Journelle. Both firms are owned and operated by the Campello family. 
“Roman is a pioneer in men’s underwear; he’s a true creative,” Guido Campello told WWD. 
Campello, whose parents Valeria and Ugo Campello founded Cosabella in 1983, currently serves as creative director of women’s at Cosabella, as well as co-chief executive officer, along with his sister Silvia Campello. “And Roman is an operator,” Campello continued. “He runs his business.”

Luxury lingerie brand Cosabella offers underwear in sizes that fit across all body forms.
Courtesy Photo

Sipe’s business ventures include luxury men’s underwear brand Menagerie Intimates, which he launched in 2015. The designer said he was excited to work with Cosabella — and Campello, in particular — because of the company’s nearly 40-year history. 

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“I’m a self-taught designer. I’m a self-taught brand owner,” Sipe said. “And to have Guido [Campello] as a mentor, as well as Giorgio [Latini], the production manager that we work with in Italy…the research and the knowledge that these men bring to the industry that I’m new to is key. I focus on the beauty of my lingerie and who I am trying to reach. But in order to scale and in order to build brand awareness and grow, I need a mentor within our [intimates] world.”
But Sipe, who is based in Fabriano, Italy, near Cosabella’s factories, is not completely new to the industry. In fact, he’s been in the fashion scene for at least 10 years, between L.A. and New York. His résumé includes celebrity stylist, fashion stylist (with brands such as G-Star and Seven For All Mankind), designer and founder. He also has a bachelor’s degree in finance, styled music videos, contestants on “America’s Next Top Model” and won Macy’s The Next Style Star Competition, a reality show competition that gave him the chance to produce a fashion campaign for the department store. 
“And that is exactly when I decided I wanted to design,” Sipe explained. “And I was like, what am I going to design? The first thing that came to mind was underwear. And I was googling underwear and I didn’t see anything that I would wear.”

Luxury lingerie brand Cosabella now offers underwear in sizes that fit across all body forms.
Courtesy Photo

In the new role, Sipe has been tasked with building out the male body form division, starting with the spring 2023 collections, across Cosabella and Journelle. (Campello and his wife Sapna Palep purchased luxury lingerie boutique Journelle, which has locations in New York and Chicago, along with the e-commerce business, in 2019.) Sipe will also assist Campello on creative direction for Cosabella’s and Journelle’s women’s collections. 
“I always thought I would be the creative director [of Cosabella] forever,” Campello explained. “I thought I had enough creative direction in understanding trends and movement, because I’ve been in this space forever. But very clearly, I think the speed at which the last two years moved, I realized there’s all these worlds out there now that are getting exposure and they need premium products, better products. And one of those places is men’s. The biggest step I took was to understand that I can’t speak to everybody. I know my world. 

“Ultimately, [Sipe] has a comfort level with teaching and talking about that product that’s different from other people,” Campello continued. “I’ve learned a lot already from him, about utility, solution underwear, solution undergarments in that space.”
Campello, who is based in New York, will continue to act as creative director of women’s, with some input from Sipe on the division. He added that it makes sense for Sipe to be based in Italy, near production facilities, in order for him to gain a better understanding of the entire process, starting with the supply chain. 

Luxury lingerie boutique Journelle in New York City. Campello and his wife Sapna Palep purchased the business in 2019.
Courtesy Photo

Meanwhile, Cosabella continues to build out his assortment for men, which launched last fall. Campello is quick to point out, however, that it’s not so much for men, as it is for the male body form. That could take the shape of underwear — which is cut in the same style and fabric across both men’s and women’s — but with added volume in the crotch area to accommodate for men, or bras for men, he explained. 
“We’re a very inclusive brand at Cosabella,” Campello said. “Journelle is becoming inclusive. But to truly be inclusive you need to bring in the people who do those things. Journelle does it by bringing in other brands that we sell. But Cosabella needs that influence,” he added, explaining the need to onboard Sipe. 

Sapna Palep and Guido Campello.
Courtesy Photo

For his part, Sipe’s wish list for the company includes creating sizing guides for men, adding in more lace and bra options, as well as bra fittings for men, while breaking down long-held societal stigmas around men — or the male form — in the lingerie space. He also wants to help expand the range of women who feel comfortable at Journelle by adding more choices for plus-size and transgender shoppers, among others. 
“The most exciting part is coming in and optimizing the male shopping experience: the product, the styles, what we want to do,” Sipe said. “And building what men’s lingerie actually looks like and what it means to actually design for the male form. We have the opportunity to expand what men’s lingerie means. 
“For instance, the fit chart is a really interesting thing for me,” he continued. “Because I know a lot of men who say, I wear a boxer brief. I want to build out a men’s fit guide that lets you know what is proper for what style of pants you’re wearing. I think that’s where my styling experience comes in. And to create a shopping space for men, because most of the time they’re shopping for their partners, their girlfriend, wife, for a woman. But now the goal is to have them come into the store [independently] for Cosabella’s men’s line and with my line. 

“I knew starting my brand, the gays were going to love it,” Sipe added. “The fashion men and women were going to love it. But as my brand grew, I started getting contacted by all different men. And [that experience] has been so much fun. Because all it takes is for people to see [men’s lingerie], to accept it. But also, to see it done right. To understand it and to break down all the walls.”

Lampoo Takes Secondhand Experience to the Storefronts

Lampoo Takes Secondhand Experience to the Storefronts

MILAN — The opening in December 2020 of a brick-and-mortar store in Milan’s Brera district was a strong sign that Italy-based consignment marketplace Lampoo was trying to expand its footprint beyond the digital realm.Now the company, which is growing its scope rapidly, has forged ties with premium Italian retailers to bring the secondhand experience to storefronts. This step is in sync with founder and chief executive officer Enrico Trombini’s vision regarding the role physical retail can play in the resale market, which is expected to be worth $77 billion by 2025, according to resale marketplace ThredUp.
“In two to three years we will no longer buy our fashion the way we’re used to, [shifting the model] is part of the survival of retail,” said Trombini, comparing fashion to the automotive market, which has increasingly moved toward rental and leasing to keep growing.

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“Flagship stores and multibrand retailers will allow customers to give back used goods in exchange for credit to be channeled into new clothing,” he said. “Stores are going to become a pivotal hub for circular fashion; it’s unlikely they will be entirely cut out from this business model,” he offered.
As part of the project Lampoo has sealed a deal with Italy’s Camera Buyer – The Best Shops and has already convinced marquee multibrand stores in the country including Como’s Tessabit; Spinnaker, which counts several stores in the Liguria region; Julian Fashion based in Ferrara, and Al Duca D’Aosta, among others.
The multibrand stores will serve as a gathering point for secondhand goods, wherever these were acquired. The products will then be collected, evaluated and priced by Lampoo following a procedure named “Certified by Lampoo.” The e-tailer will place fashion and accessories on its site, remitting the value to the stores, which can convert it into credit for their clients.

A Lampoo campaign.
Courtesy of Lampoo

A range of 30 top-tier brands’ handbags are considered hot tickets, meaning that Lampoo will pay the stores for their values immediately upon evaluation, while ready-to-wear pieces are offered on the platform on a consignment basis.
“This service represents a trigger for stores’ customers in that it boosts their loyalty and supports upselling,” Trombini said. “Customers are likely to spend more than their credit’s value. Overall it’s a service with which retailers can engage their clients.”
In his view, online consignment platforms and shops offering similar services will coexist. “It’s up to customers to decide whether they want credit to be spent on new goods, thus going into stores, or fresh money to invest on other leisure activities and sell directly on e-tailers,” the entrepreneur said.
After jump-starting the project, which is officially kicking off at the beginning of February, Trombini has a busy 2022 ahead, he said.
Internationalization is key, and while Lampoo already generates 45 percent of its revenues outside Italy, and especially in the U.K., France, Germany and the U.S., he see greater potential in foreign markets.
At the same time, he’s consolidating the consignment site’s Italian business, with the opening of a second brick-and-mortar store planned for the third quarter of the year to flank the existing unit in Milan’s Brera district. On the operational front, Trombini is aiming to ramp up technology enablers to speed processes and become more competitive.

The Lampoo store in Milan’s Brera district.
Courtesy of Lampoo

After receiving two rounds of investment since its launch in March 2020, the most recent of 6 million euros last July, Lampoo is now looking at a third round to further spur growth. Trombini stayed mum about 2021 revenues, but he said they tripled compared to 2020 and are expected to make a similar jump in 2022.

Aisle 3 Launches to Revolutionize E-commerce, Product Search Experience

Aisle 3 Launches to Revolutionize E-commerce, Product Search Experience

“Shopping is broken,” according to U.K-based e-commerce start-up Aisle 3 — and the company’s panacea is a streamlined solution that takes aim at condensing and refining perusal into a dramatically upgraded consumer experience.E-commerce entrepreneur Thomas J. Vosper, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aisle 3, spent 15 years in e-commerce roles at Amazon, Tesco and Lastminute.com. After studying the ins and outs of e-commerce — and its many snags and stumbling blocks — Vosper and his co-founder said they refused to accept this “broken shopping experience.”
“We started the business as first-time founders at age 40, during the very onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.K.,” Vosper told WWD. “I took out a personal loan to bootstrap the company and try and prove an innovative approach that was solely focused on making shopping cheaper, quicker, easier and more joyful.”

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Beginning with footwear, Aisle 3 is tackling the woes of product search through its proprietary technology that involves machine learning and AI to weed out the products consumers don’t want and help accurately populate desired products with ease.
Here, Vosper talks to WWD about the back-end technology behind its solution and plans for partnerships, expansion and development in the tech start-up space.
WWD: What was the genesis of Aisle 3, and how does it simplify the online shopping experience?
Thomas J. Vosper: Shoppers seem to have become numb to the fact that what you see is what search engines want to show you and marketplaces are now populated with promoted listings and own-brand products. At Aisle 3 we are passionate about removing the need to open another tab or app to shop. We can’t remember the last time a start-up went out with something this powerful to contribute.
It is simple to book flights, reserve hotel rooms and order complex services such as insurance or energy, but I became increasingly frustrated that online shopping leaves us all having to open a myriad of tabs across a bunch of retailers just to find a pair of sneakers in the right size. Many of us now spend so much more time in front of our screens and it’s simply exhausting just how time-consuming it is to wade through ads and broken links to shop online — and that’s before we think about how hard it is for exciting new brands and retailers to get found online.
In less than 18 months we built a business entirely remotely, across the planet, established a business in India and pulled together an expert team backed by investors involved in some of the biggest names such as Snap, Amazon, Money Supermarket and Catch. It was a journey that I was privileged to share at a TEDx event at Oxford University in the summer of 2020.
WWD: Walk us through Aisle 3’s unique back-end technology that streamlines product search. Why is this solution differentiated in the market?
T.J.V.: Many prices comparison sites and discovery platforms have tried and failed to create a destination that shows shoppers the best deals, stock availability, delivery availability, etc. However, the common source of failure is not the platforms trying, but the relatively low standard of data, which results in poor quality aggregation. This data is generally only obtainable from poorly maintained product feeds or by crawling retailers whose web page structures are frequently changing and is not standardized.

This results in data sets with no common IDs or product codes, so even the most powerful and sophisticated ML models are at the mercy of “garbage in garbage out” — meaning that what is displayed to shoppers is often inaccurate or incomplete and insufficient to instill trust to purchase. It’s the reason we all end up opening that extra tab to check one more site.
Our biggest challenge was to automatically identify the same product across retailers and unstructured data sets without the need to match offers using product IDs or barcode numbers.
We focused the business on the technical solution before going to market as we knew the very biggest businesses had not come close to solving this problem and, whilst we were comfortable backing ourselves with our own cash, we didn’t want to engage with investors until we knew we had the technology that even the big tech businesses hadn’t created (it’s a reason we’ve been approached about acquisitions six times already).
Initially, we built a set of unsupervised deep-learning models to identify and assign each product a unique “Aisle 3 code,” which creates a single view across multiple retailers and sources. The outcome is creating a time machine that reduces hours of shopper research into a single, simple 30-second product search.
Now is a superexciting time as we can access huge training datasets; open-source software developed by the very largest corporations and shrinking processing costs that would have required millions of dollars of investment and data centers as high as skyscrapers just a few years ago.
We employ about 15 people across the globe and have a subsidiary business based in Ahmedabad, India. The team includes Ph.Ds with expertise in AI, ML and Mathematics. Alongside more than 1 million euros of private investment, we’ve been lucky to have received funding from the U.K. government to continue our research and take on the big tech businesses from our humble U.K. beginnings.

Thomas J. Vosper, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aisle 3.

WWD: Why is footwear the first retail category for Aisle 3? Are there plans for expansion?
T.J.V.: Tackling footwear presented a huge technical challenge and it’s a hugely exciting category. As shoppers we are all familiar with the frustration of having to traipse across the internet, wading through endless ads or broken text links taking you to poor search results on random websites. Whilst price is important for many shoppers, the volume of products and variations outside of size, brand, collection and color makes it very hard to simply discover and be inspired by a new brand or simply the latest trends in running shoes.

We knew that it wasn’t just important to tackle the aggregation of offers for deal-hungry shoppers, so we’ve been focusing on presenting all the information so shoppers can make an informed decision — such as delivery speed, proximity for local collection or retailer preference. This is incredibly challenging, as it involves recognizing and standardizing rich product information from multiple sources.
Sneakers are visually stimulating, and brands are usually at the front line of innovation, such as Nike’s dive into the metaverse. We are really excited to be able to turn the mishmash of data across the internet into a rich, exciting, shopper-focused view that best represents the products that brands and retailers care deeply about.
Over time we look forward to expanding into the U.S. with the right commercial and investment partners and exploring categories with different technical data challenges (such as electronics) where we all share frustrations trying to find the best specification and price for a TV or laptop.
WWD: How has the pandemic changed the way consumers shop? What trends/behaviors have emerged in retail?
T.J.V.: We’re spending an increasing amount of time in front of our screens; meetings are virtual with hours of Zoom calls; content is consumed digitally with the likes of TikTok exceeding even Google’s usage, and online shopping has catapulted 10 years into the future.
We genuinely believe that we tap into the consumer zeitgeist matching what’s on people’s minds and helping to shape a new shopping future. Despite the online boom, much of this is concentrated on the very largest marketplaces across the planet and the commercial opportunity sits with big tech-listed businesses that generate most of their revenue via advertising models.
Amazon’s ads business is now bigger than Snap, Twitter and Pinterest combined and promoted listings or own-brand products now litter search results, creating suboptimal shopper experiences, obfuscating the products you are looking for. We’ve seen the shift over recent years (heightened due to the acceleration of e-commerce during COVID-19) where the incumbents focus on convenience/logistics; payment transactions, and advertising budgets. At Aisle 3, we care about the shopper before the “buy button.”

WWD: What’s next for Aisle 3?
T.J.V.: It was exciting to be in New York City for the NRF “Big Show” and to unveil Aisle 3 to investors and independent retailers. If I wasn’t from London, I’d say it’s the best city in the world!
Although we’ve recently closed over $1.3 million of funding, we’re keen to find the right commercial and investment partners to help turbocharge the business. Our site is in its final development and will be launching with the U.K.’s largest aggregated selection of sneakers in a few weeks. With the right partners, we’re confident of scaling the business and launching in the U.S. in the next couple of months.
From a technical perspective, we’re looking to extend our product-matching technology where products are nearly indistinguishable (iPhone 11 versus iPhone 12) based on the image and the metadata, which is a huge technical challenge itself.
Of course, there’s a lot of buzz around Web 3.0 and NFTs and we are already taking advantage of the latest capabilities to develop smart contracts, tied to purchases, that provided authenticated proof of ownership.
We’ve just closed our latest investment backed by angels from the likes of Snap, Money Supermarket and Catch we’re exploring the right partner to turbocharge the opportunity to eliminate shopper frustrations and create a shopping destination that words in line with brands and retailers to reduce friction and instill confidence for shoppers just like you and me.
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Stitch Fix Introduces Its First Elevate Collection

Stitch Fix Introduces Its First Elevate Collection

The first class of products from Stitch Fix’s Elevate grant and mentorship program is graduating, the company revealed Friday, with its inaugural Elevate collection featuring the works of six entrepreneurs of color.The program, operated in partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row, aims to support entrepreneurship and cultivate budding talent among underrepresented Black, Indigenous and people of color. The first installment ran from January to August, and now the fruits of that labor are ready for their introduction.
The new collection traverses women’s and men’s apparel and accessories from rising stars Busayo Olupona of Busayo (recently making waves as the go-to designer for celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o and Madonna) and Diarrablu’s Diarra Bousso, in addition to emerging talent like Jamela Acheampong of Kahmune, Marcus Alexander’s Marcus Thomas, Sarep + Rose’s Robin Sirleaf and Chloe Kristyn’s Bettina Benson.

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Through the program the mentees received $25,000 grants and months of sessions, individualized guidance, business advice and plenty of training on how to use the company’s data modeling, which informed everything from pricing and assortment to design. Elevate ultimately culminated in a wholesale order to carry the products through Stitch Fix’s Freestyle service or its “fix” subscription styling offering.
Not all of the products will be available as exclusives to the company, except in cases where it collaborated on the colors, prints, patterns or designs — and even then, for a limited period of time. According to Loretta Choy, general manager of Stitch Fix’s women’s business, the company isn’t looking to lock people into a long-term restrictive deal.
Stitch Fix, which describes itself as an online personal styling and shopping service, traces Elevate’s origin back to last year, when racial justice protests put issues of inequality into painful focus. The program was the the company’s response, taken through a retail lens and oriented toward ways to cultivate opportunities.
“After the killing of George Floyd last year and the Black Lives Matter events, we were really focused on [questions like] what could we do to impact the retail landscape, and how can we participate in making change, driving change?” Choy told WWD. “Katrina [Lake], when she founded the company, was really interested in change overall in the retail landscape. So why not come together and really leverage our resources to imagine a program where we can help people learn and grow their businesses?”
Choy wound up spearheading the Elevate program, which included one-on-one calls with Lake, Stitch Fix’s founder and then-chief executive officer.
The intelligence-driven company decided to leverage its expertise in data, algorithmic modeling and insights to help successful applicants grow their businesses. Choy described it as an eight-month “evergreen” program, which returns every year — applications are accepted in October, with a January start date. It looks to foster long-lasting connections between the entrepreneurs and the company itself.

“I think of that as being very, very different from other programs in the marketplace,” she said.

From the new Elevate collection (left to right): Dele Dress by Busayo; Becky Pump by Kahmune; Sheena Wrap Dress by Diarrablu; Erin Blouse by Chloe Kristyn; Bayo Maxi Dress Dress by Busayo; Rectangular Crossbody by Sarep+Rose; Brennan Straight Leg Pant by Chloe Kristyn; Aida Wrap Blouse by Diarrablu; Mila Bootie by Kahmune; Barlow Sneaker by Marcus Alexander; Kearn Sneaker by Marcus Alexander; Robin Tote by Sarep+Rose
Courtesy photo

The participants can tap different areas of the company, from buying teams, marketing and finance to the algorithms group, and ongoing support is available. “[It’s] that balance of art and science,” said Choy, adding that this is key for understanding how Stitch Fix uses its data science tools.
As part of the application process Elevate generates a report for the finalists so they can see how the company uses the data tools to help them make decisions on the product, pricing or the designs within their collections. The tools are used throughout the program, allowing the grantees to run their product line through the algorithmic tool.
That allows them to see, for instance, how to create the right product, matched to the right price and customer, to drive the highest sell-through. The tool also helps them understand their positioning against other brands. Choy was quick to point out that Stitch Fix doesn’t offer identifying information about specific brands, but can paint a broader picture so the participants can understand the landscape.
“When we worked with DiarraBlu and leveraged the tools, we talked a lot about color printing pattern. And as we were deciding, you know, which prints, what colors for the time of season, the time of year, that we were going to be introducing this product to our clients, we made adjustments together.”
Diarra Bousso, founder of the DiarraBlu brand, is no stranger to mentorship programs. The Stanford-educated Senegalese mathematician, known for size inclusivity and algorithm-fueled designs, is an alum of Macy’s-backed Fashion Incubator of San Francisco.
Still, she gushed about the Elevate experience and how much she learned from Stitch Fix.
DiarraBlu might have seemed like a brand that didn’t need help: The business received plenty of press coverage and saw major growth over the course of the pandemic, by a factor of 20 times. The momentum was partly due to the rush across e-commerce, as well as more attention on Black-owned brands with the amplification of the Black Lives Matter movement last year. There is also the fundamental nature of Bousso’s eye-catching designs.

But buying cycles are wont to fluctuate, leaving Bousso trying to staff up and grow the business through the changes. Then she learned that she was accepted into Stitch Fix’s program.
“For me, that was important, because I’ve always admired Stitch Fix, in terms of a company that beautifully marries technology with fashion and with art. That aligns a lot with what I’m trying to do with DiarraBlu — using technology in a way that that solves problems,” she told WWD. “So being able to be part of that program was like, ‘Oh, my God, if these people believe in me, it means this is serious! Like, this is really cool.’”
She grew a lot from the personal interactions, she said, finding camaraderie with her fellow participants. She also spoke to different people across Stitch Fix, which was an experience she found invaluable.
In her retelling, she’s still blown away by her experience with chief algorithms officer Eric Colson, who was once a vice president of data science and engineering at Netflix.
“He did that at Stitch Fix and oversaw all the data science teams,” she said. “We talked so much about my work, and he gave me so much help and advice. I spoke to people in marketing and PR, in product development, accessories — like any single thing that I wanted to get support on, there was someone who would be there.”
In her conversation with Lake, she asked about marketing and how to scale it on a budget. According to Bousso, the Stitch Fix founder told her to go slow and pressed upon her how important it is to have an organic love for rich storytelling.
“I was very surprised when she said that, in the first four and a half years at Stitch Fix, they didn’t spend $1 on marketing at all. And they said they didn’t spend $1 on marketing until they reach $250,000 in sales,” she said. “I was mind-blown to hear that.”
Another mentor helped her figure out the nuances of rolling out shoes, bags, jewelry and accessories next year. “She literally sat down with me and shared every single thing, from price points, to materials, to finishes, to the way to shoot it, to how to present it [and] how many bags to release at once,” said Bousso. ”I showed her my digital designs and drawings, and she literally looked at every bag and told me how much that would be worth based on which material I use.”

Similarly, Stitch Fix worked with Kahmune on its line of luxury footwear and accessories. For the line, which is available in 10 different skin tones, Evelate helped her understand what the gaps are within the range.
Stitch Fix is, of course, invested in the success of Bousso and her peers in the program — not just as a feel-good measure but, according to the company, because equality has always mattered to its founder.
To back that up, Stitch Fix offered a few numbers: Lake intentionally focused on pay equity and ensuring that women are well represented in roles that are typically male-dominated — with women accounting for 42 percent of technical employees, 58 percent of leadership and 55 percent of the board, not including Lake herself and current CEO Elizabeth Spaulding.
The business has also expanded the roster of Black-owned brands it carries, with 15 percent more added this year, including Autumn Adeigbo, The Label, Rockridge, Miles and Milan and Creavalle. Considering it offers some 1,000 brands or so across the U.S. and the U.K., there’s clearly room to grow.
Speaking broadly about the market, Choy — a 15-year veteran of retail with stints at Old Navy, Levi’s, Warnaco (Ocean Pacific) and Banana Republic — said, “What I have observed is kind of a slow pace of change, and there really isn’t product that is as diverse as it should be in the marketplace. It’s hard to find, you really have to comb for it. Things can get quite homogeneous quite fast….
“It’s about time for us to be able to show more diversity in design and show more diversity in product for all clients.”

Walmart Continues to Grow; Expects E-commerce Revenues to Reach $75 Billion

Walmart Continues to Grow; Expects E-commerce Revenues to Reach $75 Billion

Walmart continues to make gains in a turbulent retail environment thanks to its growing e-commerce, grocery and domestic businesses.    
“We had another strong quarter in every part of our business,” Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart Inc., said in a statement. “Our global e-commerce sales are on track to reach $75 billion by the end of the year, further strengthening our position as a leader in omnichannel. We grew market share in U.S. grocery, added thousands of new sellers to our marketplace, rapidly grew advertising businesses around the world and we’re finding innovative new ways to commercialize our data and build technology. We have a unique ecosystem of products and services designed to serve customers in broader, deeper ways and we’re grateful to our associates for making it all happen.” 

Tuesday morning’s earnings results revealed total company revenues for the three-month period ending July 31 were up 3.3 percent to $141 billion, compared with nearly $138 billion a year earlier. Sales in the U.S. division increased 5.3 percent to $98.2 billion, up from $93.3 billion a year earlier. Revenues at Sam’s Club rose nearly 14 percent during the quarter, year-over-year, to $18.6 billion, up from $16.4 billion a year earlier. E-commerce sales in the U.S. rose 6 percent during the quarter, year-over-year, or 103 percent compared with 2019’s second quarter. Comparable grocery sales in Walmart U.S. were up 6 percent, year-over-year, driven by growth in stores. 

Across categories, things like grocery, health and wellness, apparel, automotive, travel, party supplies and back-to-school essentials, such as lunch boxes, backpacks and stationery, were in demand during the last three months, as consumers increasingly flocked to physical locations.
“Customer behaviors changed during the quarter as people were shopping with us more in stores than online,” McMillon told analysts on Tuesday morning’s conference call. “I think some people view stores these days as boring; we don’t. The good news for us is that we can serve them either way. And of course, they get to choose.
“We’re focused on, how do we do a better job with all the inputs related to omni?” the CEO continued. “And that’s hard work. And building digital products that marry e-commerce with stores takes more work than just building an e-commerce solution; [it] takes more time, takes more complexity, but that’s where the secret sauce is. And if we can continue to blur the lines so that customers and members can shop however they want to shop, whenever they want to shop, the output metrics that we sometimes measure of e-comm versus store growth, for example, they’ll be what they are. But this quarter is kind of a good example of the fact that we can be somewhat indifferent. We’re trying to build a model where we’re completely indifferent to top-and-bottom line [growth] as it relates to how people shop.”
Meanwhile, while in-store traffic continues to pick up steam, the e-commerce business holds its own with a sizable portion of overall sales. 
“In some periods, in-store shopping will lead the way, and in some, e-commerce will lead the way, while we’re always striving for more in each part of the flywheel,” Brett Briggs, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said on the call. He added that online shopping revenues are not only on track to reach $75 billion this year, but also $100 billion in the near term.

To help the business grow even further, Walmart will continue to make investments “all the time,” said McMillon. 
“We manage the short term and the long term,” he said. “As everybody knows, we’re a company that’s particularly focused on the long term, particularly focused on the top line, [in order to] manage the bottom line.
“The business is changing shape,” McMillon said. “And I think that’s the key. We’re not just buying and selling merchandise in Supercenters at this point. We’re changing how the company is comprised. If you look at — just imagine a bar charter revenue or a bar charter profitability — the mix is shifting. And that unlock, as we stick with it, creates a different financial equation than what we would have had years ago.”
Company headwinds included cost pressures in the supply chain, inflation and Walmart International, where revenues fell more than 15 percent to $23 billion, compared with $27.2 billion the same time last year. 
While markets such as India, China and Mexico are rapidly expanding, Briggs pointed out on the call that “international divestitures significantly affect year-over-year comparisons.
“In addition, the pandemic continues to create both tailwinds and headwinds for the business. U.S. government stimulus benefited sales this year and last year, but many international markets continue to be negatively affected by COVID-19 and related government operating restrictions. COVID-19 costs remained elevated, but significantly lower than last year.”
The company logged $4.2 billion in consolidated net income as a result, down from nearly $6.5 billion a year earlier. Shares of Walmart were up just 0.4 percent at the start of Tuesday’s session as a result.
“Walmart’s same-store sales growth was the weakest in six quarters,” Garrett Nelson, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research, wrote in a note. “We also think current quarter [earnings-per-share] guidance of $1.30-$1.40 may be considered a modest disappointment in light of bullish back-to-school spending expectations. We maintain a ‘hold’ [on Walmart stock] on concerns related to margin contraction from slowing same-store sales growth and rising cost pressures.”

Still, Walmart raised its full-year outlook. The company is expecting net sales to increase 6 to 7 percent for the year, or by more than $30 billion, with earnings per share to be in the range of $6.20 to $6.35 apiece. The retailer is also anticipating sales in its international division will decline by about 21.5 percent and 22.5 percent in constant currency.
“Stores continued to validate Walmart’s ongoing investments as they were the key driver of the $1 billion increase in U.S. operating income on $5 billion in increased revenue, which is particularly impressive given the strength in its lower margin grocery-equivalent business that continues to grow share despite its massive scale,” said Charlie O’Shea, Moody’s vice president. “The meaningful upping of guidance for Q3 confirms our view that Walmart will continue to run on all cylinders, leaning heavily on its stores as it remains one of the premier global retailers by any yardstick.”
The retailer ended the quarter with $39.5 billion in long-term debt and $22.8 billion in cash and cash equivalents. 
Shares of Walmart, which closed up 0.82 percent to $150.75 a piece, are up more than 11 percent, year-over-year.
Walmart is also requiring all U.S. teams above store and club level to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 4.

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