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People are spending lots of money on makeup and beauty, and retailers are cashing in

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Target has added new brands to its beauty department. At a growing number of stores, it also has mini Ulta Beauty shops with prestige brands.

Melissa Repko | CNBC

As prices creep up, some people have decided against getting a new outfit, delayed big purchases like TVs or cancelled Netflix accounts.

But for now, they’re still splurging on beauty.

For retailers, the beauty category has become a rare bright spot as people pull back on spending amid surging inflation. Often seen as an affordable luxury, it is the only discretionary retail category with rising unit sales in the first half of the year, according to The NPD Group, which tracks categories including clothing, tech and toys, as well as beauty products at specialty and department stores.

“You may not be able to go out to eat out as much, but you can buy yourself a lipstick,” said Olivia Tong, an analyst for Raymond James.

This spring, Target called out the strength of its beauty sales, even as it twice cut its profit outlook for the year. Walmart is also investing in the category and rolling out new beauty displays to hundreds of stores, despite its warnings that shoppers are skipping over discretionary categories like apparel.

Other factors work in the industry’s favor, too. Weddings and parties have picked up again. More people are heading back to the office, and can no longer hide behind their Zoom filters. And during the pandemic, some people got in the habit of pampering themselves at home with face masks, hair treatments and other beauty products.

Larissa Jensen, a beauty analyst for NPD, called it the return of thelipstick index” — a term made famous by Leonard Lauder, chairman of the board of Estee Lauder, to explain climbing sales of cosmetics during the recession in the early 2000s.

As consumer sentiment has fallen, lipstick sales volume has climbed, Jensen said. That increase has carried over to other beauty products. Makeup sales, including lipstick, are up 20%, skincare is up 12%, fragrance is up 15% and hair care is up 28% for the first half of the year — and they are all growing in units, as well as dollars, she said.

Much of the beauty category’s growth is coming from households that earn over $100,000 a year, and Jensen said discounters may have a tougher time capitalizing on the trend. Still, beauty’s resilience could provide some cushion for big-box retailers in a slowdown − if they can figure out how to cash in.

Beauty at $3, $5, $9

Walmart and Target both cut their profit forecasts after having to mark down prices on apparel, home goods and other products that aren’t selling. Yet both companies are refreshing their beauty departments and adding new brands to attract customers.

A year ago, Target began opening hundreds of Ulta Beauty shops inside of its stores with brands including MAC Cosmetics and Clinique. The company plans to add more than 250 this year and eventually have the shops at 800 locations, representing about 40% of its U.S. footprint.

And after seeing fragrance become the biggest sales-driver in prestige beauty during the last holiday season, it also added popular fragrance brands to the Ulta shops, including Jimmy Choo Man, Juicy Couture and Kate Spade New York.

Since January, Target has introduced more than 40 brands to its stable of beauty products, including “clean” products that are free of certain ingredients and Black-owned and Black-founded brands.

On an earnings call in mid-May, CEO Brian Cornell said beauty saw double-digit growth in comparable sales in the fiscal first quarter versus the year-ago period. That broke from other categories, besides food and beverage and essentials, which saw a noticeable slowdown.

Walmart has added about a dozen prestige beauty brands to select stores. It struck a deal with British beauty retailer, Space NK, to add the assortment and develop a private label.

Melissa Repko | CNBC

At Walmart, new beauty displays were set up this summer at 250 of the company’s locations, featuring Mario Badescu, Patchology and other brands typically found at specialty beauty shops or department store makeup counters.

A more affordable display called “Beauty Finds” also began rolling to nearly 1,400 stores, offering shoppers lip glosses, lotions and more for $3, $5 or $9.

Walmart has also struck exclusive deals with direct-to-consumer companies like Bubble, a skincare brand with colorful packaging and focus on Gen Z and young millennial customers. For the past few quarters, it has seen double-digit growth in its cosmetics business, said Creighton Kiper, Walmart’s vice president of merchandising for beauty.

“Beauty is this fascinating category where it’s not like food and it’s not like health and wellness, but yet the customer interacts and engages with it every day,” he said in an interview earlier this summer. “You’ve got this mental wellness component to it around confidence and feeling good about yourself.”

When budgets get tighter, Kiper said customers might also fall back on skills they gained during the pandemic — such as doing their nails or hair color at home — and go to Walmart to shop for an at-home twist on the salon.

Ashley Marie Lemons, a stay-at-home mom in suburban Atlanta, said her family is eating out less often because they’re spending more on groceries, diapers and other necessities. She said she cooks more meatless meals and buys hot dogs instead of pricier meats, such as ribs.

But she said she still allows herself to spend about $50 a month on beauty products like eyeshadow pallets and mascaras.

“It’s an outlet for me,” she said. “Some people like art. It’s a creative way for me to express myself.”

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Ford’s supply chain problems include blue oval badges for F-Series pickups

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A Ford F-150 pickup truck is offered for sale at a dealership on September 6, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

DETROIT – Recent supply chain problems for Ford Motor have included a small, yet important, part for the company and its vehicles – the blue oval badges that don nearly every vehicle for its namesake brand.

The Detroit automaker has experienced shortages with the Ford badges as well as the nameplates that specify the model, a Ford spokesman confirmed to CNBC. The Wall Street Journal first reported the problem, including badges for its F-Series pickups, on Friday, citing anonymous sources.

The issue is the latest is a yearslong supply chain crisis that has ranged from critical parts such as semiconductor chips and wire harnesses to raw materials and now, vehicle badges.  

The Journal reported a Michigan-based supplier called Tribar Technologies that has made badges for Ford in the past had to limit operations in August, after disclosing to Michigan regulators it had discharged industrial chemicals into a local sewer system.

A message seeking comment from Tribar was not immediately answered. Ford declined to comment on whether Tribar’s limited operations were connected to the automaker’s name-badge shortage.

A spokesman also declined to comment on how many vehicles have been impacted by the problem.

The report comes after Ford on Monday said said parts shortages have affected roughly 40,000 to 45,000 vehicles, primarily high-margin trucks and SUVs, that haven’t been able to reach dealers. Ford also said at the time that it expects to book an extra $1 billion in unexpected supplier costs during the third quarter.

The announcement earlier this week, including a pre-release of some earnings expectations, caused Ford’s stock to have its worst day in more than 11 years.

Separately, Ford on Thursday announced plans to restructure its global supply chain to “support efficient and reliable sourcing of components, internal development of key technologies and capabilities, and world-class cost and quality execution.”

Ford shares fall after company warns of extra $1 billion in costs
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Bed Bath & Beyond’s merchandise problems will make it hard to pull off a turnaround this holiday season

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A person exits a Bed Bath & Beyond store in New York City, June 29, 2022.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

Bed Bath & Beyond is betting on a drastic change in strategy and well-recognized brands to revive its struggling business. 

But the retailer’s strained relationships with suppliers of products such as air fryers and stand-mixers – some of which were missing from shelves two holiday seasons ago – could leave stores without hot items once again. Out-of-stock products could cripple Bed Bath’s already-declining sales and push the company toward bankruptcy.

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Bed Bath is fighting to win back customers as it contends with a leadership shakeup, a mountain of debt and the aftermath of a meme-stock frenzy fueled by activist investor Ryan Cohen. On top of that, tensions with merchandise suppliers grew as the company’s problems worsened, according to former executives who recently left the company. They declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak about internal discussions.

Chief Executive Mark Tritton, hired in 2019 to oversee the company’s previous turnaround effort, got ousted by the board this year. Bed Bath’s merchandising chief was also pushed out. Chief Financial Officer Gustavo Arnal, who was integral in lining up a new loan for Bed Bath, died by suicide earlier this month. The company is now led by an interim CEO and interim CFO.

On a call with investors in late August, two days before Arnal’s death, company leaders announced the fresh financing and revealed a new merchandising strategy that heavily relies on national brands to get more people into stores. Under Tritton, Bed Bath launched and tried to grow nine exclusive brands. Bed Bath now intends to sharply scale back those private labels – including discontinuing several.

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Bed Bath has merchandise from its remaining store brands to fill shelves. It has deals with direct-to-consumer brands, such as mattress maker Casper, and is trying to court more of them. Yet to deliver on its new plan, Bed Bath must secure steady shipments from brands many shoppers recognize.

Bed Bath leaders say that the strategy shift has been well received. Interim CEO Sue Gove said in August that she’s even received thank you notes from vendors. 

“As previously shared, we are committed to delivering what our customers want, driving growth and profitability, and strengthening our financial position. We recognize the vital importance of our supplier partners and our team is working continuously with them, where support has been enthusiastic and high, particularly with our largest partners,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. 

“They want us to win, by supporting the assortment changes previously announced to create the best experience for our shared customers.” Bed Bath plans to give an update on its vendor relationships and strategies when it reports fiscal second quarter earnings next week, she added. 

Over the past two years, however, Bed Bath has tested vendor relationships by making late payments, pushing aggressively into private labels and losing shoppers. Those tensions have intensified as financial troubles mounted, according to the former Bed Bath executives.

Make or break

A customer carries a shopping bag outside a Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. store in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Logan Cyrus | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Vendor relationships can make or break a retailer. Typically, suppliers ship goods and get reimbursed weeks or months later. The terms can change, however, if a retailer shows signs of financial distress – sometimes pushing a vendor to shorten the payment window, require cash on delivery or halt shipments.

Bed Bath has already agreed to tougher payment terms and advance payments for some suppliers, the company said in public filings. Company leaders acknowledged in a call with investors that it was managing vendor relationships on a week to week basis. 

Tension with vendors is often a major reason retailers are pushed toward restructuring. Debt-burdened Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in September 2017, and later liquidated, shortly after its suppliers demanded cash on delivery ahead of the holiday season. Other retailers, such as appliance chain H.H. Gregg and electronics store RadioShack, suffered a similar fate as they struggled to keep shelves stocked and burned through cash due to vendors’ tightened payment terms. 

One factor working in Bed Bath’s favor is that it works with a vast number of vendors, and if needed, could replace one that wouldn’t ship to the retailer. Retailers like Toys “R” Us, as well as sporting goods chain Sports Authority – which liquidated as part of a bankruptcy filing in 2016 – were heavily reliant on very few suppliers to stock their shelves. 

Bed Bath already had a significant debt load prior to the new financing. The retailer has a total of nearly $1.2 billion in unsecured notes – with maturity dates spread across 2024, 2034 and 2044 – which are all trading below par, a sign of its financial distress. In recent quarters, the company said it burned through significant amounts of cash. Despite this, it pressed ahead with an aggressive stock buyback plan that added up to more than $1 billion in repurchases.

The funding announced in August is expected to provide Bed Bath some breathing room and buy it some grace from vendors. But even before the company needed a loan, it lost standing with some of its suppliers, according to the former executives. Bed Bath has tussled with big-name vendors over terms of payment, and executives grew frustrated with smaller shipments of popular products, while seeing other retailers with more of that merchandise – and sometimes exclusive versions.

During the 2020 holidays, air fryers ran low across Bed Bath’s stores. KitchenAid stand mixers, a top item on Christmas lists and wedding registries, were out of stock. The few vacuums and hair styling tools from Dyson that arrived at stores quickly got shipped to online shoppers, leaving store displays bare. Yet at Amazon, Target and Best Buy, those same products were available – and in some cases, even at buzzy promotional prices.

KitchenAid parent company Whirlpool and Dyson didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Growing troubles

Customers carry bags from Bed Bath & Beyond store on April 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Vendors and licensees, likewise, grew concerned by the pace of Bed Bath’s changes – particularly as the retailer launched its own brands of bedding, kitchen utensils and more. As some brands and manufacturers saw Bed Bath pare down orders quarter after quarter, they looked to other stores and websites. 

The uneasy relationships exacerbated Bed Bath’s supply chain woes during the first two years of the pandemic, when all retailers coped with temporarily shuttered factories, congested ports and a shortage of truck drivers. The company lost $175 million in sales during the three months ended Feb. 26 as several items that were advertised in circulars were out of stock.

Vendors, which had limited supply, had to pick and choose where to send their hot products. As sales declined sharply at Bed Bath’s namesake stores, it had a harder time getting those items – such as Dyson’s hair styling tools or Keurig’s coffee makers– that were available at retail rivals, according to the former executives.

At company meetings, Bed Bath’s small shipments became a frequent theme – with merchandising leaders urging buyers to go to vendors and ask for more. There were also internal concerns that Bed Bath & Beyond was losing its clout and its relevance, the former executives said. 

Bed Bath’s troubles have grown in recent months. Its stock has fallen about 50% this year, its market cap now at about $565 million.

About 60% of total net sales come from Bed Bath’s stores, but its footprint is shrinking. Last week, the company announced the first wave of approximately 150 store closures of its namesake brand. Including Harmon and BuyBuy Baby stores, the company went from nearly 1,500 stores at the end of the first quarter in 2020 to fewer than 1,000 stores at the end of the same period this year. As of February, Bed Bath had roughly 32,000 associates, including approximately 26,000 store associates and about 3,500 supply chain associates. 

Meanwhile, the first wave of holiday merchandise has arrived at stores, including autumn wreaths, pumpkin-print kitchen towels and other fall-themed decor. Much of the merchandise at stores is from Bed Bath & Beyond’s private brands, such as budget-friendly home line Simply Essential.

During a CNBC visit in recent days, Bed Bath’s flagship store in New York City was full of clues that the retailer may not have enough of the hottest items. A Dyson display had six vacuum models – but only one type available for purchase. A display for French cookware company Le Creuset showed off Dutch ovens in many colors, but only had bright orange ones in stock. 

Only one stainless-steel, step-on SimpleHuman garbage can, which retails for $149.99, was boxed and ready to be carried away. However, there were small plastic garbage cans from Bed Bath’s owned brand, spread across multiple rows – selling for $3 each.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor.

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GM to close reservations for electric Hummer pickup, SUV after topping 90,000

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Production is now set to begin at the former Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, less than two years after GM announced the massive $2.2 billion investment to fully renovate the facility to build a variety of all-electric trucks and SUVs.

Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors

DETROIT — General Motors will close reservations for its electric GMC Hummer pickup and the forthcoming GMC Hummer SUV after more than 90,000 of the vehicles were reserved, the company said Wednesday.

Closing the reservations is a way for the automaker to attempt to fulfill the current list of reserved vehicles, which extends out to at least 2024. The number of reservations is notable because of the starting prices of the vehicles, which range between roughly $85,000 and $111,000.

GM said it plans to close reservations for both vehicles starting Thursday. Anyone wanting to reserve one of the electric trucks must do so by the end of Wednesday.

GM has been slowly ramping up production of the Hummer EV pickup since earlier this year. As of the end of June, the company had sold less than 400 of the vehicles. The SUV version is expected to begin arriving to dealers and customers starting in early 2023.

The 2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV and 2022 GMC Hummer EV sport utility truck, or SUT.

GM

Duncan Aldred, global head of GMC, said production of the SUV should happen more quickly than the pickup, which was the first consumer vehicle to feature GM’s next-generation Ultium batteries and vehicle platform.

“We knew it would be a slow ramp. But next year, when you look at the calendar year, I think you’ll see a normalized year,” he told CNBC last week at the Detroit auto show. “When we produce SUV, that should get into stride right away … Next year is a big year for Hummer EV, both truck and SUV.”

GM’s decision follows Ford Motor shutting down reservations for its electric F-150 Lightning pickup after hitting roughly 200,000 units. It also had shut down reservations for the electric Mustang Mach-E crossover, but they have since reopened.

General Motors just unveiled its first all-electric Hummer—the GMC Hummer EV
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