Morning Brew - ☕ Venturing forth

Retailers are becoming venture capitalists.
November 15, 2022

Retail Brew

Good morning. Mid-November might not seem like Birkenstock season, but that didn’t stop a mystery buyer from paying over $200,000 for a pair of Steve Jobs’s classic suede sandals—reportedly the highest price ever paid at auction for a pair of sandals.

In today’s edition:

—Erin Cabrey, Katishi Maake


Something ventured

hand holding cash illustration Francis Scialabba

Retailers have been zipping up their Patagonia vests lately to assume the role of venture capitalists. This year, Ulta, Home Depot, Chipotle, and most recently Dick’s Sporting Goods have all introduced their own VC funds to invest in early-stage companies. We had a few questions about these funds, like why they’re so popular (hint: $$ and missed opportunities are part of it) and how long this trend will last, so read on to learn more about the retail venture wave.

Who are they investing in? Earlier this month, Dick’s Sporting Goods debuted DSG Ventures, a $50 million investment fund focused on brands that “serve athletes and their communities,” according to the company.

Ulta Beauty introduced its own VC fund, Prisma Ventures, in August. The $20 million fund is centered around digital innovation—like data-driven tech and AR, VR, and the metaverse—for seed-stage or series A tech companies.

Home Depot in May announced Home Depot Ventures, allocating $150 million with the aim “to find and scale the next big ideas in technology and retail,” EVP and CFO Richard McPhail said in a statement.

And in April, Chipotle rolled out a $50 million VC fund, Cultivate Next, which supports seed to series B companies in “emerging innovation,” according to a release announcing the fund. Its first two investments announced in May were automated food-service platform Hyphen and alt-meat company Meati Foods.

Why are retailers doing this? They’re mainly pushing for growth, according to Simeon Siegel, managing director and senior retail and ecommerce analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

Why now? As the capital market tightens and interest rates rise, startups need $$, and retailers are feeling the pressure to diversify their sources of revenue as the retail landscape evolves, Kassi Socha, director analyst at Gartner, said.

Keep reading here.—EC



Going digital: the future of corporate finance

The Crew

CFOs and corporate finance teams have countless factors to consider regarding digital finance transformation and recent financial forecasting. That’s why CFO Brew assembled a guide to help corporate finance pros prepare for the future of finance.

Check out this insightful guide to learn more about how to use technology to identify financial trends, the benefits of pairing automation with an optimal ERP platform, and how to empower your workforce to adapt to trends and changes.


Take care

Outline of US map with skincare products Francis Scialabba

Men can be beautiful too. It’s a sentiment that brands are latching onto as the men’s personal care market expands its product variety and into new channels to reach a customer base that hasn’t historically been catered to in the category.

The market, which was valued at $124.8 billion in 2020, is expected to reach $276.9 billion, according to a report from Allied Market Research, which identified concerns regarding health, body image, self-grooming, and hygiene as some of the motivating factors.

“Guys don’t necessarily talk about personal care in a way, generally speaking…that women do and, so there’s an element of having to really find ways of connecting with them that are unique,” Josh Friedman, chief marketing officer at personal care brand Dr. Squatch, told Retail Brew.

Last week, Dr. Squatch released its new line of natural hand and body lotions. The company, founded in 2013, started as an online direct-to-consumer brand that sold natural bar soaps, but it has since moved into deodorant and hair care.

  • Dr. Squatch’s marketing strategy focuses on educating consumers on the benefits of using natural personal care products, but with a comedic edge. The brand’s Instagram page has more than 670,000 followers.

Grooming brand Manscaped is also making hay in the men’s personal care space. Last week, the company announced it completed an undisclosed Series B funding round that will be used to fuel product expansion.

  • Since its Series A round in 2020, Manscaped has expanded its retail footprint into Walgreens, Woolworths in Australia, and Tesco in Ireland. In that same time, the company’s revenue has grown from $65 million to $300 million, according to a company release.

Keep reading here.—KM




Have a fulfilling holiday. The trick to sleighing the holidays when it comes to e-commerce? Optimizing end-to-end fulfillment operations ASAP. Shippo’s How to Prep for Peak Season Shipping guide can help you build a perfect carrier strategy for the busiest time of year. Read it here.


Today’s top retail reads.

Social butterfly: Holiday shopping may look a little different this year—60% of Gen Z and 56% of millennials are planning to do at least some of their shopping on social media apps like TikTok and Instagram. And even those who don’t purchase directly from the platforms are turning to social media for gift-giving inspiration. (the Washington Post)

More tech cuts: Inside Amazon’s reported upcoming layoffs, which will impact its retail division among others, and come just ahead of the busy holiday season. (the New York Times)

Map of luxury: The luxury industry, while not entirely “recession-proof,” is better prepared to weather a potential economic downturn, and is projected to grow by up to 8% next year. That’s in part because the top 2% of spenders (the ultra-wealthy) account for 40% of sales in the sector. (Financial Times)

Holly jolly data: Feeling uncertain about what to expect from consumers right now? Learn how to leverage data analytics to inform strategic business decisions this season—and all year long. Register for the webinar.*

Ruff year? At Retail Brew’s The SKU, Bolt’s vice president of Customer Experience sat down with PuppySpot’s chief information officer to discuss e-commerce elevation and what retailers need on their radar for 2023. Read all about it here.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.


The SKU 2022 on demand

The SKU  on demand

Retail Brew joined forces with some of the best minds in the industry to put on a premier one-day event covering all the hot topics and challenges that are top of mind for retailers in 2022.

Featured speakers like Kat Cole of Athletic Greens, John Aylward of JCPenney, and many more shared their insights, challenges, and predictions that are sure to influence the future of commerce.

If you missed out, not to worry. We’ve made a recording of the event available on demand so that our Retail Brew subscribers can catch up on the action. Check it out to get a replay of the most action-packed retail event of the year.

Download here


  • Amazon is expected to lay off more than 10,000 employees from its retail and human-resources arms.
  • Oatly is reportedly planning job cuts as well, after cutting its annual revenue forecasts citing production issues.
  • Walmart reported better-than-expected sales in Q3, and announced it would buy back $20 billion in shares.
  • Home Depot declined to revise its annual forecasts heading into the holiday season, despite a cooling housing market.
  • Nike launched the beta version of .Swoosh, a Web3 marketplace for collecting and trading virtual products like jerseys and shoes.


What happened in the world of retail this week in…1849 and beyond? Retail Brew takes you way, way, way back.

  • On November 15, 1849, Boston hosted the first poultry show in the country, drawing 10,000 visitors.
  • On November 15, 2001, the first generation Xbox was released in North America.
  • On November 17, 1869, the Suez Canal officially opened for trade, greatly reducing the distance ships needed to travel between India and Britain.
  • On November 19, 2009, Kellogg’s announced a shortage of Eggo Waffles (gasp!) due to production disruptions caused by weather and facility repairs.


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Written by Erin Cabrey and Katishi Maake

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