The Warby-Parker of Luggage, Digital Journalism Startups Struggle, and America’s Wedding Retailer Fails

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Good Tuesday Morning,

Daylight – Note from Content Team: This is the last report of the week. The Oxford Morning Report will return on Monday as we will be enjoying Thanksgiving.

Fun Fact about Thanksgiving – turkey is not what’s making you sleepy. It’s the fact we usually eat so much for the holiday and it’s the carbohydrates that causes us to doze off with a million dishes in the sink.

Marketing – Here’s how two former Warby Parker alums started direct-to-consumer luggage business, Away, which will hit $150 million in revenue in just its fourth year: “For one thing, they are not splitting the revenue with high-overhead department stores. Away does the vast majority of its volume online, while stores in high-traffic locations serve as marketing billboards …

Away puts its marketing effort into things that deliver a lot of mileage for the money spent. Its digital presence includes a custom travel magazine. There are 1,000 influencers who push it on Instagram.”

Web Business – YouTube made a deal with MGM to have its platform host 100 free, ad-supported movies. Movies include the “Pink Panther” and “Terminator” series. The films will feature ads throughout viewings. Disney and Paramount haven’t gotten on board just yet.

Other platforms have resorted to product placement instead of interjecting ads disrupting a show/movie’s narrative. HBO has done it for years and Netflix is driving more of those deals as people grow tired of the predictable cliffhanger in the middle of an episode before cutting to commercial. Viewers do not want to be taken out of the show, can make a twist in the plot much more predictable, ruining the tension with a fast-food commercial.

M&A – From M&A Guru  Zack Eller – Waybill acquired Small Tube Products, a redrawer of niche, small diameter copper and aluminum tubes. Small Tube is a great bolt-on acquisition for Waybill, which has plans to implement Small Tubes across their brand nationwide. With enough nationwide recognition, this can be sold again because of the niche market they serve.

Wrong about Buzzfeed, Vox and VICE – They looked like the future of journalism, until digital advertising plateaued. Now, the Founder of BuzzFeed, Jonah Peretti, tells the New York Times these startup digital publishers need to consolidate: “Any deal would be difficult to pull off given the number of investors involved and the compounding losses that would result from combining several money-losing startups.”

Automation – Kroger is building its first customer fulfillment center in Ohio, a $55 million robotically run warehouse that will handle its food delivery service. It has partnered with Ocado which will be installing the automation. It’s expected to bring more than 400 jobs to the area and will be the first of 20 planned centers across the US.

Human Resources – Lynda Resnick, who with her husband built The Wonderful Company, which had $4.2 billion in 2017 sales from its Fiji Water, Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice, Wonderful pistachios and almonds and more, has been accused of pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination:

This case comes five years after the company settled a lawsuit stemming from similar allegations. The other four employees, all of whom spoke to Forbes, describe a culture hostile to pregnancy and working parents, though none of them sued the company or filed any claims. Wonderful denies these allegations.”

Style – David’s Bridal, America’s largest wedding retailer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company is saddled with debt from a PE buyout. More brides-to-be are going online for cheaper dress options. Also, people are waiting longer to get married.

Economy – Manufacturing beat expectations with a fifth straight month of growth despite a decline in car production. Business equipment picked up the slack. Growth is credited to factories using their facilities to their capacity.

When given the option for a one-level home, homebuilders and homebuyers prefer the model when the lot size is available. But neighborhoods are getting more crowded, such homes are just not efficient to build.

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Hot – Theft of the Century with a Hoax – In 2012, thieves stole over $20 million worth of classic artwork, the most famous among them being a Picasso. An author based in the Netherlands informed Romanian authorities that the thieves had buried the painting under a rock in their hometown.

Conveniently, the author went to the town and found it. Not long after the Dutch recovered the “painting,” a Belgian acting troupe admitted to burying a fake as part of a performance project. The unearthed piece has since been all but confirmed to be a fake and the real Picasso is still missing.

Cannabusiness – Recreational pot is legal in Massachusetts, but for the better part of two years there were no stores where you could buy unless you had a medical card. The first two retail shops are set to open Tuesday. It will be the first time recreational marijuana will be legally sold on the East Coast. The store’s first customers will be legalization advocates and armed forces veterans living in Leicester and Northampton. By the way, the Northampton customer is also the town mayor.

Finance – An obscure legal document has turned New York’s court system into a debt-collection machine that’s chewing up small businesses across America: “Before borrowers get a loan, they have to sign a statement giving up their right to defend themselves if the lender takes them to court. It’s like an arbitration agreement, except the borrower always loses.”

Investment Banking – Gemspring Capital acquired the assets of Bobit Business Media, a B2B media company.

Hedge Funds – KKR agreed to acquire GeoStabilization International, a provider of geotechnical maintenance services for critical infrastructure, from CAI Capital Partners.

Going Public – Plant-based meat alternative company Beyond Meat announced an IPO. The IPO will be at a $100 million offering size. Beyond Meat has gotten a lot of love from backers like Microsoft and Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tyson Foods. Now is a perfect time to go public with veganism reaching a peak in popularity.

Venture Capital – Hippo, an insurance startup, raised $70 million.

MapAnything, a provider of location-of-things solutions, raised $42.5 million.

Wonolo, an on-demand staffing platform enabling businesses to fill their immediate labor needs, raised $32 million.

Plastiq, an online payment service, raised $27 million.

Visor, a provider of an online tech-enabled tax advisory service, raised $9 million.

BOU, a provider of cooking products, raised $4 million.

Zippity, a workplace amenity for full-service car maintenance, raised $2.6 million.

Spotlight – Report Card from Ben Coppel

Ben Coppel – Director of Member Success, Advantage|ForbesBooks

Our second Net Promoter survey dropped last Tuesday, and the Oxford Center received a score of 52 from its members and now has an all-time score of 67.

A score of 67 narrowly beats Disney’s maintained score of 65. Other notable companies and their scores include: Southwest Airlines (62), Amazon (64) and Advantage|ForbesBooks which has an NPS of 51 (since Nov. ’16).

Out of all respondents, 73 percent left a rating of either a 9 or 10, and 94 percent  left a rating of 7 or higher.

Thank you for participating, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

And that’s what’s ahead.

Please send comments and suggestions to mattg@oxfordcenter.com and lfeldman@oxfordcenter.com.

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