That Style, Again? How Shopping Got So Boring
Kanebridge News
    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,587,785 (-9.64%)       Melbourne $968,477 (-1.28%)       Brisbane $894,769 (-1.51%)       Adelaide $810,780 (-6.94%)       Perth $764,276 (-4.92%)       Hobart $750,134 (+1.16%)       Darwin $645,801 (-3.38%)       Canberra $1,017,220 (+3.56%)       National $1,010,264 (-5.75%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $725,381 (-1.27%)       Melbourne $488,555 (-0.24%)       Brisbane $499,581 (-5.39%)       Adelaide $411,364 (-4.41%)       Perth $414,273 (-2.57%)       Hobart $498,192 (-6.11%)       Darwin $351,130 (-4.84%)       Canberra $480,942 (-4.46%)       National $506,040 (-3.24%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 10,047 (+6,578)       Melbourne 14,543 (+5,785)       Brisbane 8,228 (+1,243)       Adelaide 2,741 (+600)       Perth 6,788 (+1,322)       Hobart 1,219 (+48)       Darwin 269 (+17)       Canberra 1,013 (+155)       National 44,848 (+15,748)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,226 (+4,905)       Melbourne 7,846 (+2,295)       Brisbane 1,759 (+304)       Adelaide 499 (+101)       Perth 1,899 (+331)       Hobart 186 (-9)       Darwin 388 (+26)       Canberra 854 (+60)       National 21,657 (+8,013)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $780 ($0)       Melbourne $590 ($0)       Brisbane $620 ($0)       Adelaide $600 ($0)       Perth $650 ($0)       Hobart $550 (-$10)       Darwin $680 ($0)       Canberra $690 ($0)       National $652 (-$1)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $725 (-$5)       Melbourne $580 ($0)       Brisbane $620 (-$10)       Adelaide $450 (-$20)       Perth $600 (+$15)       Hobart $470 (-$10)       Darwin $570 ($0)       Canberra $570 ($0)       National $584 (-$3)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,614 (+7)       Melbourne 5,631 (-24)       Brisbane 4,055 (-125)       Adelaide 1,248 (+4)       Perth 1,830 (+7)       Hobart 380 (+12)       Darwin 153 (-19)       Canberra 664 (-12)       National 19,575 (-150)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 7,725 (-368)       Melbourne 5,038 (-276)       Brisbane 2,044 (-65)       Adelaide 394 (+11)       Perth 594 (-34)       Hobart 139 (+1)       Darwin 285 (-5)       Canberra 590 (-16)       National 16,809 (-752)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 2.55% (↑)      Melbourne 3.17% (↑)      Brisbane 3.60% (↑)      Adelaide 3.85% (↑)      Perth 4.42% (↑)        Hobart 3.81% (↓)     Darwin 5.48% (↑)        Canberra 3.53% (↓)     National 3.36% (↑)             UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 5.20% (↑)      Melbourne 6.17% (↑)      Brisbane 6.45% (↑)      Adelaide 5.69% (↑)      Perth 7.53% (↑)      Hobart 4.91% (↑)      Darwin 8.44% (↑)      Canberra 6.16% (↑)      National 6.01% (↑)             HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.7% (↑)      Melbourne 0.8% (↑)      Brisbane 0.4% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)      Perth 1.2% (↑)      Hobart 0.6% (↑)      Darwin 1.1% (↑)      Canberra 0.7% (↑)      National 0.7% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.9% (↑)      Melbourne 1.4% (↑)      Brisbane 0.7% (↑)      Adelaide 0.3% (↑)      Perth 0.4% (↑)      Hobart 1.5% (↑)      Darwin 0.8% (↑)      Canberra 1.3% (↑)        National 0.9% (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND         Sydney 36.6 (↓)       Melbourne 40.8 (↓)       Brisbane 36.8 (↓)       Adelaide 31.2 (↓)       Perth 41.1 (↓)       Hobart 41.6 (↓)       Darwin 49.2 (↓)       Canberra 39.9 (↓)       National 39.7 (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND         Sydney 36.2 (↓)       Melbourne 39.2 (↓)       Brisbane 33.8 (↓)       Adelaide 30.0 (↓)     Perth 43.3 (↑)      Hobart 43.8 (↑)        Darwin 33.7 (↓)       Canberra 45.3 (↓)       National 38.2 (↓)           
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That Style, Again? How Shopping Got So Boring

Manufacturers and retailers leaned on popular goods in the pandemic and often hit pause on innovating

By SUZANNE KAPNER
Mon, Apr 3, 2023 8:35amGrey Clock 4 min

The maker of Tonka trucks and Lite-Brite normally introduces four new toys a year. Last year, Basic Fun Inc. introduced one.

Manufacturers and retailers of everything from computers to dresses hit pause in the past few years when it came to innovation, the result of pandemic-related upheavals in the design, manufacture and distribution of goods, industry executives said. Shifting consumer demand and the expectation of an economic slowdown also played a role, the executives said.

New merchandise gives shoppers a reason to buy. Without it, sales tend to suffer. Retailers including Best Buy Co. and Gap Inc. said a dearth of new products, styles and colours contributed to lacklustre sales during the recent holiday season.

Now, the race is on to ramp up newness, the executives said. But the work that goes into creating new products often takes months, if not years. And some companies are reluctant to invest in the necessary research and development while economic uncertainty looms.

“The last thing you want to do is spend the money to create and market a new product and have it get stuck in the socio-economic crossfire of Covid, supply-chain disruptions and inflation,” said Basic Fun Chief Executive Jay Foreman. “All these things coming together at the same time means that you have to play it safe.”

Mr. Foreman said Basic Fun is delaying plans to relaunch its Littlest Pet Shop collectible figures until spring 2024 from fall of this year. “We anticipate the supply chain getting back to normal by the middle of this year,” he said. “But we’re still concerned about inflation and a slowdown in consumer spending.”

Gap Chairman and interim CEO Bob Martin said in an interview that a pile-up of excess inventory hindered the company’s ability to innovate.

“You stop leveraging creative strengths, you play it safe, and miss the bigger bets to get back on trend,” he said. Now that the company has worked through its excess inventory, he added, it has more room to devote to spring trends like eyelet and crochet tops at Gap, new suiting styles at Banana Republic, and Old Navy dresses with pockets.

There were 13% fewer new general merchandise items in 2022 compared with 2020, according to market-research firm Circana. The biggest declines were in beauty, footwear, technology, small appliances and toy categories.

Marshal Cohen, Circana’s chief industry adviser, said the decline is unprecedented and the result of several converging factors.

The Covid-19 pandemic radically altered consumption patterns, which forced manufacturers and retailers to pivot quickly to keep up with shifting demand. Supply-chain disruptions created first a scarcity of goods, and then a glut. With excess merchandise clogging shelves, retailers were unable to bring in fresh goods. Remote work made collaboration to dream up new ideas more difficult.

“Something as simple as a new flavour, colour or style can create demand,” Mr. Cohen said. “With a decline in newness, we are boring consumers to death.”

When demand for computers, TVs and other electronic gadgets surged, manufacturers focused on producing as much as they could of existing products to address shortages, Jason Bonfig, Best Buy’s chief merchandising officer, said in an interview.

Mr. Bonfig said he is starting to see an improvement in the flow of new products hitting stores, including TVs with larger screens and computers with longer battery life. “Vendors want to get back to growth,” he said. “They know new models are what brings people to our stores.”

Some retailers have acknowledged that the problem rests as much with them as with their suppliers.

“We didn’t have as many choices in women’s tops as we did in the past,” Ed Thomas, CEO of teen-clothing retailer Tilly’s Inc., said in an interview. “Part of that was our problem. We may have been offered styles that we said no to, because we were too gun-shy to take a chance. We had no idea where the economy was going, so we were more conservative in our buying.”

Nordstrom Inc. has set a goal this year of selling through its inventory at a rate 10% faster than last year, to allow it to bring in fresh merchandise more frequently, according to Pete Nordstrom, the department-store chain’s president. “We want our customers to say, ‘Every time I come to Nordstrom there is something new,’” he said.

Retailers said there are more new products hitting stores now that the supply chain is normalising and the excess inventory of past seasons has been cleared out.

But shoppers might not see a big change just yet.

“There is a disconnect between what’s in stores and what’s being shown on the runways and in fashion magazines,” said Lucia Gulbransen, a personal stylist. “You just can’t find the newness and the fashion-forward looks you see on Instagram.”

Some manufacturers said retailers are still too hesitant to pull the trigger on big, unproven bets.

“It’s an all-around risk-averse season,” said David Katz, chief marketing officer of Randa Apparel & Accessories, which makes clothing and accessories for brands ranging from Calvin Klein to Levi Strauss & Co. “There is more pushback than usual on new styles.”

Jackie Ferrari, CEO of clothing manufacturer American Fashion Network LLC, said basics such as T-shirts, tank tops and hoodies now account for about 60% of the assortment at large, mid tier chains, up from the low-50% range in 2019. Rather than adding new silhouettes, retailers are reordering best sellers with new colours and fabrics, she said.

The issue isn’t limited to companies selling consumer goods. Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger recently told investors that the company needed to be careful about which comic-book characters and stories it develops into TV shows and movies from its Marvel Entertainment franchise to ensure “newness.” “Sequels typically work well for us,” Mr. Iger said. “Do you need a third or a fourth, for instance, or is it time to turn to other characters?”

Of course, there are always exceptions. Wide-leg jeans ushered in new clothing styles, including shorter tops and chunkier shoes, and luggage with built-in phone chargers spurred demand for new travel bags. But overall, retailers are still grappling with how to get more newness in front of shoppers, some of the executives said.

Customers are impatient. Robert Smith, a 49-year-old investment manager, said he started searching out smaller, more-unusual clothing brands online after showing up at a networking event wearing the same outfit as another attendee—a black linen shirt and matching shorts that he bought at a big-box chain.

“There isn’t much variety,” said Mr. Smith, who lives in Loves Park, Ill. “If you go to one store, you see the same thing at another store.”



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Even amid two international conflicts and an upcoming U.S. presidential election, some philanthropic leaders are optimistic about the direction of overall giving through 2024.

Penta spoke with heads of several non-profits and leading philanthropists to gauge whether charitable giving will continue its reported slump from 2023 or rebound alongside renewed interest in various political and economic issues.

“Contrary to what some might expect, philanthropy has had resilience in these times,” says Stacy Huston, executive director of Sixdegrees.org, a youth empowerment non-profit based in Virginia founded by actor Kevin Bacon in 2007.

Huston’s view echoes recent data from the biennial Bank of America Study of Philanthropy published last year, which found that while affluent giving is largely down, the value of the average philanthropic gift is up 19%, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

The notion of what these gifts look like is changing, and is partially responsible for the growth. Philanthropy can be executed through more avenues than ever, whether through celebrity association, tech titans stewarding large endowments, or  athletes using their platforms to advocate for and create meaningful change.

“The industry and movement is creating new models, and you want to get it right,” says Scott Curran, CEO of Chicago-based Beyond Advisers. “No one should take their foot off the gas pedal.”

Curran spent a number of years with the Clinton Foundation in its infancy before leaving in 2016 to open his own consultancy, which focuses on philanthropy strategy at the highest levels. Curran and his team work with celebrities, athletes, multi-generational family foundations, and other affluent givers who need guidance in directing their philanthropic efforts. It’s a growing area of interest: Over half of affluent households with a net worth between US$5 million and US$20 million have, or are planning to establish, “some kind of giving vehicle” within the next three years, according to the Bank of America report.

Corporate philanthropy, rather than individual giving, is the cornerstone of Marcus Selig’s work as chief conservation officer at the National Forest Foundation, a Congressionally chartered non-profit based in Montana responsible for protecting millions of acres of public lands.

“Our outlook is business as usual,” he says, advising that giving may slow down, but not enough for the foundation to change course.

Factors such as political polarisation in the U.S. and the wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East are pushing nonprofits to consider their niche, and how they might work with other groups, both on the corporate and philanthropic levels, Selig says.

“It leads to a little more sharing on the ground in what needs to be done,” he adds.

Steve Kaufer , founder of Massachusetts-headquartered e-commerce giving platform Give Freely and founder of TripAdvisor, says that the economy has a much bigger role in election years, as he looks to build and grow something that can act as a “counterbalance.”

“There’s a trend towards democratisation, and acting collectively can lead to greater impact,” he says.

Kaufer’s new platform hopes to leverage the everyday philanthropist through online shopping dollars to benefit major charity partners like UNICEF and charity:water, who earn funds as shoppers choose an organisation to benefit through an online clickthrough process.

“Whether a good year or bad year, e-commerce will continue to keep growing,” he says. “Nobody doubts that.”

Whether a legacy foundation, corporation or individual, the political landscape this year is requiring some to exercise caution as they consider what their own charitable actions might be and how it could be viewed more broadly. For the personal philanthropist, every move is now scrutinised more closely. On the nonprofit side, entities are exercising more due diligence to understand if a specific donor aligns with their mission and that there aren’t any underlying issues that could cause greater pushback.

“You have to be able to walk the walk,” Huston says. “For example, we’ve had to turn down very large donor checks from corporations because there’s a Reddit stream calling them out on their human rights practices.”

She adds that even a routine charity activation could now be aligned with a political party, and that adds complexities to how a higher-profile organisation like Six Degrees can activate, especially as the film Footloose turns 40 in 2024 (which Bacon starred in).

“A lot of organisations and states want to align themselves with this feel good moment, and we should be able to stand side by side with everyone, but we have to be aware,” she says.

Another topic attracting donor interest today is  mental health, an area that historically has been underfunded and under-resourced by philanthropy, according to Two Bridge partner Harris Schwartzberg, who has been closely linked to the mental health space for more than a decade.

Today, the issue for mental health nonprofits is less about resources and more about societal divisiveness and polarisation around the topic. There’s an “overwhelming demand” for solutions, but the space is in a “perfect storm” for the broader political issues to make things worse, Schwartzberg says.

In Curran’s opinion, the storms brewing are troublesome, but they are also creating new opportunities for corporate and personal giving. The  current state of philanthropy is one of “dynamic, expansive, and blurred lines,” meaning a careful blending of targeted giving combined with an understanding of the broader geopolitical landscape could lead to a successful overall philanthropic strategy.

“There are a lot of headlines that distract, but shouldn’t,” he says. “2024 needs more serious philanthropists than ever.”

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