Weekly News Update // Week of March 16, 2020

Here's TRAUB's roundup of recent retail news. Amazon to hire 100,000 employees to keep up with demand, LVMH converting its perfume factories to help make hand sanitizer, free telehealth assessments powered by Ro, and more. 


  • Impossible Foods raises $500M at nearly $4 billion valuation Reuters
  • Gaming company Scopely adds $200M more to its M&A stockpile TechCrunch
  • Ada raises $44M Series B to improve its chatbox customer service platform TechCrunch
  • 'Cloud--first' game studio Mainframe raises$8.1M led by Andreessen Horowitz TechCrunch
  • Female-led Robin Games raises $7M to combine lifestyle content with fantasy gaming TechCrunch


Amazon is Looking to Hire 100,000 Employees to Keep up with Demand

Amazon is looking to hire 100,000 new employees for its warehouse and delivery operations in the U.S. to keep up with demand during the current coronavirus outbreak, the company said today. Workers in its U.S. fulfillment centers will also get an extra $2 per hour through the end of April. Currently, Amazon pays $15 per hour for entry-level jobs in its fulfillment centers. In addition, the company will also temporarily increase pay by £2 per hour in the U.K. and approximately €2 per hour in many EU countries. In total, Amazon expects to spend about $350 million in increased compensation across the U.S., Europe and Canada. TechCrunch


Facebook Announces $100M in Grants to Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

To assist small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, Facebook is offering $100 million in cash grants and advertising credits, the social media site announced. Facebook is distributing the funds and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in more than 30 countries, but the company hasn't shared more details regarding eligibility. Grant recipients can use the funds to assist small businesses with rent, marketing costs, employee assistance and other operational expenses, the company noted. The platform will be taking grant applications during the coming weeks and has introduced a business resource hub. Retail Dive


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LVMH Converting Its Perfume Factories To Make Hand Sanitizer

LVMH announced today that it is converting three of its perfume manufacturing facilities where it normally makes fragrances for its Christian Dior, Givenchy and Guerlain brands to make hand sanitizer instead. The first deliveries will be tomorrow and by the end of the first week, LVMH expects to have made 12 tons of the hydroalcoholic gel. The product will be given at no charge to French authorities and the largest hospital system in Europe. LVMH is accomplishing several things with this move. It is, of course, responding to a shortage of hand sanitizer. But more than that, it is positioning itself to its consumers and its employees as doing what’s in the public interest. It is also justifying having its factories remain open and keeping its employees coming to work. All of those things make the company more purposeful and less commercial. Forbes


NBCUniversal Will Break the Theatrical Window to Release ‘The Invisible Man’ and Other Movies On-demand

NBCUniversal announced today that its movie studio Universal Pictures and specialty label Focus Features will be releasing their films in theaters and on-demand, simultaneously. In other words, it’s eliminating the theatrical window — the period between when you can watch a movie in theaters and when you can watch in the comfort of your home. (Netflix has been unwilling to abide by this window, which is why the major theater chains weren’t showing “The Irishman” or “Marriage Story.”) This is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led many theaters to close or operate at reduced capacity, and forced some communities to adopt more extreme modes of social distancing. As a result, this past weekend, the domestic box office hit its lowest point in at least 20 years. TechCrunch



Free Coronavirus Telehealth Assessments, Powered by Ro

On March 4th, Ro launched a free telehealth triage service for people who are seeking guidance and information about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). If an individual thinks they may be experiencing signs or symptoms of the novel coronavirus, they can complete Ro’s online assessment and, if appropriate, Ro will connect them with a provider, who will follow up via secure messaging, phone or video consultation. Medium


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From London To New York, How Empty Hotels May Turn Into Coronavirus Hospitals

As hospitals from London to New York face the increasing risk of bed shortages due to the coronavirus, could hotels–which are being emptied out by the global crisis–be the answer? Best Western Great Britain is one of those considering the option of turning hotels into temporary hospitals as additional bed space is needed. Europe is now the epicentre of the pandemic accounting for about a third of global cases, and deaths. This is placing immense pressure on hospitals, particularly in Italy and Spain, but also in the UK whose 1144 cases represent just 2% of Europe’s total. BWGB has 260 independently owned and managed hotels across England, Scotland and Wales, which could be repurposed. It plans to discuss the plan with its members this week, of easing the pressure on over-crowded hospitals, which are struggling to find beds for all patients. Between them they could muster up almost 15,000 bedrooms as makeshift wards. Forbes


More Brands and Content Creators Warm up to TikTok Amid Social Distancing Order

In this new world of social distancing, TikTok is having a moment among brands and influencers. Fashion brands that have already been using the platform are counting on an uptick in time spent on the app in the coming weeks as Covid-19 continues to spread. According to influencer marketing agency Obviously, engagement on TikTok increased 27% from February to March, based on data gathered from the agency’s own influencer campaigns. As a result, companies like Ivory Ella — a mission-driven apparel brand that targets Gen Z and supports elephant conservation — are working with influencer partners to create more content and keep users engaged and occupied while they sit at home. “We have been a community-driven brand since the beginning, and more than ever, it is important for us to support them as they have supported us and our mission,” said Cathy Quain, CEO of Ivory Ella. “We expect to see a surge in time spent on the platform and will be doing more tutorials and contests, and expanding our creator reach.” Glossy



Shopify Launches 3D Model, Video Integration for Merchants

Shopify recently introduced built-in support for 3D models and video. The feature would allow merchants to upload 3D models or videos directly to their product pages without the need for custom code or a third-party app, the company announced in a blog post.Merchants can now upload explainer videos, teasers, testimonials and other content directly to Shopify, the company noted.The company said 3D models in augmented reality have increased conversion rates by up to 250% on product pages. Retail Dive



  • Lanvin CEO, Jean-Philippe Hecquet exits BoF
  • Mulberry Creative Director, Johnny Coca, resigns BoF
  • L Brands names board chair, Sarah E. Nash BoF


  • How to Survive a Brand Quarantine During Coronavirus Adweek
  • How Retailers Are Transitioning In-Person Events & Communities To Online Environments Forbes