The Weekly Closeout: Ulta adds former Sam's Club COO to board and retailers shift mask policies - The Entrepreneurial Way with A.I.


Friday, February 18, 2022

The Weekly Closeout: Ulta adds former Sam's Club COO to board and retailers shift mask policies


It's been another week with far more retail news than there is time in the day. Below, we break down some things you may have missed during the week, and what we're still thinking about.

From L.L. Bean extending its sizing to Wetzel's Pretzels opening inside of a Macy's store, here's our closeout for the week.

What you may have missed

Ulta names former Sam's Club COO to board

Some new faces are joining Ulta's board of directors. Kelly Garcia, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Domino's Pizza is joining the beauty retailer's board, along with Gisel Ruiz, the former executive vice president and chief operating officer of Sam's Club. Both appointments were effective as of Wednesday, according to a company press release.

Garcia brings experience in global e-commerce, loyalty and innovation, while Ruiz has held a variety of roles in operations and human resources, giving her expertise in cost optimization, real estate, in-store innovation and sustainability. With Garcia and Ruiz joining, Ulta's board will consist of 13 members, 54% of which are women, 31% of which are racially diverse and 38% of which joined within the last five years.

"We are thrilled to welcome Kelly and Gisel to the Ulta Beauty family and are confident their leadership and operational expertise in key, strategic areas will only strengthen our work," Mary Dillon, executive chair at Ulta (and former CEO), said in a statement. "The Ulta Beauty Board of Directors' unique insights and perspectives continue to guide the important work the company does to shape how the world sees and experiences beauty while reflecting the beautifully diverse guests we serve."

Bombas may be eyeing up the public markets

Bombas may be the next digitally native brand to file for an initial public offering. The sock maker is reportedly exploring an IPO as soon as this year, according to Bloomberg, which cited unnamed sources.

If Bombas were to pursue an IPO, it would be in the company of several other DTC brands that have filed to go public this past year, including Allbirds, Warby Parker and Rent the Runway. According to PitchBook data provided to Retail Dive, 40 direct-to-consumer brands filed for IPOs in 2021.

Not only is Bombas an online brand, but it's also mission-driven and sustainably-focused (the brand touts itself as a certified B Corporation), making it a particularly good candidate for the public markets from an investor perspective.

Macy's may be able to keep itself together as Jana Partners cuts stake

The pressure on Macy's to separate its e-commerce operations from its brick and mortar may be easing. Jana Partners, one of the firms behind the push for the department store to make that move in hopes of unlocking value supposedly inherent in its online business, has dumped most of its stake.

The activist investment firm held 760,780 shares in the retailer at the end of December, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, down significantly from the more than 4.6 million shares it had disclosed a few months before.

In October last year, Jana Partners' Scott Ostfeld asserted that Macy's should replicate the e-commerce/brick-and-mortar split that had been recently completed at various HBC retailers, including Saks Fifth Avenue. The firm then reportedly took a stake in the retailer, and began communicating directly with Macy's board.

Jana likely cleaned up in its latest transaction. Macy's stock price shot up once the investor world heard that it was contemplating the maneuver. In fact, the department store has gone so far as to hire the same firm that worked with Saks Fifth Avenue to forge the complex web of contractual agreements necessary when cleaving an omnichannel retailer in two.

L.L. Bean expands sizing for clothes — and gear

In another sign that demand for more inclusive sizing is getting increasingly hard to ignore, iconic outdoor retailer L.L. Bean this week said that, responding to requests from customers, it is now offering women's apparel in sizes XS to 3X and 2 to 26, and men's in sizes S to XXXL in both regular and tall proportions. 

In a statement, Alex Intraversato, L.L.Bean vice president of men's & women's apparel, sporting and hunt-fish, said it's the retailer's "most inclusive clothing assortment ever" and that it will continue to expand over time.

"We heard from our customers that they wanted more from us: more styles, more colors, more prints and patterns and more sizes," Intraversato said in a company blog post. "To give our customers what they want and need, we're increasing the number of styles in all sizes across all categories. At the end of the day, we're excited to provide the comfort, durability and weather protection our customers need to get outside more often."

That includes footwear and, in what could be a major differentiator for the brand, gear like sleeping bags, packs and snowshoes, "with more to come." The inclusive range is available online and through the company's catalogs. For anyone unable to find what they're looking for in stores, associates are "able to help customers place orders," the company said.

Victoria's Secret hires its first model with Down syndrome

Victoria's Secret on Monday announced the launch of Love Cloud, a collection of bras and panties that is centered around comfort.

It also marks the first time the retailer is featuring a model with Down syndrome, which model SofĂ­a Jirau confirmed in an Instagram post regarding the campaign. The Puerto Rican model walked in New York Fashion Week in Feb. 2020 for designer Marisa Santiago, and recently launched a campaign to raise awareness for the Down syndrome community. 

Victoria's Secret is working with a diverse group of models for the Love Cloud campaign to reflect its new "commitment to welcoming and celebrating all women," the company said. 

Hims & Hers continues to build out wholesale network with GNC partnership

Hims & Hers has steadily been growing its physical presence as it adds to its list of wholesale partners. This week, the brand announced it partnered with GNC to sell its products in the retailer's stores and on its website. Hims & Hers hair care offerings, which include the Hers minoxidil 5% topical foam and the Hims Thick Fix shampoo and conditioner, are now available to GNC customers.

Hims & Hers is now available at over 20,000 physical stores across the U.S. through partnerships with more than 12 retailers. The brand has partnered with retailers like Walmart, The Vitamin Shoppe, Urban Outfitters and Walgreens.

"Our mass retail expansion is about building a trusted, nationwide brand for health and wellness products," Melissa Baird, chief operating officer of Hims & Hers, said in a statement. "Our partnership with GNC is a continuation of that strategy and we're excited for consumers to now have even easier access to our products."

Retail Therapy

Like a stylist, but for work

Staples on Thursday introduced its Work From Home Style Squad — a group of creatives led by designer and builder Jasmine Roth — who will advise customers on how to refresh their at-home office space by using the retailer's products and services. 

The pandemic has pushed more people to work from home and companies to consider remote work options. And it looks like that trend may continue, with 76% of workers reporting that their employer is allowing partial remote work going forward, according to a Gallup poll cited by the retailer. 

"With so many of our customers settling into a more long-term work from home situation, Staples is continuously updating our assortment to make sure we carry new, stylish pieces to offer them a total home office solution," Marshall Warkentin, chief marketing and merchandising officer of Staples U.S. Retail, said in a statement. 

Come for the fashion, leave with a pretzel

For everyone that gets hangry walking around the mall for too long, this one goes out to you. Sure, there are food courts in every mall where shoppers can stop to grab a pick-me-up, but what if you've been in Macy's for 45 minutes with no sign of departure from your companion of choice?

Enter: Wetzel's Pretzels, but at Macy's. The fast food chain earlier this month announced it would open a kiosk inside the Macy's South Coast Plaza store in California, calling it the beginning of a "special relationship" between the two companies.

"Food is an important part of our customer experience, and Macy's South Coast Plaza is thrilled to open the very first Wetzel's Pretzels kiosk in our store," Adriana Quince, Macy's South Coast Plaza store manager, said in a statement. "As we evolve to meet our customer's changing needs, we're confident that Wetzel's Pretzels will be a tremendous partner by offering handheld happiness."

Hopefully, customers keep that handheld happiness to themselves and don't deposit it on Macy's merchandise as they browse.

What we're still thinking about

$400 million

That number is not how much Walmart spent on supply chain costs. It is merely how much more Walmart spent on supply chain expenses in the fourth quarter compared to what management expected when the period began. The retail giant chartered ships, routed around ports, raised wages for supply chain workers and more, all so it could stock shelves. 

It paid off for Walmart, with U.S. comparable sales up 5.6% in Q4. Offsetting the costs of shipping goods in a world of backlogs were Walmart's advertising business, which hit $2.1 billion in 2021, and billions more in membership income.  


That's the number of Sephora shop-in-shops that Kohl's will open this year. California will receive the most new stores, with 46 shop-in-shops planned, followed by Ohio (30), Texas (26) and Illinois (26).

The partnership, which was first announced in December 2020, is on track for a total number of 850 by 2023. Sephora at Kohl's is a 2,500-square-foot "immersive beauty experience" that is similar to a freestanding Sephora and features a curated assortment of prestige makeup, skincare, hair and fragrance brands. 

"The quick and vast rollout of Sephora at Kohl's is a testament to how much we believe in this partnership and making prestige beauty more accessible to people everywhere,"  Doug Howe, Kohl's chief merchandising officer, said in a statement. "We're excited to grow and bring this elevated beauty experience to more of Kohl's existing and new customers this year."

What we're watching

Retailers unmask

With COVID-19 cases on the downswing, Walmart and Amazon both nixed their masking requirements for vaccinated employees where allowed by local regulations. 

As a third year of the pandemic unfolds, retailers are operating in a complicated patchwork of federal, state and local rules, not to mention the fraught politics around pandemic mitigation policies. As always with the pandemic, nothing is sure but uncertainty. It's worth noting Walmart previously dropped its employee mask mandate since the COVID-19 crisis began. With the delta variant's arrival last summer, the retailer asked its workers to mask back up.


Retail Dive Staff, Khareem Sudlow