Morning Brew - ☕ Supply and try again

What ever happened to all those “supply-chain issues”?
March 22, 2023

Retail Brew

Hello, hello. And shout-out to Fruit Roll-Ups, which amid the Fruit Roll-Ups and ice cream trend, just went viral once again by reminding everyone that yes, the clear plastic wrapper around the product does exist, and no, you can’t eat it, even if it’s frozen.

In today’s edition:

—Erin Cabrey, Katishi Maake


Off the chain

Illustration of a chain surrounding a shipping container, box, and truck. Dianna “Mick” McDougall

Do you ever find yourself wondering “Whatever happened to [fill in the blank]?” While many wonder about former child actors, American Idol competitors, or snacks from their childhood, we at Retail Brew have been pondering what happened to all those “supply-chain constraints” that’ve popped up since 2020.

So, we’re giving arguably one of the most overused phrases in earnings calls over the last three years the “Where are they now?” treatment to find out which issues from transportation to commodities are still at work and which have fallen into obscurity eased.

The extra mile: Getting products from A to B has been tricky and expensive over the last few years, and many supply-chain hold-ups for brands and retailers resulted from congestion at ports like the Port of Los Angeles starting in late 2020. Congestion has since eased, peaking at 109 queued ships in January 2022 before dipping to just four in October, the Wall Street Journal reported.

  • Prices are dipping too: Shipping-container prices from Asia to the West Coast of the US dropped from the sky-high cost of $20,000 in 2021 to just $1,028 this week, per the Freightos Baltic Index. When retailers pen long-term contracts with ocean shippers this year, they’re banking on lower rates.

Things are going so well that ports are now dealing with too many empty containers, Lisa Ellram, professor of supply-chain management at Miami University of Ohio, noted. An even bigger issue, she said, is ongoing contract negotiations with the Port of Los Angeles and unions and groups representing port employees and dock workers, which have led many shippers to divert cargo to other ports.

  • Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka said he’s hopeful agreements will come by spring.

Keep reading here.—EC



How to make stories work for your brand

The Crew

From Instagram to TikTok, you can’t get away from 24-hour-only posts. Check out Marketing Brew’s guide on how to get the biggest benefit from your stories.


Pay to play

Klarna credit card machine Francis Scialabba

Although inflation has fallen for eight months in a row, February retail sales still fell on a year over year basis.

Consumers, whose wallets are clearly still being squeezed, are relying on buy now, pay later (BNPL) to purchase everyday items like groceries and home goods, as opposed to using it for discretionary spending. It’s a function of inflation forcing consumers to find ways to circumvent higher prices.

  • In 2022, the share of online purchases using BNPL grew 14% YoY, with revenue from BNPL increasing 27% YoY, according to an Adobe report.
  • “In the first two months of 2023, BNPL order share was up by 10% YoY, though revenue fell by 19% YoY, indicating that consumers are using this payment method for smaller purchases,” Adobe said in the report.

Its usage is also widespread across several categories.

  • In the first two months of 2023, groceries’ share of BNPL orders grew 40% and home furnishings grew by 38%. In contrast, apparel grew by 8%, and electronics fell by 14%.
  • In February 2023, the home furnishings category grew 12.9% YoY, driving $9.4 billion in spending for the month. Groceries grew even more substantially, at 26.7% YoY, driving $8.4 billion in spending. Demand for electronics slowed following a record holiday shopping season, falling 5.4% YoY to $13.6 billion, while apparel fell 0.6% YoY, driving $11.3 billion in February spending.

“What’s interesting is we see [buy now, pay later] really over indexing in the major categories that are seeing the growth…[in] grocery and home and furniture,” Vivek Pandya, lead insights analyst at Adobe, told Retail Brew.

Keep reading here.—KM



Coworking with Keith Nealon

Bazaarvoice CEO Neith Nealon Keith Nealon

On Wednesdays, we wear pink spotlight Retail Brew’s readers. Want to be featured in an upcoming edition? Click here to introduce yourself.

Keith Nealon is CEO of Bazaarvoice, a tech company helping 12,000+ brands and retailers leverage user-generated content.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in retail? My job is to help retail customers supercharge their commerce efforts by harnessing the voice of the consumer at scale. This helps them to build better products, and gets them found in all the places their customers discover and purchase products.

One thing we can’t guess about your job from your LinkedIn profile? Every six months, my leadership team and I make funny videos that are remakes of scenes from famous movies (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby as examples). We use them to make our semi-annual all-hands meetings more entertaining.

What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on? I coach and mentor as part of our leadership development program. I really enjoy working with current and future senior leaders and seeing their impact grow over time.

Which emerging retail trend are you most excited about this year, and why? Internally, the convergence of marketing and commerce teams, and the greater collaboration of both. Externally, the “phygital” customer journey, which is the convergence of online shopping and brick-and-mortar experiences.

What’s your go-to coffee order? Oat milk hazelnut latte.

Worst piece of advice you’ve received? “Invest in Bitcoin,” last January.

What was your favorite retail product when you were 15, and what’s your favorite retail product now? Then, it was the Rubik’s Cube. Now, it’s the iPhone.




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Today’s top retail reads.

Good for the sole: The cyclical ugly-cool shoe trend has been resurrected once again—this time, in the form of orthopedic sneaker brands like Hoka. (The Atlantic)

Falling stars: Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of celebrity-backed brands and are instead opting for brands founded by experts like dermatologists. (Adweek)

Price is right: Telfar’s new dynamic pricing tool is positioning the company as an “anti-luxury brand.” “Many brands use price as a barrier to entry,” Telfar Clemens said. “I never wanted that for my brand.” (Fast Company)

Make it personal : Chewy exited at $3b—and they send handwritten notes to every customer. A personal touch is crucial. Today there’s a better, scalable option. Use Maverick: Record once and send AI-generated, personalized videos to all customers.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.


  • Panera will be the first restaurant to use Amazon One, the online retailer’s palm-reading payment system.
  • GameStop reported its first quarterly profit in two years.
  • Nike’s Q3 results beat estimates driven by sneaker demand.
  • White Claw is entering the spirits category with a new vodka line.
  • Rue21 tapped former GNC CEO Josh Burris as its new CEO.


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Written by Erin Cabrey and Katishi Maake

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