VIRTUAL REALITY CHECK
Chanel will hold a virtual cruise show on May 4, staged in the south of France
Dior is planning an in-person cruise show in Greece in June, apparently with a live audience
Fashion weeks in New York and Europe are likely to include plenty of physical events in September, after three mostly virtual seasons
Chanel’s cruise show in June 2020 encapsulated everything that was strange and a bit unsettling about the new pandemic reality, at least within the rarified world of luxury fashion. The presentation was the first by a large brand to be held online. Many found the format alienating and the timing poor (between the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd days earlier, viewers weren’t in the mood to see models dressed for a Mediterranean vacation). Barring another Covid-19 resurgence in Europe, Chanel’s cruise show this week may end up being the final chapter in fashion’s experiment with virtual debuts. Dior has indicated its cruise show in June will be staged before a live audience, and the major fashion weeks should have plenty of physical events this September, though perhaps with fewer international visitors.
What have we learned in the 11 months between the two Chanel shows? For starters, many designers seemed relieved that the pandemic eliminated the need to show cruise and pre-fall collections at all. While Chanel and Dior appear determined to maintain their pre-Covid production schedule, they may find themselves in the minority for a while. As for digital events, after a slow start, brands discovered the concept had some merit. Expect real-life shows to include virtual components that allow consumers worldwide to participate (though it wouldn’t be the worst idea to leave the word “phygital” back in 2020).
The Bottom Line: The brands that had the most success during the pandemic used the cancellation of physical shows as an excuse to try something new.
The US Labor Department releases employment data for the month of April on May 7
Hiring surged in March, pointing to a faster-than-expected economic recovery from the pandemic
Wages are starting to rise, as are consumer prices
It’s seemingly a perfect match: Retailers have plenty of jobs to fill, and there are millions of workers who have been unemployed since the start of lockdowns last spring. And yet, as brands see more customers visiting their stores, they aren’t always finding it so easy to staff up. For starters, plenty of people aren’t jumping to take in-person customer service roles when Covid-19 is still a threat, especially as many states loosen indoor capacity and mask restrictions. Some are also being choosier about the type of job they’ll take while they can still rely on stimulus checks for food and rent. Labouring for minimum wage in a store, where sales assistants may also now be asked to pick and pack online orders, may not be at the top of the list.
Retailers have plenty of tools at their disposal to make their entry-level jobs more desirable; the jobs data out this Friday is likely to show an uptick in wages, for starters. If that doesn’t break the impasse, expect more companies to offer health insurance, full-time work on set schedules, opportunities for advancement and other long-sought benefits by store employees.
The Bottom Line: Once offered, it may be difficult for retailers to roll back some of these benefits, even as more people enter the labour market. While the defeat of the Amazon union drive in Alabama last month was a setback, the labour movement has momentum not seen in a generation or more.
STRIKING WHILE THE IRON IS HOT
The Honest Co., Jessica Alba’s beauty and baby products company, is expected to go public this week, seeking a $1.5 billion valuation
“Natural” and “clean” beauty brands that promise to avoid many commonly-used chemicals have seen booming sales
Revenue rose 28 percent to $301 million last year, and losses were cut by more than half to $14.5 million
The stars have aligned for Jessica Alba and The Honest Co., her line of baby, beauty and personal care products. Consumers can’t get enough of beauty products that claim to be good for the environment and promise to use natural ingredients over synthetics where possible. And during the pandemic, sales of personal care items soared regardless of what they were made from. The timing couldn’t be better for Honest, which was an early leader in bringing eco-friendly products to the mainstream. Growing sales indicate the brand has fully shaken off the taint of a 2016 Wall Street Journal article that reported some of its products contained supposedly banned chemicals.
The Bottom Line: If the company achieves its unicorn-and-a-half valuation, it will be a testament to both the strength of the sustainable consumer movement and the staying power of well-managed celebrity brands. Gwyneth Paltrow will surely be glued to CNBC.
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