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Retail brands that won over soldiers serving abroad.
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May 24, 2024

Retail Brew

T-Mobile for Business

It’s the Friday before Memorial Day, which means you only have to look busy for a little while longer before you can peel off for the long weekend. If you put on some Ray-Ban Aviator glasses for your fun in the sun, note that they, like the other retail products in our story below, were popularized during World War II, following a request from the US military to Bausch & Lomb that they develop protective eyewear for pilots against damaging high-altitude sunlight.

In today’s edition:

—Andrew Adam Newman, Jeena Sharma

MARKETING

Battle-ready

A WWII era base camp with a sign calling it Spamville. A WWII era base camp with a sign calling it Spamville. Hormel

As we recognize soldiers this Memorial Day, here are some products that sustained many who served overseas, and which were staples in stores and homes after those soldiers returned home.

Hershey bars

The Hershey Company, which produced its first chocolate bar in 1900, received a special request in 1937 from the US Army to create the “D-Ration bar.” Far from the deliciousness of a typical chocolate bar, the request from the Army was that it “taste a little better than a boiled potato” so that soldiers didn’t wolf it down too quickly. The Army also asked that the bar withstand high heat without melting, weigh only 4 ounces, and provide an energy boost, according to an account from History.com.

The company introduced a better-tasting chocolate bar in 1943 exclusively for the armed forces, the Tropical Bar, which in the words of a Hershey pamphlet at the time, was a response “to the requests of our boys for the kind of chocolate they knew at home.”

By the end of World War II in 1945, Hershey had manufactured more than 3 billion ration bars for troops.

M&Ms

Forrest Mars patented a process in 1941 of coating chocolate pellets with a candy shell to help them resist melting and began production that year in Newark, New Jersey. When the war started the next year, the heat-resistant M&Ms proved so popular with troops that they were included in their rations and were sold in stores on bases and ships.

Keep reading here.—AAN

   

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STORES

Rocked lobster

A gif of Homer Simpson stuffing his face at a restaurant with the text of a server in a sailor suit saying, The Simpsons/Fox via Giphy

Since Red Lobster filed for bankruptcy on May 19, many, including the restaurant chain itself, have attributed it at least partly to the fact that it made its Ultimate Endless Shrimp all-you-can-eat promotion permanent in June 2023.

For just $20 (since raised to $22 and then $25), it’s no wonder the deal might not have been a moneymaker, with current and former servers telling Slate that they served diners who’d order as many as 16 rounds of shrimp scampi or 30 orders of fried shrimp. (“He was a skinny guy too,” said the server of the latter. “I was like, Where is it all going?”)

But some industry observers have considered the importance of the shrimp-promotion factor and, like a beleaguered Red Lobster line cook, they have other fish to fry.

Keep reading here.—AAN

   

FASHION

All over the place

an animated woman in an orange dress in a Temu commerical that aired during the Super Bowl Screenshot via Temu/YouTube

This week in fashion news: luxury stocks in Europe fell, potentially indicating troubling times ahead for the industry, and one discount e-comm retailer saw sales soar as consumers continue to look for deals.

Luxury stocks down

The luxury industry has taken a hit lately as inflation and a pullback on consumer spending continue, and this week, the Euro Stoxx Luxury 10 Index was down 1.9%, the biggest drop in a month. The dip followed Chanel’s 2023 financial results. While the brand netted a 16% increase in annual revenue, reaching $19.7 billion, Global CFO Philippe Blondiaux warned of difficult times ahead. “After three years of exceptional growth for our industry, we are now entering a more challenging environment,” he said in a statement.

Why this matters: Luxury has seen a consistent downturn over the past year as shoppers cut back on discretionary spending. While some, like LVMH, have weathered the storm to some degree, others like Kering, the conglomerate that owns Gucci and YSL, continue to see profits dip. Collectively, Gucci, YSL, and Bottega Veneta were down 8% YoY, which led to Kering reporting a 6% drop in Q4.

Keep reading here.—JS

   

FROM THE CREW

The Crew

If you’ve ever pondered how to stay on top of your operations and expenses more seamlessly, you’re definitely not alone. There are a lot of moving parts to consider, which is why we’re sitting down with Walmart Business to discuss them all. Tune in for insights coming straight from industry pros!

SWAPPING SKUS

Today’s top retail reads.

This Justin: Ralph Lauren tapped Justin Picicci, who has held several executive positions at the brand, as its next CFO. (the Wall Street Journal)

Home deep pockets: Why The Home Depot and Lowe’s are going after professional contractors. (Marketplace)

Shelf confidence: More than 200 new independent bookstores opened in 2023, continuing a years-long expansion. (the Associated Press)

Retail reliable 5G networks: Give your network an upgrade with T-Mobile for Business. With T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G supporting your locations, you can optimize your operations and omnichannel experience simultaneously with purpose-built retail solutions.*

*A message from our sponsor.

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