Tag: Year

Fashion Was Basically Dead Last Year, Urban Outfitters Says

Urban Outfitters / Via Facebook: urbanoutfitters

Urban Outfitters' CEO blamed a tough year in clothing sales on a dearth of fashion trends, saying the industry has finally cycled through all skinny pants have to offer.

“The last major fashion shift was 10 years ago when the skinny bottom returned to popularity,” CEO Richard Hayne said on an earnings call Monday. “Since then we've had all varieties of skinny: low-rise, high-rise, color, black, white, and print. Washed, sanded, sliced, and destroyed. Yoga and active, leggings, jeggings, and stretch.”

“Today, the customer has a closet full of various skinny bottoms and she has many many long tops and sweaters to go over them,” he continued. “Without a fashion need to drive her purchases, the customer can easily defer her apparel spend. Surely a major fashion shift is the cure for the current apparel malaise. I'm not predicting exactly when that change will come but I'm certain it will.”

Urban Outfitters, which also owns Anthropologie and Free People, saw sales increase in the fourth quarter for non-apparel merchandise like home and beauty. That reinforced Hayne's belief that retailers are grappling with a fashion issue, rather than challenges related to the rise of online shopping or increased competition from cheaper destinations.

“Obviously all these categories faced the same headwinds, so why then was apparel the outlier?” Hayne asked. “To me, the answer is simple. Fashion, or more accurately, the lack thereof.”

Urban Outfitters / Via urbanoutfitters.com

Executives at Gap and J.Crew have expressed similar woes in the past year, which has been challenging for apparel sales. It's been a particular slog for retailers that fall between H&M at one end and high-end designer names at the other.

Urban Outfitters reported sales of $ 3.4 billion for the year ended Jan. 31 across its brands, a 4% increase from the previous year. Anthropologie is its biggest brand with $ 1.44 billion in sales, followed by Urban Outfitters with $ 1.39 billion and Free People with just over $ 600 million.

The company has been working to expand its offerings in home, especially at Anthropologie, and acquired a group of Italian restaurants last year, making it less vulnerable to the whims of fashion “newness.”

“We've been with 'big over little' now for the better part of 10 years, and I think it's nearing the end of its life cycle,” Hayne said. “How long it's going to take to get through that cycle, I really can't tell you. I do see an awful lot of signs out there that would suggest to me that cycle has begun and certainly we all here hope it's sooner rather than later.”

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BuzzFeed – Business

America Lost A Bunch Of Pizza Huts And KFCs Last Year

Thomas Hawk / Via Flickr: thomashawk

Yum Brands — the company that owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell — has been trying to improve the fortunes of its struggling fried chicken and pizza chains in the U.S.

To some extent, Yum's efforts are starting to show some results. In 2015, domestic comparable sales at KFC rose by 4% and at Pizza Hut they grew by 1%.

Yet just as competitor McDonald's ended 2015 with 91 fewer stores, the numbers show that Yum also shuttering stores last year. With other chicken and pizza chains growing, Yum faces intense competition.

BuzzFeed News

KFC's U.S. store count dropped by 100 last year.

KFC closed a total of 119 U.S. restaurants, but also opened 10 new ones and included 9 more from Hawaii, which was previously considered a non-U.S. market. By the end of 2015, KFC's net domestic restaurant count declined by 100 to 4,270. KFC has been shedding stores in the U.S. for more than a decade, reaching it peak store count of 5,525 in 2004.

Pizza Hut, meanwhile, lost 41 net locations.

While the pizza chain closed a whopping 258 restaurants last year, it also opened 148 stores and added 69 Pizza Huts from other markets (for example military locations, and Pizza Huts in Hawaii and Saipan). Pizza Hut's net domestic restaurant count had declined by 41 to 7,822 by the end of the year.

Among Yum's chains, only Taco Bell grew its U.S. footprint in 2015.

Taco Bell opened 235 locations last year and gained 40 restaurants that used to be in the international store count. It also closed 75 stores, ending 2015 with 6,121 domestic restaurants, a gain of 200. A Taco Bell spokesman said the chain plans to open another 200 U.S. locations in 2016.

“We are 100% dedicated to building and strengthening KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell all around the world,” said Yum CEO Greg Creed during a recent earnings call.

Taco Bell's strength was enough to make investment banker Cowen and Company optimistic about Yum overall, and “particularly bullish on Taco Bell’s prospects in 2016,” according to a recent research report. The taco chain “features the best
five year track record for same store sales and unit growth among the brand’s closest competitors” and its customers should have more money to spend this year thanks to a number of planned minimum wage increases, the report said.

youtube.com / Via giphy.com

Things At Pizza Hut Finally May Be Turning Around

KFC Is Making Plans To Get Back On Top In The U.S.

Here’s Why KFC’s Owner Is Selling Off Its China Business

BuzzFeed – Business

With $2.9 Billion In Sales This Year, OfferUp Is Coming Out Of Stealth Mode

OfferUp co-founders Arean van Veelen and Nick Huzar.

OfferUp

Craigslist is the crocodile of the tech industry — a perfectly evolved beast that has outlived competitors trying to buy into it, decimated an entire industry, and withstood the rise of mobile. It did all that while looking more or less exactly the same as it did when it launched in 1996. What can appear on the surface to be a lack of attention to the principles of modern design or underinvestment in product development is really just a predator operating at its evolutionary endpoint.

But in the era of the unicorn, never underestimate the urge to fight a crocodile. Why shouldn't Craigslist be overtaken by an easy-to-use, mobile-friendly marketplace for people who want to buy and sell things?

Investors have now put $ 90 million into one company trying to do just that. OfferUp, founded in Seattle in 2011, is far from a household name and has had little publicity, but its founders say the service has quietly become a significant player in e-commerce. They say $ 2.9 billion has been transacted over their marketplace so far this year, a big number for anybody in the industry. In comparison, Etsy's marketplace had $ 1.93 billion in sales in all of 2014, while industry giant eBay had $ 19.6 billion flow through its system in its most recent quarter.

OfferUp “is among the fastest growing marketplaces we have ever seen,” Jeff Jordan, a partner at Andreesen Horowitz and board member at OfferUp, said in a statement. The venture capital firm first invested in OfferUp in May 2014, Jordan wrote in a blog post today, “but kept that information under wraps—at the company’s request—as they methodically rolled out to new cities.” (Andreesen Horowitz is also an investor in BuzzFeed.)

When you first open OfferUp, you see an Instagram-like grid of photos of stuff available near you. I live in North Brooklyn, so I saw some knit goods, iPhones, formerly expensive jeans, cars, and hoverboards. You can also search for specific items.

Matthew Zeitlin

So far, so good. But the founders say their real innovations are on the seller side, and in features that give buyers and sellers confidence in interacting with each other, even though most purchases are still done in cash. Buyers and sellers each have ratings, and can chat over the app without giving up a phone number or email address.

The two founders — Nick Huzar, the chief executive, and Arean van Veelen, the chief technology officer — said when surveys asked why people didn't buy or sell items online, many women said they were concerned about safety. To address that, they allowed third party ID verification. Buyers and sellers “have to go through the process to be verified to know they are the person they say they are,” van Veelen said.

Another peace-of-mind feature is something users of dating apps and sites will be familiar with: letting users see mutual Facebook Facebook friends, or what OfferUp calls “trusted connections.”

Building an app that women feel comfortable using is a priority, and the two male founders point to prominent women leading the business: A woman leads OfferUp's engineering team, and a woman is responsible for trust and safety features on the product team.

OfferUp raised $ 73 million earlier this year, and has raised a total of $ 90 million. While the company won't disclose a valuation, the Wall Street Journal reported in October that it had been valued “around” $ 800 million in a March funding round. “I wouldn't say that number is accurate,” Huzar said. “What I would say is that we’ve 5X’d our growth since January, we’re a way bigger company than we were back then.”

One metric that hasn't grown in the last year is revenue, which remains at the tidy figure of zero. “Today we’re not monetizing as a business,” Huzar said. Hence all the cash the company has raised. With no revenues, it has grown from 15 to over 60 people employees in a year, and includes former employees of Amazon, eBay, and Airbnb.

Do Huzar and his team have any plans to get some money coming in? Advertising, perhaps, or taking a cut from sellers or charging for certain listings? If there's a plan, the company is keeping things vague for now. “There are existing models we could look to and potentially adopt and there are new things we could do,” he said.

OfferUp is backed by big-name investors like Andreesen Horowitz, the hedge fund Coatue, and asset manager T. Rowe Price. “If you think about the market we’re going after, it’s a massive market,” Huzar said. “Our investors are super excited by how fast we’re growing.”

BuzzFeed – Business

9 Crazy Weight-Loss Scams People Fell For This Year

The Federal Trade Commission is preparing for a New Year’s spike in weight-loss scams. This year’s highlights included a cream inspired by lobster hormones, and a magical pill that claimed to strip the calories from a plate of spaghetti.

ftc.gov

ftc.gov

As Americans resolve to lose weight and diet this year, scammers are at the ready to collect what amounts to hundreds of millions each year in products that swear to trim inches and cut pounds, usually without any exercise. The Federal Trade Commission is preparing for the annual spike in weight-loss product fraud that tends to occur this time of year, as consumers search for a “magic bullet,” said Richard Cleland, assistant director for the FTC's division of advertising practices.

“In terms of advertising issues, weight loss fraud is one of the top priorities for the Federal Trade Commission,” Cleland said in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “It's very lucrative for scammers…you've got an audience that is susceptible to being scammed and a fairly sophisticated group of marketers that are very adept of taking advantage of them.”

In the FTC's most recent consumer fraud survey, back in 2011, more consumers fell prey to fraudulent weight-loss products than any other fraud; an estimated 2.15% of consumers, or 5.1 million American adults, bought and used such goods that year. Despite that, companies typically can't pay the full fines demanded by the FTC as they've run out of money at that point. A tally by BuzzFeed News found that those accused of making fraudulent weight-loss claims paid less than $ 100 million in consumer refunds and penalties this year.

“Even in the best cases, it doesn't compare to the amount of money that consumers actually lose on the products,” Cleland said. “The companies have generally spent the money either on advertising or laundered the money to their own bank accounts or something, so there's usually very little money left over for consumers. That suggests that consumer education is probably a more effective tool at protecting consumers than law enforcement.”

Cleland notes that consumers should remember “there is no miracle out there.” Below, nine scams that the FTC ruled on this year.


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BuzzFeed – Business

A Highly Scientific And Sobering Study Of My Year On Twitter

This year on Twitter was more exhausting than the last, so I decided to take a hard look at my 2014 tweets, using cold, unyielding data to find out why.

Charlie Warzel/BuzzFeed

Almost one year ago I nuked my Twitter feed and unfollowed everyone. I'd spent six years obsessively following people, but it had become too much, even when it was slow. I used it as a chance to rebuild my feed deliberately from the ground up. I vowed that this time I would seriously begin taking into account things like gender and racial diversity, rather than seemingly following lots of people at random. It was a chance to understand what, if anything, I get out of this service to which I'm tethered for the better part of my workdays.

But did it work? I'm not entirely sure. I silenced a lot of noise and resolved to be better, but Twitter in 2014 for me was more exhausting than the year before it, with all the attendant outrage, micro-memes, and harassment that can make a day feel like a year and crush the most earnest of resolutions. I started wondering during the year: Was I holding up my end of the bargain? Was I just one part of or perhaps THE problem I had tried so hard to escape? I decided to take a deeper look at my year on Twitter and, using cold, unyielding data as my guide, see whether or not I actually turned a over a new leaf in 2014.

To do so, I enlisted the help of ThinkUp, a social media analytics service that tries to help users make sense out of their sprawling tweets and Facebook updates. I was hoping that by asking ThinkUp to analyze my feed and address specific questions, I could get some sense of just how the year went.

Part of what can make Twitter so tiring (and on occasion, kind of fun!) are the repetitive tropes and memes in which many heavy users and journalists (myself so very, very included here) get caught up. Back in October, The Toast's Mallory Ortberg rounded up a glossary of many of these overused phrases; just last week New York's Jessica Roy put together her own glossary of Twitter's most repeated “words, phrases, and inside jokes,” all of which were run through ThinkUp to see just how much I'm adding to the Twitter's migraine-inducing echo chamber. So here goes… In 2014:

I never tweeted the terms/phrases: “#tcot,” “ban men,” “is everything,” “wrote a thing,” or “#tbt.” Nor did I tweet any version of “can u not”, “not all men”/notallmen, the shruggie ¯_(ツ)_/¯ or “thirsty.” And none of my True Detective tweets were jokes about Season 2.

• My only actual use of “shade” was here.

• My only use of #shotsfired was ironic:

• My only use of “can't even” was valid and accurate and not in the twitter language context.

• I feel pretty OK about my use of “it's about ethics in…”

• My only use of “essential reading” was critique.

I DID, however (god help me):

• Tweet 40 times about something being “garbage.”

• Have 72 tweets that included an all caps “THIS.” And 18 that had some variation of “HERO.”

• Tweet some version of “if true” 16 times (as in, “whoa, if true” or “big if true”).

• Tweet 12 jokey “NSFW”s to things that were, decidedly, NOT NSFW.

• Tweet some version of the mansplain-y” “actually” 95 times this year, making me an official monster of a human being and a disgrace to my family name.

ACTUALLY, though, my only tweet that actually begins with “actually” is this:

(My replies to others, however, have a GOOD bit of “actually…” going on. I'm so sorry to the legions of adults, faculty, and concerned citizens who tried to teach me manners as a child.)

• I tweeted once about “personal news.”

• I had 56 “dangs” in 2014, as well as all kinds of folksy variations of the word, including “daaaaaaaaaaaanng” and “dangggg” and, well, you get it.

• I had only nine “hot takes,” which is sadly far fewer than the number of actual hot takes that I produced.

• I'm disappointed that I had only 31 instances of “never tweet,” which I plan to get tattooed on my person in 2015.


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BuzzFeed – Tech