♥ Ann Taylor Parent Considers Sale of Lane Bryant, Catherines (Bloomberg): Ascena has held discussions about divesting Catherines and Lane Bryant … A sale would mean a significant cut in Ascena’s empire, which now totals about 3,500 stores, and would reverse an acquisition spree that culminated with the 2015 purchase of Ann Taylor and its Loft chain. Lane Bryant operated 731 stores at the end of its third fiscal quarter, and Catherines had 332 … Ascena posted losses totaling about $300 million in the first three quarters of its fiscal year, and it hasn’t turned a full-year profit since fiscal 2014. It owes creditors about $1.35 billion.
♥ The World Has a Diamond Glut. Why Is That a Problem? (The New York Times): “The top diamond miners in the world, including the two largest, Alrosa and De Beers, have an inventory problem. So do many of the cutters and polishers who buy the rough stones and sell them to retailers. At every stage of the supply chain there are too many of these precious gemstones, whose marketing has long depended on their rarity. A glut in many other industries would ordinarily lead to deep price cuts. But consumers are buying stones that have passed through many layers of middlemen … This has kept retail prices relatively constant, fueled by robust demand from shoppers all over the world … More significant, a growing glut of rough diamonds, coupled with foreign exchange volatility, trade wars and rocky stock markets, has upended the industry. Prices for rough diamonds have declined about 6 percent this year, while polished stones are about 1 percent lower.”
♥ The Race to Zero Commissions (The Wall Street Journal): “With the price of trading suddenly zero at the biggest publicly traded online brokerage, rivals TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. and E*Trade Financial Corp. swiftly matched Schwab’s move. Investors punished the companies, wiping out $16.4 billion in aggregate market value this week. For an industry that set out to disrupt the old-school brokerage business of charging fat commissions, the move to zero commissions seemed all but inevitable. While commission-free trading is a victory for firms aimed at opening up investing to the masses, it could also make online brokerages victims of their own success. Now, they must find fresh ways to make money at a time when a darkening economic outlook weighs on remaining revenue streams … Declining revenues could also set off further consolidation of e-brokers, which were already cutting costs and laying off employees even before the abrupt move to zero commissions.”
♥ The Secret Shame of Wearing Brandy Melville (The Cut): “Brandy Melville, which was founded in Italy in the early ’80s, opened its first U.S. location in Westwood in 2009. It was an immediate hit with teens across the country … The brand’s product-research team is (quite brilliantly) made up exclusively of Malibu-based teenage girls, the prices are low, and the aesthetic is aspirational but with an emphasis on teen authenticity … In the ten or so years since the first store opened, Brandy Melville has continued to thrive … despite near-constant reports about unethical practices … Still, despite the fact that the brand is shamelessly politically incorrect, apparently obsessed with objectivism, and decorates its stores with signs that read things like ‘Dat Shit Cray,’ its cult of discerning adult fans continues to grow … it’s cute, nostalgic, and cheap … But for those who are aware of the brand’s bad politics and business practices, wearing it is complicated: It’s an in-joke that’s not really a joke, because you’re still giving them money. Talking about it in public, or on social media, is a way of easing the discomfort of shopping there.”
♥ Rent the Runway Offers Cash and Apologies to Angry Customers (The Business of Fashion): “Rent the Runway will temporarily stop accepting new subscribers and is issuing payments to some customers as the fashion rental platform scrambles to fix its snarled supply chain … Rent the Runway’s head of supply chain is stepping down … Rent the Runway tweeted that the company was doing an update to its system, which was why users were experiencing delays.”
♥ A Gucci Name Comes with Baggage (The New York Times): “Patricia Gucci — granddaughter of Gucci’s founder, Guccio Gucci … [launched a] new high-end luggage label, Aviteur … Despite having no formal design training … The shell shape of her carry-on bag is modeled after the back of a London double-decker bus … while the woven leather paneling nods to a bygone era … The case comes in three colors: black, tan and gray. It is made in Italy, and it is aimed at the 1 percent of the 1 percent: the bags, which go on sale this week and take around eight weeks to make, retail at 4,250 euros, or $4,650, on the Aviteur website or third party e-tailers like Moda Operandi.”
♥ Where Are All the Women in Private Equity? (Bloomberg): “… women fill only 8% of senior investment roles globally at the 10 largest firms that use debt to buy companies. Only one or two women are present in top positions on the buyout investment teams of most firms, which are generally made up of dozens of executives … The explosive growth of the asset class has been fueled in part by big checks from large public pension plans, some of which have been vocal about social responsibility. More are questioning managers on their diversity numbers, but few have used their checkbooks to force change … Especially scarce are women running or co-managing buyout businesses—the historic heart of private equity and the source of some of the biggest profits. Their number can be counted on one hand.”
♥ Gutting the IRS (ProPublica): “ProPublica reported the disproportionate audit focus on lower-income families in April … the IRS said … auditing poor taxpayers is a lot easier: The agency uses relatively low-level employees to audit returns for low-income taxpayers who claim the earned income tax credit. The audits — of which there were about 380,000 last year, accounting for 39% of the total the IRS conducted — are done by mail and don’t take too much staff time … auditing the rich is hard. It takes senior auditors hours upon hours to complete an exam.”
♥ The Pleasures of Eating Alone (The Wall Street Journal): “Household challenges, like different schedules, account for the biggest reason people eat alone. But nearly one-third of people say they eat alone for personal pleasure, particularly millennial consumers … Further eroding group dining: smaller, more frequent meals; the increasing acceptance of eating in the car or at a desk; the companionship of a smartphone and even the thrill of a moment’s solitude … At home, Americans ate 45% of all meals alone in the 12-month period ended in February, up from 42% in 2013 … Single diners eating at restaurants comprised 23% of all party sizes in the 12 months ended in February, up 1 percentage point over the year before.”
♥ Vox Media Acquires New York Magazine, Chronicler of the Highbrow and Lowbrow (The New York Times): “Vox Media agreed to acquire New York Media … in an all-stock transaction. Neither company would disclose the value of the deal … While consolidations in the media industry typically mean cutting costs at the expense of quality journalism, Vox and New York said their combination was something different. They are bringing together a … modern media company … New York Media is the home of the websites The Cut … Grub Street … Intelligencer … The Strategist … and Vulture … and was losing as much as $10 million a year before a recent upturn … Jim Bankoff, the Vox Media chief executive and chairman, pledged that the merger would not result in editorial layoffs or the folding of any of the New York-related publications.”
♥ The Often Perilous, Sometimes Lucrative, and Ever-Evolving Business of Being a YouTube Star in 2019 (Vanity Fair): “As YouTube has gotten bigger, the broader and less high-minded appetites of the public have elbowed out the softer, gentler content of old … This new class of creators has infected YouTube with a witless braggadocio that has, on occasion, given way to real offense … While a lot of YouTube content is fun and eminently consumable, a lot of it is flimsy—at best. Sifting through all the pranks and rambling ‘story times,’ the boyfriend challenges … and the endless stream of person-tries-food videos, YouTube looks pretty weak next to the output of most traditional media. The laziness of many of YouTube’s biggest stars makes a viewer feel frustrated and helpless about the future of entertainment … the utility of YouTube can be boiled down to what it’s able to sell.”
♥ Four Years in Startups (The New Yorker): “There was a running joke that the tech industry was simply reinventing commodities and services that had long existed … Scale bred homogeneity. Half the knowledge workers I encountered had the same thin cashmere sweaters I did, and the same lightweight eyeglasses. Some of us had the same skin tints, from the same foundation. We complained of the same back problems, induced by the same memory-foam mattresses. In apartments decorated with the same furniture and painted the same shades of security-deposit white, we placed the same ceramic planters, creating photogenic vignettes with the same low-maintenance plants.”
♥ Forever 21 Bankruptcy Signals a Shift in Consumer Tastes (The New York Times): The private, family-held company capped months of speculation about its restructuring efforts by saying that it would cease operations in 40 countries, including Canada and Japan, as part of a Chapter 11 filing … Forever 21 said that it would continue to operate its website and hundreds of stores in the United States, where it is a major tenant for mall owners, as well as stores in Mexico and Latin America … Forever 21, which said e-commerce made up 16 percent of its sales, saw its revenue drop to $3.3 billion last year, down from $4.4 billion in 2016. It expects the restructured company to bring in $2.5 billion in annual sales. The company employs about 32,800 people, down from 43,000 in 2016.
♥ Why Is Mariah Carey Back on the Charts? Blame TikTok (The Wall Street Journal): “TikTok, the social video app that has boomed with younger generations since its launch just over a year ago, has become a force in the music industry, despite limiting songs to 15 seconds. So popular is the app that it has pulled along old songs, obscure songs and others lost to time.”
♥ So You Crashed a $3 Million Bugatti. Now What? (Bloomberg): “People who own supercars tend to have all the money in the world, but getting the cars fixed after a serious accident is a thorny procedure even for them. A small handful of technicians tend to be authorized to work on these outrageously complex and sensitive vehicles. If an unqualified monkey wrench tinkers with a supercar, a brand will be reluctant to take on further responsibility fixing it up … Brands are notoriously squeamish about divulging just how much repairs cost for something so rare and powerful, and the owner might not even report it to the insurance company.”
♥ ‘We Need Each Other’: Seniors Are Drawn to New Housing Arrangements (The New York Times): “… a home-sharing program operated by the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens … pairs people who have extra living space — but want company, help with chores, extra income or all three — with those desperate for affordable housing … As a graying population confronts the limited options for senior housing, seeking ways to maintain independence without the isolation that can accompany so-called aging in place, various grassroots alternatives are gaining footholds … Shared housing, cohousing and village organizations appeal to those hoping to avoid the high costs and institutional nature of assisted-living and nursing homes, or at least stave them off for as long as possible.”
♥ Recently purchased: Banana Republic Paperbag-Waist Skirt, Ann Taylor The Belted Wide Leg Marina Pant In Flannel, Ann Taylor Chevron Button Front Cape, Kurt Geiger London Large Kensington Tweed Shoulder Bag, Uniqlo Pile-Lined Sweatpant, and Free People Easy Street Colorblock Sweater.
Have a great week, everyone!