Weekly News Update // Week of March 23, 2020

Here's TRAUB's roundup of recent retail news. U.S fashion industry mobilize to supply hospitals with protective gear, Project N95 matching hospitals with PPE suppliers, new start-up Jupe aims to address hospital room shortfalls with modular and mobile spaces, Neiman Marcus considers bankruptcy to ease debt load, and more. 


  • Nature's Fynd raises $80M for alternative protein FoodDive
  • Plastiq raises $75M to help small businesses use credit cards more TechCrunch  
  • Stripe leads $20M Series A into Fast, which is building a universal checkout service for e-commerce TechCrunch
  • Yaguara nabs $7.2M seed to help e-commerce companies understand customers better TechCrunch
  • Kaizo raises $3M for its AI-based tools to improve customer service support teams TechCrunch


U.S. Fashion Industry Mobilizes To Supply Hospitals With Protective Gear To Meet Threat From Coronavirus

Coronavirus is redefining “fast fashion.” Instead of turning out near instant copies of the latest runway fashion trends, American fashion brands and suppliers are shifting production to produce the “fashion” that is most needed now: protective gear to keep healthcare workers and first responders safe on the job. Brands as diverse as PVH’s Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, AllBirds, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Citizens of Humanity, Gap and its sister brands, Vera Bradley, Eddie Bauer, designer Christian Sirano, Neiman Marcus and Joann Stores have shifted resources to supply hospitals and other organizations with personal protective equipment (PPE), including facial masks, face shields and hospital gowns. Forbes



‘COVID-19 Clearinghouse’: Project N95 is Matching Hospitals with PPE Suppliers

A new website is taking on one of the biggest issues of the coronavirus era: the shortage of N95 masks and other PPE, or personal protective equipment. Project N95 connects healthcare institutions that urgently need equipment—including masks, isolation gowns, and ventilators—with suppliers around the world that stock them or that have the capacity to produce them. The online platform, which only went live in the early hours of Friday morning, now serves as an intermediary between the two parties, or as it calls itself, a “medical equipment clearinghouse.” “What we’re doing is trying to get all the information into a single spot, to connect those who have the demand to those who have the supply,” says Nadav Ullman, one of the founding members. A tech entrepreneur, Ullman represents just one of the diverse professional backgrounds of the founders and 70 volunteers, so far, that have pulled together to run the “centralized marketplace.” Fast Company


France Launches Marketplace to Manage Essential Products Against COVID-19

French startup Mirakl usually works with e-commerce websites in order to help them build out a marketplace with third-party sellers. This time, the company has developed a marketplace called StopCOVID19.fr to centralize the supply and demand of essential products during the fight against COVID-19. The French government is backing the project. While many French companies have promised to manufacture hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and other essential products to protect healthcare professionals and people in general, it also creates many supply chain challenges. How do you make sure that hospitals that suffer the most from shortages get essential goods in time? StopCOVID19.fr is starting with hand sanitizer, with plans to expand to other protective goods. It helps companies and public institutions talk to each other. For instance, a chemical company has to connect with packaging manufacturers in order to store a large volume of hand sanitizer. Similarly, public and private hospitals don’t want to waste time contacting each manufacturer directly. TechCrunch


Frontiers Launches a Portal to Help Connect COVID-19 Research with Funding 

Open science platform and publisher Frontiers wants to make sure that efforts by researchers to pursue science-based solutions to the global coronavirus pandemic, and learn more about the virus and the COVID-19 disease it causes, find the funding they need. They launched a new portal to do just that, which is updated daily, and lists open funding calls, including the grant type, deadline, organization behind it, and specific area it supports. Sources include governments, non-profits, and commercial companies, and the listings link directly to the calls for easy application. This dashboard presents one fo the best organized ways for anyone with a research project related to COVID-19 to find an appropriate funding source, with all relevant top-line information presented up front. TechCrunch



Jupe is a New Startup Aiming to Address Hospital Room Shortfalls with Modular, Mobile Space

We’re already entering into a healthcare crisis due to the global coronavirus pandemic, and creative solutions to address shortfalls in supplies, protective equipment and more are being developed to help where possible. A new startup — with a founding team that includes an emergency room doctor, a crisis response expert and a public health researcher — is hoping that its novel approach can help address the impending lack of space that hospitals and healthcare facilities will encounter. Jupe is a brand new venture launching today that has developed rapidly deployable “Health” rest, recovery and intensive care shelters for use in combating the ongoing global COVID-19 crises. The company says that its mobile spaces can be produced at around 1/30th the cost of a standard hospital room, and shipped anywhere using existing logistics infrastructure. TechCrunch


Neiman Marcus Considers Bankruptcy to Ease Crushing Debt Load

Neiman Marcus Group Inc., the luxury retailer that’s been struggling to ease its $4.3 billion debt load, is talking with lenders about filing for bankruptcy, according to people with knowledge of the matter. No formal decisions have been made, but Neiman Marcus has held initial talks with lenders about a potential bankruptcy loan that would keep the company running while it works out a recovery plan, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing a private matter. Bloomberg


YouTube Shifts Default Video Quality to Standard Definition Globally

Starting today, YouTube began shifting the default play settings on all its videos to standard definition. The decision, confirmed to Mashable over email, is in response to possible bandwidth strain as more and more people self-isolate to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The move follows a similar announcement late last week focused solely on Europe. As was the case then, this change does not prevent people from watching YouTube videos in higher definition, but rather simply alters the setting on which they autoplay. "We continue to work closely with governments and network operators around the globe to do our part to minimize stress on the system during this unprecedented situation," a Google spokesperson told Mashable over email. Mashable


Salons and Spas Go Digital Amid Coronavirus Closures

Salons and spas are turning to digital in response to the government’s mandate to close personal-care businesses due to the coronavirus. Hair-care brand Bleach London, which has temporarily closed its three London salons due to COVID-19, will soon host a virtual “hair party” series. The digital party will guide customers on how to dye their hair at home — “self-dye-solation,” to use the brand’s term — featuring appearances from clients such as Georgia May Jagger and Pixie Geldof. Users are granted access to the series after purchasing products on Bleach London’s web site. Aestheticians and dermatologists are pivoting to Instagram and virtual consultations, though each has a different philosophy and approach. WWD



  • Under Armour CPO, Kevin Eskridge, exits BoF
  • Armani names US entertainment relations lead, Celine Khavarani BoF
  • Hugo Boss CEO, Mark Langer, steps down BoF


  • Wellness Brands Hope for an 'Immunity' Boost in the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic BoF
  • Could the Coronavirus push telehealth to the forefront of medical care? Boston Globe