Small Footprint, Big Steps — with Barry Beck of Bluemercury

#83. Bluemercury took cosmetics out of department stores, pioneering small-format beauty retail. We talk with co-founder Barry Beck about starting the company with his wife Marla and navigating through various retail cycles to grow their business to…


The Grinds: Ipsy unveils members-only beauty ecommerce site, Boutique and vintage vendors turn to Instagram, Retailers invite brands to advertise with package inserts, MoviePass acquires Moviefone

Ipsy, queen of the beauty subscription box, unveils Shopper, a members-only, direct-to-consumer site. What happened Ipsy, a subscription service that began in 2011, sends members Glam Bags, which include a personalized bounty of five full- and/or…


Kylie Cosmetics and the value paradox of celebrity brands

Forbes recently put Kylie Jenner—member of the Kardashian clan and founder of Kylie Cosmetics, one of the fastest growing beauty brands ever—on the cover of its America’s Women Billionaires issue. The feature, which came with an…


The Grinds: Nike debuts training pop-up, Rimowa tries out direct-to-consumer, YouTube reacts to IGTV, SoulCycle embraces media

Nike’s training pop-up gives customers the tools to “Just Do It.” What happened Nike Plus members and those with the Nike Training Club app can now visit a training pop-up in Los Angeles until mid-August and workout with professional athletes.…


Money has flowed into digitally-native brands. When will it flow out?

As heavily-funded brands, Honest Company and Harry’s were once thought to be the new guard of digitally-native retail, along with many other companies that have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital. But what has become of…


Kardashian Kryptonite: From selling out to stocking products

When Kylie Jenner launched Kylie Lip Kits—her first beauty product—in 2015, she made only 15,000 units, which sold out in 20 minutes and grossed around $1 million. In June 2017, her sister Kim Kardashian launched KKW Beauty with one product: Contour…


Companies are staying private and unprofitable for longer. Is Wall Street the answer?

There are three main ways for startups that raise money to return it to their investors. First, they can stay independent and just exist as private, hopefully profitable companies. Second, they can sell to an acquirer and be part of a larger…


Joy Bomb — with Natalie Mackey of Winky Lux

#73. Winky Lux is a quickly growing beauty brand built around accessible and fun products. We talk with co-founder Natalie Mackey, who started the company after realizing the mass market opportunity around drugstore-priced cosmetics that embody…


Cop & Flip: Sneakerheads and the secondary market furthered sneaker culture, using brands like Nike as a vehicle for growth

“Lifestyle brand” is a buzzword that has lost meaning in the consumer economy. Either imposed or self-ascribed, companies with the label use it as a justification for their ambition to become much more than a brand, but a way of life. Some are…


The Grinds: Instagram launches in-app payments, Sephora opens its second Studio, Online returns are hurting landlords, Birchbox sells a majority stake to one of its investors

Instagram launches in-app payments for select brands, which could substantially increase its share of commerce. What happened For the in-app payments, an extension of Facebook Payments, Instagram allows users to create a profile that includes their…


Dear Entireworld: One Thing I Would Do

Building a traditional basics brand today is a somewhat futile quest, riddled with endless products and price deflation. The way to make it work, then, is to build a basics brand by not building a basics brand. The current manifestation of…


Social(ism) — with Brian Schechter of SelfMade

#66. SelfMade provides Instagram-in-a-box for entrepreneurs, giving small businesses the tools and services they need to succeed on social media as conducting business online moves from websites to Instagram accounts. We talk with co-founder Brian…


The Grinds: Ulta Beauty will begin selling Chanel Beauté, Nordstrom family ends buyout effort, ThredUp wants to create a consignment ecosystem, Google launches new advertising program online with its AI assistant

Ulta Beauty will begin selling Chanel Beauté—a coveted and surprising addition to the beauty retailer that mixes high and low. To-the-point analysis about one of the four important stories from the week.   What happened Ulta Beauty,…


As Facebook advertising costs rise, digitally-native brands turn to traditional advertising

A Warby Parker pamphlet arrives in the mail. A Glossier billboard hovers above Houston Street. Clones of an Away wheatpaste coat a construction barrier. A Stitch Fix TV ad blares from the television. For a generation of digitally-native brands,…


The Live Video Report

Social media is an increasingly important channel for brands and retailers to nurture customer relations and attract a broader consumer base, particularly as mobile devices flourish. The ascent of social media has also catalyzed the expansion of…


Antiscale — with Charlie Ambler of Strike Gently Co

On the 51st episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, a show about the rapidly changing consumer economy, I talk with Charlie Ambler, the founder of Strike Gently Co, a company that started off making pins and patches and expanding into a growing…


The Gifting and Holiday Shopping Report

Although gift-giving is a global tradition that has been around for centuries, the practice has changed drastically since the 1800s—from a meaningful exchange of valuable goods to a commercially-driven social obligation centered around popular…