BRANDS PREP FOR A STIMULUS SHOPPING SPREE
The US government will start mailing stimulus checks to individuals this week
Analysts expect many recipients to spend part of their checks with low-price brands and off-price retailers
Some states have lifted all Covid-19 restrictions; the Biden administration predicts a return to normal by midsummer
This week, millions of Americans will begin to receive checks in the mail, part of a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that includes financial support for parents as well as no-strings-attached cash payments to anyone falling below certain income thresholds. Beleaguered fashion brands are anticipating a healthy portion of that money winds up in their coffers. The industry has gotten its hopes up for past stimulus rounds. But in the depths of the pandemic, Americans were more concerned with paying rent, buying groceries and paying down debt than buying clothes. Sales rose in the aftermath of those previous checks, but not by much.
This time may be different. More people are employed, and many are newly vaccinated and itching to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyle. Analysts see low-priced brands benefitting the most, as their target customers saw their incomes squeezed the most by Covid-19, and are receiving the biggest checks now. Piper Sandler flags the affordable cosmetics brand e.l.f., while Bloomberg Intelligence predicts off-price chains will reap a windfall.
The Bottom Line: One wild card is inflation, which hasn’t been a factor in retail for more than a decade. Some economists predict that a rush of post-pandemic spending, plus restocking delays due to supply chain snarls, could lead to a cycle of rising prices.
ASIA’S FASHION MONTH KICKS OFF
Rakuten Fashion Week runs March 15-20 in Tokyo, and will be mostly digital as Japan reports thousands of new Covid-19 cases
Seoul Fashion Week runs March 22-27 and Shanghai follows in early April
Taipei is in the middle of an all-physical fashion week, as Taiwan has mostly avoided outbreaks
Asia’s fashion month is in full swing. In Taipei, designers are holding physical shows, reflecting the fact that the country has been almost completely Covid-19 free for months. Japan has yet to fully stamp out its winter outbreak, putting a damper on early hopes for a return to a physical Rakuten Fashion Week in Tokyo (the fact that Pitta, a maker of face masks, is one of the week’s sponsors should have been another clue that normalcy remains a ways off). Highlights of the schedule include Fumito Ganryu, who is planning a physical event with Coconogacco design school founder Yoshikazu Yamagata. Undercover is also planning a runway show, though whether it will be livestreamed or put on in front of an audience remains to be seen.
The Bottom Line: In Asia, the gap between countries that have emerged from the pandemic and those that have not is stark. With luck, physical shows, and even international attendees, will return by October.
– Zoe Suen contributed to this item
NIKE TIES EXECUTIVE PERFORMANCE TO MORE THAN PROFITS
Nike said last week it would tie executive compensation to hitting diversity and sustainability goals
The company reports quarterly results on March 18
Nike has seen digital revenue surge during the pandemic, and has benefited from strong sales in China
Nike’s last earnings report in December was an eye-opener: The brand managed to grow digital revenue by 84 percent, reflecting strong demand even amid the lockdowns in the West, while ramping up sales in China, where the pandemic subsided much earlier.
Perhaps the company’s strong pandemic performance is one reason it felt secure enough to start measuring success by factors that go beyond online sales growth, or how many Nike Dunk sneakers it manages to sell. In a report last week, the brand said it would tie executive compensation to meeting the company’s 2025 environmental and diversity goals. It’s a progressive move from one of fashion’s biggest brands: Activists have long argued that large corporations must create financial incentives for management to do the right thing. Where Nike goes, many other brands typically follow, so expect more announcements along these lines in the coming months.
The Bottom Line: It’s too early to give Nike full credit for its new compensation structure. If the bonuses turn out to be marginal, executives may find the pay bump for reducing emissions is far exceeded by what they would receive from juicing sales, regardless of the cost to the planet.
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