Come Back to the Office (and Win a Tesla!)

Today’s Highlights: Even convenience stores are offering signing bonuses. Remote workers are transforming resort areas. And women are buying bras again.

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MARKETING

Petco is testing Facebook Live for video commerce: “This week the pet supplies retailer hosted ‘Facebook Live: The Perfect Fit,’ a pet fashion show and dog adoption drive via Facebook Shops. The event marked Petco’s first foray into live selling — and featured merchandise from Petco’s private labels, Youly and Reddy, modeled by rescue dogs from the LA Animal Services. … While it hasn’t become mainstream in the U.S. just yet compared to countries like China, moves like these signal that video commerce is starting to pick up steam.”

  • “Altschuler said the goal is to eventually turn video commerce into a major component of the company’s overall marketing strategy.” READ MORE

OPPORTUNITIES

Remote work is killing Manhattan’s storefronts—but it does present opportunities: “Before the pandemic, Jill Lindsey said, she spoke with Tishman Speyer about opening an outlet of her apparel and housewares store in Rockefeller Center in a few years, when a particular space was supposed to become available. But Tishman Speyer contacted her in July, asking if she was interested in moving in sooner, into another space, set aside as an ‘incubator’ for small retailers to prove themselves. Another retailer had left one of the incubator spaces after five months. Ms. Lindsey, who opened the store in November, said her rent, 15 percent of sales, is a lot lower than what she discussed with Tishman Speyer in 2019.”

  • “The store, called Jill Lindsey, took in just $8,000 in March. ‘I feel it’s OK to laugh about this,’ she said, ‘because I do think we’ll come back and we’ll thrive.’” READ MORE

With demand surging, peer-to-peer car rental startups are showing life: “Peer-to-peer rental startups look poised to be potential big winners in a post-pandemic economy. While rental fleet operators face supply crunches, venture-backed companies like Turo and Getaround, which rely on existing car owners, have an easier time scaling to meet the quickly escalating demand.”

  • “Operators of P2P rental platforms pitch their offerings as a cheaper, more fun and more flexible alternative for people who need a vehicle temporarily. Turo, in particular, likes to play up its varied selection of rides, which includes a high proportion of electric vehicles, sports cars and luxury models. Teslas are especially abundant across the platform.”

  • “Meanwhile, for Getaround, smaller, fuel-efficient gas-powered cars and hybrids dominate the listings. Predominantly, people are picking up vehicles for errands, day trips and other use cases in their local communities, Notti said.”

  • “A lot of people accustomed to traditional taxis were suspicious about using the app at first. Now, it’s their go-to. ‘It’s just like Uber in the beginning,’ he said.” READ MORE

REOPENING

People are coming back to Center City Philadelphia: “In recent weeks, as vaccinations have become readily available — all adults are now eligible — and the weather has warmed up, the liveliness of Rittenhouse Square has begun to resemble what it was pre-COVID, merchants and business advocacy groups jubilantly say. ‘We have seen a big jump in the last two to three weeks,’ [said Jen Rosen, who owns upscale intimates store, Je Suis Jolie]. ‘There’s double the traffic. The weather’s getting nicer, but the vaccinations really are a huge factor.’ With that, she said, ‘now people are ready to wear bras again — and real clothes.’” READ MORE

Cargo pants and outdoor slippers are leading the resurgence in clothing sales: “People are dressing up again—sort of—as they venture out to social events and prepare to return to the office. Pent-up demand, combined with stimulus checks, rising vaccine rates, new styles and the weight that many people gained or lost during the pandemic, is expected to drive a surge in clothing sales not seen in years, according to industry executives, shoppers and analysts. In the past few weeks, pants with buttons and zippers have begun outselling those with drawstrings or elastic waistbands at L.L. Bean..”

  • “‘We’re starting to see longer dwell times in our stores,’ said Stephen Smith, L.L. Bean’s CEO, noting that sales over the past few weeks at the company’s 55 bricks-and-mortar stores are up by about 5% compared with 2019.”

  • “‘People are figuring out ways to take their casual clothes out of the house,’ said Nata Dvir, Macy’s chief merchandising officer, noting that ‘indoor/outdoor’ is a top search term for slippers on Macy’s website.”

  • “‘I don’t foresee any business circumstance that would require me to wear a suit,’ said the 24-year-old founder of an online subscription service that caters to history buffs.” READ MORE

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HUMAN RESOURCES

If you return to work in this office, you can win a Tesla: “It started in April with a daily cash prize of $10,000 awarded randomly to an employee every workday. But that’s not all. Three employees and a guest for each will board a private plane headed to Barbados for an all-expenses-paid vacation. And a grand-prize winner will get to drive to work in a new Tesla. This is how CoStar Group, a provider of real-estate data, is trying to lure its employees back to the office. Anyone who is vaccinated and in the workspace is eligible for the daily prize.”

  • “While not many companies are apparently comfortable ordering employees back, a number of them are taking modest steps to ease the return to work.”

  • “Examples include small tokens such as office slippers or gift cards for stores including Target. Others are plying their office staff with free food and drink.” READ MORE

Even convenience stores are offering signing bonuses: “Starr Restaurant Organization is offering $300 to new hires at some restaurants in Philadelphia and New York City, including Parc and Barclay Prime. The sports-bar chain Chickie’s & Pete’s served its signature Crabfries and soft drinks and offered $200 bonuses at a two-day job fair this week as it seeks to hire 200 workers at 14 locations. The Sabrina’s Cafes are offering $100 referrals to current employees who bring in newcomers. The King of Prussia District has put up $20,000 in signing bonuses to be shared among 29 restaurants at a May 4 hiring fair that wants to hire 350 employees.”

  • “Wawa is offering $500 in some job categories, while another convenience chain, Royal Farms, is offering $500 bonuses and $300 referrals at certain locations ...” READ MORE

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More employees are demanding on demand pay: “ As employers—especially small employers—are struggling to bring back workers to their jobs, a relatively new benefit is becoming more attractive: on-demand pay. Yes, that’s right: an employee gets paid on the day the work is performed. Think about it: your babysitter already gets paid right away, and so does the high-school kid who mows your lawn. So why not your employees? The appetite for this benefit is growing. According to an October 2019 survey of 1,180 American adults by the Workforce Institute at Kronos, a whopping 61 percent of employees across the healthcare, retail and manufacturing/construction industries said they should not have to wait until their scheduled payday to access their earned wages.”

  • “More than half of all employees believe that on-demand pay is a more attractive benefit than additional paid time off.”

  • DailyPay’s on-demand pay platform allows employees to access their pay and tips early and save it as they earn it.”

  • “Ceridian’s DayForce creates a wallet where employees can request pay in advance of a pay date.” READ MORE

REAL ESTATE

Remote workers are transforming resort areas around the country: “Housing markets are hot nationwide, but few areas have seen the surge in home prices and residents as outdoor vacation destinations. ‘You can live your life on vacation,’ said Rich La Rue, a real estate broker in the Palm Springs area. ‘All the things that you love to do: hiking, biking, whatever it is. A property comes on the market here and it’s a feeding frenzy.’”

  • “Case in point: the average asking price of a home in the desert city is now $1 million, a 30 percent one-year increase.”

  • “In Bend, Ore., where locals boast that you can see no fewer than three mountain peaks from town, the average home now lasts on the market for only three days.”

  • “East Coast destinations such as Cape Cod, Mass. and Palm Beach, Fla., have seen a surge in buyers from Boston and New York City.” READ MORE

MANAGEMENT

The fallout at Basecamp continued on Friday:

ECOMMERCE

Amazon’s sales people used third-party seller data to improve Amazon’s sales: “An internal audit seen by POLITICO warned Amazon's senior leadership in 2015 that 4,700 of its workforce working on its own sales had unauthorized access to sensitive third-party seller data on the platform — even identifying one case in which an employee used the access to improve sales. Since then, reports of employees using third-party seller information to bolster Amazon's own sales and evidence of lax IT access controls at the company suggest that efforts to fix the issue have been lackluster.”

  • “‘This is fuel for the suspicions I had,’ Dutch internet entrepreneur Peter Sorber said when told about the audit. Sorber sold children's clothes on Amazon, but 18 months after setting up his ‘Brandkids’ store on the platform and entering the required sales data, his products disappeared from the search rankings.”

  • “‘You cannot ask a retailer to show his entire story with all sales statistics and then show that to your own purchasers. This is worse than not done. This is simply unfair competition.’” READ MORE

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FRANCHISING

In Osaka, Japan, there are two 7-Elevens on one corner and a big fight between franchisor and franchisee: “Mitoshi Matsumoto, a franchisee, ran one of the two 7-Elevens until the chain revoked his contract in 2019 after he dared to shorten his operating hours. For over a year, his store has sat empty as he and 7-Eleven have battled in court over control of the shop. Fed up and with no end in sight, the company decided on a stopgap: It built a second shop in what used to be Mr. Matsumoto’s parking lot. The conflict’s outcome will determine not just who gets to sell rice balls and cigarettes from one tiny patch of asphalt and concrete. It could also have profound implications for 7-Eleven’s authority over tens of thousands of franchise shops across Japan ...”

  • “For most of the seven years that Mr. Matsumoto operated his 7-Eleven, he faithfully carried out the demands for round-the-clock operations, which boost corporate profits but can be costly for franchisees ...”

  • “The pace became unsustainable, though, as help became harder and more expensive to find — a problem that grew more acute after his wife’s death from cancer in the spring of 2018.” READ MORE

LOGISTICS

Even pet washes are being affected by the global chip shortage: “Of all the businesses to suffer from the global shortage of computer chips, dog washing — a low-tech affair involving soap, water and a dirty pet — ought to be near the bottom of the list. But as with so many low-tech tasks these days, high-tech options are available, and that’s how CCSI International, a family-run manufacturer in rural Illinois, ran afoul of the chip shortage. CCSI makes electronic dog-washing booths that dispense shampoo, water and optional fur-drying. The machines are a hit with dog-park managers and the U.S. military, which buys them for use on its bases.”

  • “But the machines are controlled by computer chips, and recently, CCSI, which assembles the booths at its factory in Garden Prairie, Ill., was told by its circuit-board supplier that the usual chips weren’t available.” READ MORE

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