1) Bulletin is opening its third New York store, continuing its quest to champion women in business.

What happened

  • Bulletin, which began as an online magazine in 2014 featuring digitally-native women-led brands, will open its third flagship store in the historic Ladies’ Mile District in New York City this June.
  • The “feminist brand collective” is known for working with more than 150 brands online and offline, the vast majority of which are small businesses run by women. It also utilizes a new type of retail model—brands rent retail shelf space for a small price and in turn receive a higher commission on their product sales, as well as store insights.

Why it matters

  • Offering more than 60 female-led brands, the new Bulletin location not only answers rising demand for female representation across all industries, but also provides a platform for smaller merchants and startups to sell their products without the burden of a traditional lease or the restraints of the wholesale model. This way, the entire company is built on inclusivity, making it impossible to divorce the retail experience from the brand mission—a mission and value system that is felt in each aspect of the business and trickles down to each customer. At a party celebrating Bulletin’s second store, attendees filled out postcards to voice their support for reproductive rights while shopping.
  • Bulletin offers consumers an accessible, merchandisable version of what The Wing does in an all-female coworking space (architect Alda Ly has worked with both companies). Both brands champion female empowerment and independence, but Bulletin is open to anyone and everyone, unlike The Wing’s membership model which restricts participation—plus, visitors who walk away from Bulletin with a purchase are most likely supporting a small female business. Still, both companies work to build company-wide and consumer-facing female networks.

2) Aesop expands its retail footprint, but risks diluting its brand.

What happened

  • Aesop, an Australian skincare brand founded in 1987, was fully acquired by the Brazilian company Natura in 2016. Since then, Aesop’s same-store sales have risen 15-20% a year and 2017 sales reached $215.4 million. The company sells direct-to-consumer, at its own stores (each with a unique, country- and neighborhood-specific design), in department stores and maintains other wholesale relationships.

Why it matters

  • As it continues to grow its square footage from Luxembourg to Vietnam, there is speculation as to how long Aesop can hold out as the brand of “young creatives.” While Natura has helped Aesop scale, it also increases the likelihood that Aesop’s brand value will be diluted. The growth may even be counter to Aesop’s identity, as a skincare brand that has built a reputation of marching to its own drum; it continues to steer clear of social media and influencer marketing, which most beauty brands heavily rely on, and only creates about five new products a year, which pales in comparison to the pace of fast beauty brands. But as more indie skincare brands like Le Labo and Grown Alchemist enter the space, Aesop may simply be too ubiquitous to maintain its stature.
  • At this crossroads, Aesop could enhance the value of its more than 200 brick-and-mortar retail locations (which account for 60% of sales) to cultivate unique customer relationships—with a design reflective of the culture of the neighborhood, they are predisposed to foster this type of bond. Enhancing its digital footprint could also help grow profits and de-risk the brand’s ongoing rapid expansion to new markets; right now, ecommerce accounts for only 5% of sales.

3) Shopify moves offline, uniting its online toolkit with face-to-face community building.

What happened

  • Shopify, a Canadian ecommerce platform, plans to open a brick-and-mortar location in the U.S. in 2018, which it will use to feature products from some of its vendors and bring in new business, offering workshops and guidance for retailers that participate or are interested in joining its platform.

Why it matters

  • Shopify plans to enter the brick-and-mortar space as an experience, which is already a plus in today’s stagnating retail landscape. Providing a way for more consumers to encounter Shopify vendors—mostly small and mid-range retailers—will be a boost to the enter business and the sellers themselves, much like Bulletin, which connects female-run brands with consumers, or b8ta, which connects digitally-native brands and product manufacturers with retail spaces. Shopify’s workshops will offer new tools for vendors, putting entrepreneurs face-to-face who wouldn’t meet otherwise, and building a community around Shopify’s own brand, similar to “Today at Apple’s” community programming. This is likely to retain and acquire new vendors and raise brand equity.
  • Shopify saw 68% YoY Q1 revenue growth between 2017 and 2018 and by listening to consumer and vendor needs as it continues to grow, the company is carving out what is likely an increasingly lucrative space for itself in the economy. Recently, Shopify announced that once cannabis is legalized in Canada, it will begin working with the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp to sell cannabis products to customers in Ontario, Canada—a market numbered at 13.6 million consumers.

4) Walmart will sell Harry’s razors, putting Jet’s relevance further at risk.

What happened

  • This May, Walmart will begin selling Harry’s shaving products online and at 2,200 of its U.S. brick-and-mortar locations (fewer than half of Walmart’s stores) with the potential for expansion. Harry’s is also available at Target (since 2016), J.Crew, and on Amazon via third-party vendors. The Walmart selection will include one exclusive item—a razor in a blue reminiscent of Walmart’s logo.

Why it matters

  • Selling at Walmart introduces Harry’s to new audiences, both online and offline—particularly as 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store. But Harry’s also pairs well with Walmart’s site redesign, whose intention is to position the company as the go-to retailer for an increasing selection of higher-end items and brands. At the same time, selling wholesale at Walmart confuses Harry’s purported plans since its latest fundraise to shape into a holding company and distribute its own brands and products as it sees fit.
  • This rebranding sparks many questions about Jet.com’s role in Walmart’s long-term plans—as they remain standalone brands, the more Walmart incorporates higher-end brands into its core offering, the less relevant Jet becomes. Additionally, while Harry’s can broaden its brand awareness across the U.S. by permeating Walmart’s network, will the typical Walmart customer choose the $17.94 Harry’s razor with one blade replacement over the $12.94 18-pack of Gillette disposables? As of now, Harry’s seems like a better fit for Jet, not Walmart.