World News

With limited access to travel and events, Americans are spending discretionary dollars on winter sporting goods. Here's why that's good news for outdoor retailers like REI.

  • As winter nears, Americans are stocking up sporting goods like skis and ice skates in an effort to stay active and social outside as the pandemic continues. 
  • At REI, the outdoor retailer has seen "significant increases" in demand for items like snow shoes and cross-country skis, with sales of the latter nearly tripling year-over-year.
  • "With bikes, camping gear, and sport utility equipment being sold out and back-ordered for months, we should expect nothing less as we head into the winter sports seasons," Durk Stelter, chief revenue officer at Linc Global, told Business Insider. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Concerns over a second wave of the coronavirus haven't stopped Americans from finding ways to stay both social and active as winter nears. 

Similar to sales of fire pits and disposable campfires, cold weather sporting gear and apparel are in high demand. This includes skis, ice skates, snow boots, and puffer jackets, according to retailers like REI. And as traditional brands look to cash in, emerging niche outdoor brands are also hitting the market, looking to capitalize.

At REI, the company is experiencing "significant increases" in demand for snow shoes, at rates currently four times higher than the same period last year. At the same time, demand for cross-country skis has nearly tripled year-over-year, according to data provided to Business Insider. 

In preparation for cold-weather activities and extended periods of time outside, items like parkas are also flying off shelves. According to the retail analytics firm Edited, the sell-out rate for parkas has grown by 89% year-over-year in the US, while items like leather jackets are selling out at a rate 136% higher than last year in the UK. 

The demand comes amid uncertainty surrounding whether venues like ski resorts and lodges will be able to open safely this winter. Many have announced tentative opening plans with significant modifications and restrictions. Earlier this summer, some companies began offering discounted advance passes to members, while devising health-conscious strategies like introducing new ski lift loading methods and minimizing or closing indoor dining. 

According to Durk Stelter, chief revenue officer at customer experience automation company Linc Global, retailers can expect to see demand for outdoor activity gear to continue to grow into the winter months, much as it did during the summer — causing shortages on everything from bicycles to rollerblades. 

"As we have seen throughout the pandemic, the need for outdoor equipment has increased dramatically," Stelter said. "With bikes, camping gear, and sport utility equipment being sold out and back-ordered for months, we should expect nothing less as we head into the winter sports seasons."

Stelter added that he expects heightened spending on outdoor equipment and sporting gear this holiday season, especially as the $450 billion spent by consumers during the 2019 holiday season on services like food, travel, and sporting events — activities and experiences that have all been severely limited during the pandemic — is now "up for grabs." 

"This holiday, we should expect shoppers to invest more in outdoor winter equipment, such as skis and snowmobiles, as more people look for ways to stay outdoors in a socially-distanced environment," he said. "The good news is manufacturers have had more time to position for increased inventory, but it is still to be seen if they were able to overcome covid restrictions to meet the unexpectedly high demand."

A man uses Ski Skates.Ski Skating

Meanwhile, emerging companies like Ski Skates — which boasts "the shortest skis in the world" and "the only skis that fit into your backpack" — are also seeing an influx in interest. Created in the Czech Republic in 2019, Ski Skates operates "like ice skates for snow" and functions as an attachment to snow boots that blends the acts of skiing and skating. 

Though the company is still in its nascent stages, a company spokesperson said Ski Skates has already sold thousands of pairs of its flagship product, Snowfeet, and is preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign in November. The spokesperson added that the primary draw of Ski Skates is they can be used at ski lodges and resorts or alternative locations amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"Skiskates are perfect for use when all the ski resorts are closed during the pandemic because you can use them not only on ski slopes, but on sledding hills or hiking trails as well, and have fun with your family and friends," the spokesperson said. 

Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you’d like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email [email protected] and tell us your story.

Get the latest coronavirus business & economic impact analysis from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is affecting industries.

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Unexpected Retail Sales Surge in September May Boost GDP

The widespread economic reports have shown mixed signals about the recovery. Some reports indicate that the recovery remains underway, while others signal that it is petering out. A fresh look at retail sales came in much stronger than expected.

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for September 2020, and the seasonally adjusted report was up 1.9% at $549.3 billion. While the report is given a leeway of 0.5% on either side, the Econoday consensus was calling for only a 0.7% gain in September. August’s gain was also just 0.6%.

Excluding vehicles, retail sales were up 1.5% from August, beating the mere 0.3% that had been expected. Sales excluding vehicles and gasoline showed a 1.5% gain, versus 0.4% that was expected.

One reason for the slower gains that were expected ahead of the report was that no additional stimulus package has been passed. September marked the second month in which millions were without some enhanced benefits.

Where this number will really shine is in the annual readings with a 5.4% gain over September of 2019. Total sales for July 2020 through September 2020, used as a three-month period for a broader view, was up 3.6% from the same period a year ago.

The Census data showed that retail trade sales were up 1.9% from the prior month and up 8.2% from a year ago. The so-called nonstore retailers (e-commerce and catalogs) saw a whopping 23.8% gain from September 2019. The category for building material, garden equipment and supplies dealers was up a sharp 19.1% from a year earlier.

Sales for motor vehicle and parts dealers were $114.8 billion in September of 2020, up from the $110.8 billion in August of 2020 and from $103.5 billion in September of 2019.

The category for furniture and home furnishings stores saw sales of $10.4 billion in September of 2020, which compared to $10.35 billion in August and was up from the $9.9% billion reading in September of 2019. Clothing and accessories saw an 11% rise in September retail sales, and the category for sporting goods, music and books rose by 5.7%.

One category that posted a decline was electronics and appliances sales, down 1.6% decline from August.

Stocks were posting their first gain in four days on the heels of the stronger than expected retail sales. While the numbers may just be for one month, it is important to keep in mind that consumer spending activity historically has counted for nearly 70% of gross domestic product (GDP).

They are not yet updated, but the New York Fed’s Nowcasting Report was projecting a 14.07% gain in third-quarter GDP as of October 9 and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta had a reading of 35.2% GDP as of October 9.

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In the wake of a grueling year, Benjamin Moore has designated a soothing, comfortable teal as its next official color of 2021

  • Benjamin Moore's official color of 2021 is a blue-green-grey blend called "Aegean Teal."
  • On Wednesday, the company announced that it had selected the shade in January 2020, before COVID-19 morphed into a pandemic.
  • Benjamin Moore's color experts described the tone as "sunbaked" and "versatile," perfect for kitchens.
  • The teal color's homeyness and warmth makes it the perfect shade for homebound consumers during a time of great uncertainty.  
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

If 2020 was a color, the year would be epitomized by dark shades of gray and brown. But looking forward to next year, it's a blue-green-grey blend of teal that paint company Benjamin Moore has selected as its official color of 2021.

The color "Aegean Teal" is a blend of blue and green, with grey undertones. In Benjamin Moore's color catalogue, it is described as an "intriguing midtone that creates natural harmony." The company's Director of Color Marketing Andrea Magno and Color and Design Manager Hannah Yeo announced the new color on a video conference call on Wednesday.

With the coronavirus pandemic trapping people around the world indoors, the paint company's team of color experts is hoping that consumers deploy the teal color to create a "sunbaked" and "organic" look in their living spaces, particularly kitchens. 

Benjamin Moore's official color of the year for 2020 was "First Light," described as "a soft, rosy hue blooming with potential." But "Aegean Teal" was actually selected as 2021's official color in December 2019, when team members became inspired by stories of organic shades found at farmer's markets and the belief that "the kitchen serves as a place of nourishment" and a center of community.

The warm hue also taps into a renewed focus on the home that many consumers are embracing during the pandemic. Home improvement retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's have seen stock price and sales soar as homebound consumers tinker with their living spaces. 

Read more: Bed Bath & Beyond had made a huge comeback amid the pandemic. Now the company's chief brand officer reveals how it plans to keep the momentum going.

Magno described the teal color as a "hidden gem" imbued with a "softened casual elegance that's really very inviting" for both color-lovers and those with a preference for neutrals.

"We fell in love with it for its complexity, its depth, and even its versatility in that you can use it in so many ways in the home," she said.

Magno and Yeo added that it is a happy coincidence that home-centric thinking ended up speaking to the current environment.

When it comes to design, paint colors have long been known to be more than just decorative. For exterior paint colors, houses painted a mix of grey and beige or a dark door often sell for thousands of dollars more than comparable houses without those colors. 

Painting walls a specific hue can also have a direct impact on mood. A 2018 study from the University of Bologna in Italy published in Frontiers in Psychology examined the experience of 443 Italian students living in six nearly-identical buildings that differed only in the interior paint color (violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red). The resulting survey of the students found that people tend to prefer blue, linking the color with "a calm mood."

Magno and Yeo also released a palette of shades to compliment the Aegean Teal color. Yeo said that the team selected shades that "enhance everything and let you celebrate the small moments."

They also noted that Aegean Teal is "versatile" when it comes to lighting, appearing cooler and more blue in the morning light, and growing warmer and greener in the afternoon sun.

"I personally love seeing the different iterations of that color throughout the day," Magno said. 

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Corporate directors demand refunds and threaten to 'rage quit' after writer Anand Giridharadas eviscerated them in a virtual conference for board members, saying 'your children and grandchildren do not respect your work'

  • Writer Anand Giridharadas used an opportunity to speak with thousands of corporate board members to eviscerate the group for making empty promises. 
  • "A lot of your children and grandchildren do not respect your work," Giridharadas said on Monday while speaking at the National Association of Corporate Directors' annual summit, according to audio obtained by Business Insider. 
  • Many directors were shocked and disgusted by the remarks, with attendees saying some threatened to demand a refund for the event or quit the NACD. 
  • Giridharadas also faced criticism from economist Glenn Hubbard, who called Giridharadas' thinking "crazy" as the two debated winner-take-all capitalism at the summit. 
  • "I was not interested in a theoretical conversation about capitalism … without noting that we had on the call an economic arsonist who was now being brought on as a firefighting expert," Giridharadas told Business Insider. 
  • "Key to NACD's mission, especially at our annual NACD Summit, is to expose our 21,000 members to contrasting views on the issues that will redefine how businesses create value," NACD CEO Peter R. Gleason said. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When Anand Giridharadas was invited to speak at the National Association of Corporate Directors' annual summit, the writer — known for his sharp critiques of billionaires and the global elite — did not hold back. 

"A lot of your children and grandchildren do not respect your work," Giridharadas said on Monday to more than 3,000 directors watching the summit virtually, according to audio obtained by Business Insider. 

Giridharadas slammed directors for their lack of action, portraying businesses as making empty promises while simultaneously dodging responsibility.

"This being a group of corporate directors, I ask again, where were you?" Giridharadas said in his remarks. "Where were you in the run up to the climate crisis? Where were you during widening inequality over the last four decades? Where were you in the run up to the subprime crisis? Where were you in the run up to the opioid crisis? Where were you?"

The aggressive remarks shocked many of the hundreds of people virtually attending the summit, which is billed as the "the largest and most influential director forum in the world." The NACD is made up of 21,000 directors, including board members from 97% of the Fortune 500 companies — the very people Giridharadas was calling out. 

The summit's chat room exploded into chaos as Giridharadas condemned corporate directors. The conversation was moving so fast that it was hard to keep up, according to Lauren Harrell, a board director who had attended the summit for her second year in a row. 

Giridharadas was the first speaker of the summit, marking a startling introduction to the event for many who did not expect to be so brutally roasted as an industry conference. 

"There were people who were like, 'I want my money back, I'm not going to sit here and listen to this,'" Kent Lundberg, who attended the summit, told Business Insider.  

Insulted attendees said in the chat that they were going to ditch the summit or mute Giridharadas until he stopped talking. Some even threatened to cancel their NACD memberships in protest, according to Lundberg. 

"Key to NACD's mission, especially at our annual NACD Summit, is to expose our 21,000 members to contrasting views on the issues that will redefine how businesses create value," Peter R. Gleason, the CEO of NACD, said in a statement to Business Insider when asked for comment on the backlash. 

Read more: McDonald's hires ex-Obama advisor to lead a new team focused on 'positive change,' as the company doubles down on values in the midst of scandals

Giridharadas sparred with economist Glenn Hubbard, who called Giridharadas "crazy" 

Glenn Hubbard faced off against Anand Giridharadas.Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Giridharadas' remarks were followed by an appearance from Glenn Hubbard, which made for a drastic swerve in a more conservative direction. 

Hubbard is a professor at Columbia Business School and an economist who advised the George W. Bush administration. In stark contrast to Giridharadas' remarks, Hubbard promoted the idea of free market capitalism.

The event had been billed as a discussion of the "pros and cons of winner-take-all capitalism and what role corporations should play in creating a more equitable society." A brief questions-and-answer session involving both Hubbard and Giridharadas — led by Gillian Tett, the chair of the Financial Times editorial board — ratcheted up tensions even further. 

Giridharadas took the opportunity to slam Bush-era tax cuts, which Hubbard helped engineer. Hubbard responded by criticizing Giridharadas' thinking as "crazy."

"I tried to hold Glenn Hubbard to the account he deserves to be held to," Giridharadas told Business Insider when asked for comment on the interaction. "He was having very theoretical discussion of these issues: If markets are functioning perfectly, then, blah blah blah. He was talking about Milton Friedman as a scholar surrounded by books, but he's living in a country awash in pain." 

"I was not interested in a theoretical conversation about capitalism and markets and democracy without noting that we had on the call an economic arsonist who was now being brought on as a firefighting expert," Giridharadas added. 

Giridharadas said it was "incredible" that someone who teaches on a college campus would use "crazy" as an insult in a debate. 

"All he had to offer was that I was 'crazy' and that my ideas were a 'rant' and 'incoherent,'" Giridharadas said. "I hope for his sake, as someone who teaches on a college campus, he grows slightly more sensitive to the mental health issues in this culture that have frankly made calling people crazy in a debate not really behavior we would expect from a teacher." 

Hubbard declined to comment on the event or Giridharadas calling him an "economic arsonist." 

"Anand Giridharadas and Glenn Hubbard offered divergent perspectives on the future of capitalism which sparked strong engagement, both positive and negative, from some of our 3,000+ audience of corporate directors and other governance professionals," NACD's Gleason said in a statement. "This underscores the difficult challenge ahead for boards as they try to balance so many and sometimes conflicting interests for their companies."

Most directors didn't expect the forum to start with such brutal criticism

Giridharadas' comments, followed by the throwdown with Hubbard, took many by surprise. 

"I think there came to a point where some of the audience stopped listening because they felt like they were under attack," said Cynthia Ruiz, who was attending the summit for her first time. "Because he was like, what have you guys been doing? Why haven't you done this?" 

Lundberg said some of the anti-Giridharadas crowd may have "rage quit" the conference in protest after the first few minutes of the writer's remarks. But, as the event continued, another perspective emerged in the swiftly-moving chat, according to Lundberg.

These attendees were encouraging fellow directors to listen to Giridharadas, even if they were uncomfortable. (Lundberg himself said he was a fan of Giridharadas and, having watched videos of the writer, knew what to expect from the firebrand — even as others were surprised by the call outs.) 

Harrell, an attendee who has spent the last decade in governance and boardrooms, was one of the directors to lean into the discomfort. She told Business Insider that she felt Giridharadas raised important questions about whether directors are living up to their duties. 

"I appreciate sometimes we're not going to feel comfortable and that's okay," Harrell said. "Sometimes we have to maybe reflect on, well, why does that make me uncomfortable?" 

However, Harrell said, the majority of the people talking in the chat were defensive or shocked instead of taking the opportunity to listen to a different perspective. These attendees' refusal to engage disappointed Harrell. 

"Those that were adamantly opposed to hearing this perspective — it made me think about [how] these are individuals that are in the boardroom," Harrell said. "If you have perspectives that you don't necessarily appreciate or enjoy, do those conversations get shut down at the table? What are you missing if you don't engage in that opposite perspective?"

Ruiz similarly embraced the chance to hear Giridharadas' remarks, despite seeing the majority of the audience respond defensively. As a woman of color serving as the president of the city of Los Angeles' pension board, Ruiz said she attended the summit to have greater exposure to the world of corporate boards. She saw Giridharadas and Hubbard's different viewpoints as a chance to learn. 

"I am one of the people that appreciate the diversity, because it's helping me form my opinions," Ruiz said. "I honestly believe that we're going through a paradigm shift to put people first, and I think that's driven by a lot of factors, including consumers." 

Giridharadas says he wanted corporate directors to know their own children are infuriated by their complicity 

Giridharadas told Business Insider he did not see the chat and since the summit was virtual, he was not able to see how the audience was reacting. 

"I think the message was necessarily difficult, because they were trying to have a conversation about … shareholder capitalism versus stakeholder capitalism, and I think they were trying to have that conversation in the absence of a conversation about complicity," Giridharadas said. 

Giridharadas said that his comments about children and grandchildren not respecting their director parents were sparked by both data on generational divisions and his own individual interactions. He says he receives a vast amount of emails from young readers of his book, "Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World," who say they are sharing the book with their parents or grandparents with different perspectives. 

"I have heard countless stories about how they used the book to try to persuade people in their family, that the people in their family contributed to a world desolate of opportunity for their own children and grandchildren," Giridharadas said. 

"I think there is this dynamic where a lot of young people are not just mad at the system, but they're mad at — in some cases — what their own parents and grandparents have done to make the system what it is," he added. 

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World News

Apple Starts Shipping Devices From Stores to Speed Up Deliveries

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Apple Inc. is starting to use its network of retail stores as distribution centers for shipping products to consumers, joining a trend popularized by other retailers.

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant has typically shipped devices like iPhones, Macs, iPads, and accessories from warehouses located across a customer’s region or directly from China. Now items that are in stock can be shipped directly to consumers from a network of almost 300 retail stores spread across the U.S. and Canada, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apple told staff the shift will mean faster delivery times for customers who live further from distribution centers than from stores, according to the people who asked not to be identified discussing internal policies. The products will be shipped through United Parcel Service Inc. in Canada and FedEx Corp. in the U.S. via ground shipping and may be delivered as early as the day after a customer’s order, Apple told its staff. The program will apply to customers who live within 100 miles from a store, the people said.

The change in delivery operations at Apple retail locations comes as the company prepares to launch a slew of new products soon, including four new 5G iPhones, a new iPad Air, over-ear headphones, a smaller HomePod and the first Macs with Apple’s own processors.

Apple started testing the program with a small number of stores after locations started re-opening from Covid-19-related closures in June and July. It has rolled out to more, but not all retail sites across the U.S. and Canada, the people said. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

The move to shipping from stores has been popularized by some grocery stores in recent years and has expanded to other retailers. The practice reduces costs, potentially improving product margins, and is beneficial to the environment, Apple told its staff.

Customers won’t be able to choose to have their orders shipped from a store nor will they be aware when it happens. The decision on where to ship an item from is decided by Apple’s operations team, the people said.

The shift in delivery operations ensures that stores that remain shuttered or limited due to Covid-19 restrictions can still operate in a way that assists Apple in selling devices. The company also has discussed converting select stores into online support or sales call centers in the event that locations need to be closed again due to the pandemic. Some back rooms at stores have already started serving as small call centers.

For months, some retail employees have been working from home as online sales and support staff.

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McDonald's is the chain most likely to thrive in the months and years to come as restaurants scramble to recover from the pandemic, analysts say

  • McDonald's is a top restaurant pick from analysts at Wells Fargo and Stifel, thanks in part to the chain's successful Travis Scott partnership. 
  • Well's Fargo's Jon Tower writes that McDonald's "is the best positioned restaurant to re-capture sales and re-establish habits as consumers resume food-away from home spending."
  • Tower and Stifel's Chris O'Cull both applauded the success of the Travis Scott partnership, which helped win over Gen Z customers — something the chain has struggled to do for roughly 20 years. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Analysts have their eyes on McDonald's, as other restaurants struggle to survive the pandemic. 

This week, analysts at Stifel and Wells Fargo highlighted McDonald's dominance in the world of fast-food. The company can thank Travis Scott for further elevating the chain as a Wall Street favorite. 

"McDonald's stands out among limited service peers following the introduction of the Travis Scott meal, which drove a meaningful acceleration in the visitation trend in recent weeks and could be taking share from competitors," Stifel's Chris O'Cull wrote in an industry update earlier this week. 

Well's Fargo's Jon Tower wrote in a note on Thursday that McDonald's "is the best positioned restaurant to re-capture sales and re-establish habits as consumers resume food-away from home spending." 

McDonald's has laid the groundwork for a "multi-year run" of compounding same-store sales and growing profits, according to Tower. 

Tower also noted the success of the Travis Scott Meal and spicy nuggets — back-to-back hits for McDonald's over the last month. Business Insider reported on Wednesday that the spicy nuggets were so successful that they started selling out two weeks after their launch. 

Travis Scott could permanently change how McDonald's thinks about marketing 

The success of the Travis Scott meal could have a long-term impact on McDonald's marketing strategy.

In essence, the Travis Scott meal was able to combine existing menu items together as the rapper's "favorite meal." For $6, customers could get a Quarter Pounder, fries, BBQ sauce, and a Sprite. It was an amazing success, with McDonald's locations beginning to run out of Quarter Pounder ingredients — something that hadn't happened earlier in the pandemic, even as meat processing plants across the US shuttered. 

The Travis Scott partnership helped McDonald's connect with customers aged 11 to 24 years old, Tower says, an age group that McDonald's has struggled to reach over the last 20 years. 

McDonald's CMO Morgan Flatley told Business Insider prior to the launch of the partnership that McDonald's needed to work with stars like Scott to stay relevant to younger customers. According to Flatley, people under the age of 34 are "becoming more and more challenging for brands to reach."

"How they engage with media is different," Flatley said. "They look to recommendations much more than any other generation has. They're very reliant on social media. They're very reliant on their friends." 

Read more: The inside story of McDonald's Travis Scott collaboration, as the fast-food giant digs into its 'marketing war chest' and franchisees protest the partnership

Tower said the deal could create a "new promotional paradigm" for McDonald's. The chain, Tower theorizes, could start mixing short-term and longer-term limited-time offerings, as well as campaigns about value more generally. 

O'Cull said that Stifel data collected from people's mobile phones indicates that McDonald's may have drawn customers away from rivals with the Travis Scott deal, as significantly more people visited the chain when it launched in early September than had in weeks past. 

"Mobile location data accelerated meaningfully the week the Travis Scott meal launched," O'Cull said. "While results have tapered since the initial week, traffic levels remain meaningfully above July and August levels. This increase has coincided with declines at competitors Jack in the Box and Taco Bell." 

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