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Inside Retail (Aug 6th, 2019)

1. Whole Foods Market is expanding its party planning assortment and will be carrying elevated party supplies in a new section called Packed Party Shop starting this month. Amazon's grocery store partnered with six-year-old Austin-based party planning start-up Packed Party to add disposable dining sets, drinkware, and decorations to capture shoppers who would otherwise head to Target or the struggling Party City to complete their party planning lists. Packed Party's product lines include confetti-stuffed wine totes, sorority-friendly Greek letter stickers, and rainbow zig zag printed drink tumblers. - FAST COMPANY

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2. MIT is developing AI software that builds on 3D-printing tech so anyone can knit their own clothes, even people who have never knit or designed patterns before. The scientist leading the team at MIT, Alexandre Kaspar, explained there are two developments his team is working on. First is InverseKnit, a system that reverse engineers pattern pieces from photos. The second is software called CADKnit that allows users to customize knit pieces based on templates. It differs from DAK, another knitwear CAD program, because it is being developed for people with zero design experience. Kaspar said "3D printing took a while before people were comfortable enough to think they could do something with it." The end user could be everyone from home-knitters who want to use yarn differently to designers looking to reduce waste and improve efficiency with automated patternmaking. - TECH CRUNCH

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3. By The Numbers: Fever, a start-up that uses algorithms to create global pop-up experiences, just raised $35 million in a fundraising round led by the VC firm that backs Japanese e-comm giant Rakuten. Ignacio Bachiller, CEO and cofounder of Fever, said the funding will help Fever become the "go-to platform for consumers looking to discover new urban experiences."

Retail as an industry has been talking about real-life experiences for a while, but check out these hard numbers showing retail's commitment to experiences compiled by Fast Company:

  • U.S. malls used 24.5 percent of their space in 2018 for experiences, up from 19.2 percent in 2012 and 2013.
  • Millennials are 73 percent more likely to shop in person if it has a lifestyle or entertainment space.
  • Target spent $1 billion to "reimagine" 325 stores, Walmart spent $11 billion to update 520 stores, and Tiffany & Co. spent $250 million on its New York flagship.
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4. European food delivery services Just Eat and Takeaway.com agreed on the terms of their $10 billion merger which will form a company that competes against Amazon-backed Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Just Eat Takeaway.com will have headquarters in Amsterdam and trade on both the London and Amsterdam exchanges. Prior to the merger, the companies fulfilled 355 million food delivery orders per year. In U.S. food delivery news, Shake Shack is piloting delivery with Grubhub. - PYMNTS.COM

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5. CVS expanded its membership service CarePass nationwide after the test revealed 20 percent of members were millennials. CarePass offers free delivery like Amazon Prime, but it costs $48 a year or $5 a month. Other features include discounts on private label CVS brand products, a $10 monthly coupon, and a pharmacy hotline. - CNBC

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6. E-comm sock company Sock Shop launched a high-tech vending machine in San Francisco that its founder says delivers "a unique, online-esque experience" in real life. The vending machine offers a specialized assortment using the digitally native vertical brand’s (DNVB) "wealth of digital knowledge."

It's great to see how DNVBs experiment with physical retail, but I'm not making a special trip to a sock vending machine unless it gives me an IRL experience with The Hoff, which would only come from Happy Socks. Hit reply and let me know if you think the Happy Hoff campaign was the best sock news of the summer!

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7. Victoria's Secret hired its first openly transgender modelBrazilian model Valentina Sampaio was hired by the company after its parent company's CMO said it would never have transgender models, whom he called "transsexuals," or plus-size women in the VS show because "the show is a fantasy." He issued an apology, and he is resigning from L Brands. The show is rumored to be canceled. Some Redditors consider hiring Valentina as "a step forward, even if it's for the wrong reason," with another saying, "I don't love them as a company but I think representation matters so much I am still happy to see this. Others used the forum to point out that "Victoria's Secret is hot garbage."

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8. After two in-store shootings in the past week, Walmart is not yet ready to change its gun sales policy. A spokesperson for the retailer said, "There’s been no change in policy," despite pressure from gun control advocates. Walmart raised the minimum age for a gun purchase to 21 after the Parkland, Florida, shooting, and no longer sells assault rifles. It only sells handguns in Alaska, which it believes is appropriate to the market. On Aug. 3, 22 people were killed when a gunman opened fire inside an El Paso, Texas, Walmart. Four days earlier, two people were shot and killed in a Walmart store in Southaven, Mississippi. - CNN

Should Walmart change its gun sales policy after the two recent in-store shootings? Hit reply to let me know your thoughts.

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9. Women's clothing brand Dôen opened its first permanent store at the Brentwood Country Mart in Los Angeles. The four-year-old label is built on themes of female empowerment and authentic romanticism which it storytells through images of breastfeeding women and timeless dresses. It experimented with a pop-up last year to first bring the digitally native brand to life. Co-founder Margaret Kleveland said the permanent store was a response to consumers wanting to try things on and touch product up close, like jeans and shoes. The brand announced the official opening in its Insta and said "This first shop feels like the place where it all finally comes together - a place where our community, our vision, our creations, and our inspirations all meet for the first time." - VOGUE

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10. The Custom Movement is an Etsy for sneaker art where sneakerheads can buy custom shoes from artists who create one-off designs using Nike, Adidas, Vans and Reebok among others for under $1,000. Customers can shop by brand, model, and artist for adults and kids. Designs can be bought for as little as $110 which is way more accessible than the $475,000 Nike's that recently sold at auction. - TECH CRUNCH

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Written and curated by Cassidy Mantor, a brand storyteller with a decade of retail marketing experience including in-house at Nike and Oakley. Occasionally she writes a “think piece” about fashion law for the American Bar Association. She is happy to be based in coastal Virginia except when there’s a hurricane. She can be found on LinkedIn.

Editor: Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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