1) Harry’s debuts women’s razor brand, Flamingo, in the quest to diversify its holding company and cater to female customers.

What happened

  • Harry’s, the direct-to-consumer subscription disposable razor brand that launched in 2011, debuted a women’s brand, Flamingo, offering razors and blades, shaving cream, wax kits and body lotion. Flamingo is the first standalone brand borne out of the company’s innovation team, Harry’s Labs, which is incubating new digital brands that will live within Harry’s ecosystem since it became a holding company in February 2018.
  • Flamingo was formed by a handful of Harry’s employees, but unlike the original men’s brand, it offers items à la carte as opposed to via a subscription model. It also competes with Billie, a women’s razor subscription brand founded in November 2017; Oui Shave, a direct-to-consumer women’s razor brand founded in 2014; and the Venus razors subscription offered by both Schick and Gillette since May 2017 and August 2018, respectively.

Why it matters

  • While Harry’s and competitor Dollar Shave Club uprooted the men’s razor industry with subscription packages, the $1 billion women’s razor market has not evolved as much as its male counterpart. Flamingo is unique in that it 1) does not offer a subscription, a now commonplace model in the beauty and wellness industry that is losing its luster, and 2) embraces inclusive messaging about hair removal and body image that legacy retailers like Gillette have only started coming around to in their advertising to women. Flamingo’s razors are also cheaper than Gillette and Schick’s, whose prices have historically been artificially hiked by the so-called “pink tax.”
  • When Harry’s become a holding company for digitally-native brands, it announced plans to cultivate men’s and women’s personal care, as well as household items and baby products—it also said it would invest and acquire outside brands, and began wholesaling Harry’s products at a number of retailers including Walmart, Target and J.Crew. As the first new brand out of Harry’s Labs, Flamingo is likely a safe bet given the company’s expertise in the razor market and its vertical integration (it fully owns a factory in Germany). Ideally, moving into the women’s razor industry will produce returns for the parent company’s investors, but even if that’s the case, Flamingo will have to be the first of many successful brands to make the numbers work—Harry’s has raised a whopping $475 million and its valuation now sits above $1 billion.
  • In terms of Flamingo as a standalone brand, its success will be dependent on the brand’s ability to differentiate enough from the original Harry’s brand and attract female customers. Promoting inclusive values is a good start, both to help Flamingo stand out against competitors and foster relationships with this new demographic of consumers, because unlike when Harry’s launched, it’s not enough just to be a direct-to-consumer razor brand.

2) Shopify’s new store embraces customer service—for its vendors.

What happened

  • The online marketplace Shopify opened its first brick-and-mortar space in LA, bringing a face-to-face component to its relationship with its vendors. The space offers education, consulting services and community events on topics such as cross-state taxes and specialty packaging. It is intentionally located in a city where Shopify maintains 10,000-plus merchant relationships, 400 of whom have made more than $1 million in gross merchandise volume.

Why it matters

  • Though the concept is slightly different from the brick-and-mortar storefront announced earlier this year that claimed Shopify would feature certain vendors’ products in addition to serving as a consulting and community event space, it nevertheless embodies the company’s aim to improve ecommerce for all participants. At the space, each of the 20 “Shopify gurus” offering consultations are vendors on the platform themselves, which means that newcomers seeking advice will receive valuable and authentic information.
  • Bringing an in-person element to its vendor relationships is a way for Shopify to stand out against other ecommerce marketplaces such as Amazon, especially considering the latter’s notoriously cutthroat treatment of vendors. Earlier this year, many of Amazon’s smaller vendors began to pivot away from the marketplace to other ecommerce platforms like Walmart, Etsy, eBay and Shopify, all of which offer more independence and better seller policies. As of May 2018, Shopify maintained 600,000 merchant relationships across 175 countries and while Amazon has many more third-party sellers and remains the top merchant destination in the U.S., 80% of its vendors also sell on other platforms. As Amazon continues to pursue bigger brands and retailers, Shopify is setting itself up to differentiate, gaining small merchants through classes and consultation services aimed at onboarding new entrepreneurs.

3) Walmart acquires intimates retailer Bare Necessities, building an apparel empire to retain its first-place position against Amazon.

What happened

  • Only ten days after Walmart acquired Eloquii, the extended-size women’s apparel brand, it is adding Bare Necessities to its roster—an online retailer founded in 1998 that sells lingerie, shapewear, sleepwear and swimwear from more than 160 brands.
  • The acquisitions of Bare Necessities and Eloquii are just two of Walmart’s recent apparel-related moves, including the announcement of a clothing collab with Ellen DeGeneres and a partnership with Lord & Taylor that features items from the department store on Walmart.com. Walmart also acquired the outdoor apparel brand Moosejaw in February 2017, the menswear brand Bonobos in June 2017, the women’s apparel brand ModCloth in May 2017, and the shoes and apparel brand ShoeBuy in January 2017 through its company, Jet.

Why it matters

  • Regarding its two recent acquisitions, the company says that its apparel strategy is centered on bringing in “category leaders” and “digital brands that offer unique products” in order to cater to younger millennial shoppers. Though Walmart’s partnership with Lord & Taylor may work to bring prestige to the Walmart brand, its latest apparel brand acquisitions are likely a better match for Walmart’s current and potential customers, both in terms of price point and relevance, not least because of the legacy department store’s struggle and declining significance.
  • Walmart has also taken strides to improve its online shopping experience, debuting a more sophisticated website redesign earlier this year; now ecommerce-savvy brands like Eloquii and Bare Necessities can help bolster this image. This will help Walmart compete with Amazon, which is concentrating heavily on growing and improving its apparel category. In 2017, Walmart sales accounted for 8.6% of the U.S. apparel market, followed by Amazon in second place with 7.9%, but some analysts anticipate Amazon to surpass Walmart this year. Still, it’s unclear what effect these smaller brands will wield on Walmart, given the retailer’s size; in order to sufficiently fend off Amazon, the company would need to buy a large number of brands or expose these brands to its broad Walmart audience, which it remains hesitant to do.

4) The Museum of Ice Cream extends its lifeline with a limited-edition Sephora collab and permanent San Francisco location.

What happened

  • The Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC), the highly-Instagrammable immersive experience launched in 2016 in New York and then brought to LA, San Francisco and Miami, is collaborating with Sephora and making its San Francisco location a permanent fixture. In September 2018, the beauty retailer and MOIC launched a makeup collection online and in stores, offering six limited-edition products including a popsicle-shaped eyeshadow palette and sprinkle-filled brushes.

Why it matters

  • The Museum of Ice Cream was one of the forerunners of the contemporary experience economy, along with other concepts like Dream Machine and Refinery29’s 29Rooms. But similar to escape rooms, which also flourished around the same time, these experience-driven spaces have restricted lifecycles, and few have sought out or successfully cultivated ways to extend their relevance beyond a one-time experience. In fact, many have leaned into these ephemeral, scarcity-driven models, cropping up in a city for only a few months, which engenders FOMO among consumers and reels in long lines.
  • MOIC has risen above the rest, fostering various ways to prevent its ice cream from melting. In June 2018, it premiered a partnership with Target, creating vibrant apparel and accessories through the retailer’s Art Class kidswear private-label brand. Then Target helped MOIC launch The Pint Shop, an interactive space in New York City and a one-off of the original Museum of Ice Cream experience. In July, Target also began selling seven premium ice cream flavors made in partnership with MOIC. With Sephora, the Museum of Ice Cream brought its core essence to life again, deftly productizing its experience and introducing its brand to the beauty space and new consumers. Though limited-edition, the products themselves keep MOIC alive, beyond the one-time experience at the museum or a single post on Instagram. Collabs like these will become all the more necessary to build hype for the brand in the long term, especially now that MOIC is a main fixture of San Francisco.