Brand Moves for Monday September 14

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In early March we began reporting daily on how brands were dealing with COVID-19. But it’s become clear that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption, so we decided to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid the latest crises in an anxious world. Our goal is to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.

Social media platform TikTok has announced its own fashion month as a digital innovation aimed at rivaling the physical fashion weeks that take place around the world, as well as to try to threaten Instagram’s supremacy over fashion content online. The month-long event will begin on Friday and ends on 8 October and is set to feature a variety of hashtags and live videos. It will see a livestream of two fashion shows a week from labels such as Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent and Alice + Olivia. Meanwhile JW Anderson will debut their women’s spring/summer 21 collection on TikTok. The platform has seen some of the most compelling and fun fashion trends recently, with users creating endless fashion content that often went viral. The outdoorsy ‘cottagecore’ movement – the hashtag has 3bn views – and the gothy Dark Academia – 61m – were popular sartorial arenas, while the #harrystylescardigan challenge, which saw TikTok users trying to create the rainbow JW Anderson cardigan the singer Harry Styles wore on US TV, was social and all-embracing. “We’ve seen the fashion industry reinvent what luxury fashion means to culture and society through TikTok by bringing fashion into the homes of our community during quarantine,” said CeCe Vu, fashion content partnership lead at TikTok, in a statement about their fashion month. “I think [fashion labels] were unsure of its marketing potential,” said Jessica Schiffer, contributing editor of Vogue Business. Despite the young average age of a TikTok user (69% are 13-24 years old), their spending potential is huge. “They have huge influence over what their older parents purchase,” said Schiffer. “They can dictate everything from what food is eaten in the home to what clothing brands are purchased most. Getting in the good graces of Gen Z now, as their marketing power is building, is the smartest move a brand can make.”

Luxury fashion labels have been taking notice. In July Celine’s campaign for its spring/summer 21 campaign was visually inspired equally by skaters and TikTok’s e-boy subculture. The short film from the brand’s creative director, Hedi Slimane, featured TikTok influencers Noen Eubanks, Chase Hudson and Anthony Reeves. In the same month Marc Jacobs unveiled his new handbag campaign featuring the hair sculpture artist Laetitia Ky, who has 1 million TikTok followers. “[TikTok influencers] will become just as, if not more, important than Instagram influencers for fashion marketing,” said Schiffer. “We’ll see them lining the front row, starring in high-fashion campaigns and hosting brand events.”

Department store Macy’s is moving away from malls, and will begin opening several smaller “off-mall” Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores over the next two years, CEO Jeff Gennette said during a call with analysts today. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” he said. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential off-mall and in smaller formats.” In February, Macy’s said it would close its underperforming stores in the weakest US malls and explore ways to expand beyond malls. The company has nearly 800 locations in the US, including its Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s department stores, beauty retailer Bluemercury, and its off-price outlets. Not all are in malls, but as of May, Macy’s was still the biggest tenant at US malls, according to a report that month by CoStar, a real-estate information firm. Because of the pandemic, the fate of many malls is even shakier than before. Retail bankruptcies are mounting and stores are closing, while shoppers may be unable or unwilling to return to crowded in-door spaces for some time still. Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the US, has reportedly held discussions with Amazon about turning some of its empty spaces into e-commerce fulfillment centers.

Walmart is now working with Zipline on a drone-delivery pilot to ship “select health and wellness products” to buyers in less than an hour. The catch: You’ll have to live near Walmart’s HQ in Arkansas. Walmart announced a different drone-delivery partner, Flytrex, just last week. This is the company’s new strategy: It’s partnering all over the place, trying lots of things, rather than trying to own the entire experience itself, as Amazon does. Zipline is one of the companies pushing the American drone delivery ecosystem, and has been delivering medical supplies all over the world during the pandemic.

Amazon is hiring 100,000 full and part-time employees across the U.S. and Canada, offering starting wages of at least $15 an hour, the latest announcement in the Seattle-based e-commerce giant’s hiring spree. The new jobs include benefits and sign-on bonuses of as much as $1,000 in select cities and access to training programs, the company said in a statement on Monday. This is in addition to the 33,000 corporate and technology employees the Seattle-based e-commerce giant announced last week, it said. Amazon also plans to open 100 new operations buildings in September across fulfillment centers, delivery stations, sorting centers and other sites, the company said. Amazon has been adding jobs globally as its business and market valuation have soared, increasing numbers of full and part time employees by about 10% to 876,800 in the first six months of 2020, according to its July financial report. Earlier this month, the company announced plans to add 7,000 permanent workers in the U.K. and has made similar announcements in Ireland and South Africa. Its shares have surged almost 70% this year, lifting its market value to $1.56 trillion, as the company’s online shopping services became vital to many households under lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singapore Airlines is planning so-called flights to nowhere – trips that start and end at the same airport. The flights, from Changi airport, are slated to take place by the end of October and may be bundled with staycations at the city’s hotels, shopping vouchers and limousine ferry rides. Stricter travel rules to control the spread of COVID-19 pandemic have battered the aviation industry worldwide, with carriers such as Singapore Airlines hit particularly hard because they don’t operate domestic flights. The International Air Transport Association doesn’t expect passenger traffic to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. Singapore Airlines isn’t the first to offer trips whose destination is the airport from which it departed. Last month, Japan’s ANA sold tickets for a charter flight to nowhere, while two Taiwan carriers launched similar campaigns – Starlux Airlines introduced a “pretending to go abroad” journey and EVA Airways filled all 309 seats on a special Father’s Day flight. Singapore Airlines’ plan comes after a survey by Singapore Air Charter showed 75% of its 308 participants were willing to buy tickets on these types of flights.

McDonald’s will be testing reusable cups in its UK restaurants next year. The fast food giant announced the plans in a bid to address the environmental impact of disposable cups and appeal to customers who are looking to curb their reliance on single-use packaging. Instead of a typical disposable cup, users will have the choice to walk away with a reusable plastic cup and lid that you can later put in a special bin to be collected and sterilized for another customer. The company is the first in the food service industry to partner with Loop, a company that also pioneered a new system of reusable packaging for mainstream consumer products like shampoo and ice cream from major brands. The pilot will test how Loop’s system could work in the context of fast food. The process is straightforward. Customers who choose the cup will pay a small deposit on it. If they stay in the store, they can drop it off in a Loop bin there and get their money back; if they take the cup to go, they can either bring it back the next time or drop it off at another Loop site later – like a Tesco supermarket, where Loop is also expanding. The cups are taken offsite to a Loop cleaning facility, where they are individually sterilized and hygienically sealed before they’re sent back to the restaurant. “Reuse is a really interesting, important tool in a suite of tools that we will need, and we’re exploring as we look to keep waste out of nature,” says Jenny McColloch, vice president of global sustainability at McDonald’s Corporation.

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