- Fashion Nova sparked outrage after it sent customers an alert encouraging them to spend their stimulus checks on its site.
- The move came a day before new data showed that an unprecedented 22 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the last month.
- However, the attempt to bring in sales might not be surprising considering the fact that retail sales in the U.S. dropped by 8.7% in March, with clothing stores specifically seeing a 50.5% drop.
- While Americans can choose to spend their stimulus checks however they please, early data shows that most are using it on basics like food and gas.
Fast-fashion retailer Fashion Nova was slammed by Twitter users Wednesday after sending email and text alerts that encouraged people to spend their government-issued stimulus checks on its latest sale.
Many of the company’s loyal customers who have signed up for notifications received an alert that reads: “When That Stimulus Deposit Hits…Save Up To 80% OFF SITEWIDE. Use Code: STAYIN80. Shop ASAP.”
That message left several customers stunned, with many taking to Twitter to remind the brand that they have bills and other more important things to buy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some also took issue with Fashion Nova using the code ‘stay in,’ saying it felt like the company was mocking a situation in which people have died.
For many, the alert seemed pretty surprising since Fashion Nova is one of many retailers that has show support to those financially suffering. Earlier this month the brand teamed up with Cardi B to donated $1,000 every hour until May 20, for a total of $1 million.
At the time, founder and CEO Richard Saghian said in a press release, “We all feel compassion and concern for those affected by the coronavirus.”
“Fashion Nova Cares with Cardi B will provide people with necessary relief to help them get through this crisis. As a community-driven brand, we are inspired by the kindness and generosity of others and we wanted to do our part to help those in need.”
US Retail Sales Drop by Record 8.7% in March
However, Fashion Nova’s new marketing strategy might not actually be too surprising considering the fact that so many retail stores across the country are struggling.
The Commerce Department released new data Wednesday showing that U.S. retail sales have plunged by 8.7% between February and March. That’s the biggest monthly decline since the government started tracking in 1992, according to CNBC.
A more specific breakdown of the data showed that some retail sectors actually saw a surge, such as grocery stores, online retailers like Amazon, pharmacies, and places that sell essential items.
Meanwhile, clothing and accessory retailers took the hardest hit, dropping in sales by 50.5%. Others that saw major drops include furniture stores, motor vehicle and parts dealers, gas stations, and electronics stores.
22 Million File for Unemployment
Strict stay at home measures across the country have of course played a huge role in the sales decline since so many businesses have been forced to close their doors. But on top of that, consumers have generally pulled back on unnecessary spending during a time of unprecedented layoffs.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that 5.2 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week. That means that in just one month, over 22 million workers have filed for unemployment.
As far as weeks go, the new data shows a slight decline compared to the 6.6 million claims filed last week and the 6.9 million filed the week before. Still, even if the peak of layoffs is behind us, the country is still in uncharted waters with these incredibly high numbers.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, the highest number of new unemployment claims in a week was about 700,000 back in 1982. The largest number of people asking for unemployment benefits over a four-week stretch was 2.7 million that same year.
And according to The Washington Post, job losses in the past month have erased nearly all of the 22.8 million jobs gained from February 2010 to February 2020 during the rebound from the Great Recession.
Economists have noted that claims are surging, at least in part, because more people like gig economy workers and independent contractors are covered for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.
But at the same time, economists say the numbers could be even higher than they look on the surface. That’s because state labor departments have become totally overwhelmed by the volume of claims and some people have reported being unable to get help over the phone or online.
What Are People Spending Stimulus Checks On?
So given those unemployment figures, it clear why so many people were frustrated by Fashion Nova’s alert during this sensitive time for millions of people.
But at the same time, the strategy might have actually brought the brand in some much-needed business. In fact, some internet users signaled that the deals may have been too good for them to pass up.
Whatever people choose to spend their stimulus checks on is their choice, but of course because of tough circumstances, many are wisely choosing to use it on essentials. Early evidence indicates that many Americans are using the money to buy the basics, including food and gas.
Netspend, which processed nearly $1 billion in relief payments by Monday, said its customers are using the government money “for groceries, fast food, pharmacies and gas, as well as withdrawing cash from ATMs.” It also said that more than half of the transactions were PIN-based at ATMs or grocery stores, and about a quarter were done online.
Meanwhile, data compiled by the digital banking service Current found that members who received stimulus payments over the past five days spent 16% of the money on food including takeout and delivery. An additional 14% went to money transfers, 10% went toward gas, 9% was spent on groceries.
Of course, these are all early reports, but for those who have managed to get their hands on their stimulus checks, the money has already provided some desperately needed relief.
See what others are saying: (CNBC) (InStyle) (Business Insider)
Hundreds of Businesses and Celebrities Join Growing Fight Against Restrictive Voting Efforts
- In a letter published Wednesday, hundreds of major companies, law firms, corporate leaders, and celebrities banded together “to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”
- The list of signatories includes companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon; celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, and Samuel L. Jackson; and billionaire investor Warren Buffet, among others.
- Though the letter does not address any specific voting legislation, it was organized by Kenneth Chenault and Kenneth Fraizer, who also organized a letter late last month in which more than 70 Black executives urged companies to take a stand against GOP-led restrictive voting proposals being floated in dozens of states.
Hundreds of Companies Oppose Restrictive Voting
The number of companies speaking out against a series of GOP-led voting proposals is growing, despite calls from notable Republicans for boycotts against companies doing so.
In a letter published Wednesday morning, hundreds of major companies, law firms, corporate leaders, and celebrities united behind what journalist David Gelles described as “the biggest show of solidarity to date.”
The letter itself doesn’t specifically call out Republican voting efforts. Instead, the statement reads, “We stand for democracy,” with the signatories also vowing “to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”
Still, the letter comes in the middle of an ongoing battle between corporate America and the GOP, which is backing dozens of state proposals that many have condemned as restrictive and discriminatory against poorer individuals and people of color.
The slew of companies that signed Wednesday’s letter includes Target, Netflix, Bank of America, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Mastercard, American Airlines, United Airlines, and others.
The letter also boasts star-power from celebrities like Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Gwyneth Paltrow, George Clooney, and Samuel L. Jackson, among others. Notably, billionaire investor Warren Buffet also added his name to this list.
Companies Debate Taking Action Against States That Pass Restrictive Voting Measures
Wednesday’s letter was organized by Kenneth Chenault and Kenneth Frazier, who late last month also organized a similar letter from a group of more than 70 Black executives. That message, which urged companies to speak out against the GOP-led proposals, has largely been credited with helping to catalyze the fight between the GOP and corporate America.
This past weekend, the two also partially led a Zoom call that featured over 120 CEOs and business leaders.
During that call, participating executives considered a number of possible steps, including pulling donations to politicians who support restrictive voting measures, refusing to move business or jobs to states that pass such laws, and even relocating events; however, no hard plans were actually set into motion.
Still, some groups have already gone forward with various forms of protests against such laws. Last week, Major League Baseball announced it was moving its All-Star game out of Georgia, which recently passed a series of restrictive voting measures. On Monday, actor Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua also announced that they no longer plan to film their runaway slave thriller “Emancipation” in the state.
Some Companies Didn’t Speak Out in Wednesday’s Letter
Both federal and state Republicans have been very vocal as businesses have continued to lob criticism at their proposed laws.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned businesses to “stay out of politics,” though he later walked back that statement.
Two weeks ago, the Georgia state House voted to strip Delta Airlines of its tax breaks after the company spoke out against the state’s new voting laws. In fact, that reprimand might explain why it and other Georgia-based companies like Coca-Cola were absent from Wednesday’s letter.
According to The New York Times, people involved in the process of organizing this letter said those companies feared more blowback and also did not feel the need to speak up again.
Connected to that, The Times reported that some companies originally tried to have the line of “oppos[ing] any discriminatory legislation” removed, but they later signed anyway after Chenault and Frazier insisted the line was crucial.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Nike To Clean and Resell Used Sneakers at a Discounted Price
- At least 15 Nike retail locations in the U.S. are participating in a new program the company calls “Nike Refurbish,” which is aimed at reducing waste.
- As part of it, Nike will restore shoes with manufacturing flaws, as well as donated or returned shoes, and resell them at a discounted price.
- Shoes at the end of their wear will be recycled into Nike Grind materials that are used to construct running tracks, gym floors, playgrounds, other Nike products, and more.
Nike announced a new program on Monday called “Nike Refurbish” that will help boost sustainability and reduce waste.
As part of the program, the brand will take donated and returned shoes that are like new or gently used, as well as shoes with cosmetic manufacturing flaws, then clean and restore them to resell at a discounted price. Returned shoes must have been brought back within Nike’s 60-day return period in order for them to be resold.
All the refurbished shoes will have labeling on the box with information about their condition grade. Plus, they are also covered under Nike’s 60-day return policy.
Nike’s Recycling Efforts
Nike didn’t say what it previously did with returned sneakers in its announcement, but the new plan is part of its wider attempts to recycle materials.
On its website, it markets the initiative as a way for customers to “help keep shoes out of landfills.” and join Nike’s efforts towards, “Zero carbon and zero waste to help protect the future of sport.”
Shoes that are truly at the end of their wear will be recycled into Nike Grind materials that are then used for tons of other projects, including running tracks, gym floors, playgrounds, outdoor courts, as well as other Nike apparel and footwear.
So far, 15 Nike retail locations across the U.S. are confirmed to be participating in this model, but there are plans in place to expand this list over the course of 2021.
See what others are saying: (FOX Business) (Footwear News) (Miami Herald)
Uber Sees Record Ride Demand But Doesn’t Have Enough Drivers Available
- Demand for Ubers outpaced driver availability in March, according to a Monday statement from Uber.
- On top of seeing its best-performing month since the beginning of pandemic closures, the company also received more bookings last month than any other month in its entire history.
- In an attempt to attract more drivers, Uber announced a $250 million, one-time stimulus payment last week to “boost” driver earnings.
- While Uber said it believes it will turn a profit for 2021, the company could be set back more than $500 million because of a U.K. Supreme Court ruling that gives the country’s drivers minimum wage, holiday pay, and pension.
Uber Posts Record-Setting Growth
Uber announced Monday that its ride requests for the month of March were the highest it has ever recorded in its 12-year history.
According to a filing with the SEC, last month, the company crossed “a $30 billion annualized Gross Bookings run-rate.” Alongside that, average daily Gross Bookings grew 9% from the previous month.
Notably, this also marked the company’s best month since March of last year, when pandemic closures began in the U.S.
On top of that, Uber said its delivery business crossed “a $52 billion annualized Gross Bookings run-rate in March, growing more than 150% year-over-year.”
In fact, that demand over the past month was so high that Uber didn’t have enough drivers to meet it.
“As vaccination rates increase in the United States, we are observing that consumer demand for Mobility is recovering faster than driver availability, and consumer demand for Delivery continues to exceed courier availability,” the company said.
$250 Million Driver Stimulus
Monday’s filing is in line with another announcement from Uber, which said last week that it is opening up a $250 million driver stimulus to “boost” earnings for drivers.
“In 2021, there are more riders requesting trips than there are drivers available to give them—making it a great time to be a driver,” the company said at the time. “We want drivers to take advantage of higher earnings now because this is likely a temporary situation.”
“As the recovery continues, we expect more drivers will be hitting the road, which means that over time earnings will come back to pre-Covid levels.”
Can Uber Become Profitable?
In February, Uber reported $6.8 billion in losses for 2020, and for years, many have questioned if its business model is even profitable at all; however, in this latest filing, Uber said it believes it’ll become profitable by the end of 2021.
That said, last month, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom handed drivers a major win by ruling that they need to be reclassified as “workers,” guaranteeing them minimum wage, holiday pay, and pension.
While big news, the U.K. classifies “workers” and “employees” separately. As a result, U.K. drivers still aren’t granted full benefits.
The decision will also likely be a setback for Uber, as Bank of America has estimated that it could cost the company more than $500 million.
Uber’s Vaccine Access Fund
In other Uber news, the company — along with PayPal and Walgreens — has launched a “Vaccine Access Fund.”
Through that fund, customers can donate money that will be used to help people who normally lack transportation get to their vaccination appointment.
Notably, all three companies have said they’ll donate a joint $11 million.
That’s on top of the $5 million PayPal previously donated, as well as the 10 million free and discounted rides Uber promised to give in December.
Uber users are able to donate in-app, and PayPal has launched a donation page on its website.