The Uber of Local Marketing

Field Day connects brands with local ambassadors who build awareness in their own neighborhoods.

Good morning!

Here are today’s highlights:

  • The best new concept in retail in decades?

  • Amazon will no longer force customers to resolve disputes in arbitration.

  • And companies are once again delaying their return to the office.

MARKETING

Field Day is trying to be the Uber of local marketing: “Field Day connects brands, including current clients Panera Bread, Blaze Pizza, Equinox, and about 50 others, with ‘brand ambassadors’: locals who speak to the brands’ targets in their home neighborhoods in order to increase awareness and drive adoption. In the pre-Covid world, Field Day’s brand ambassadorship mostly took the form of canvassing. For example, an Equinox ambassador might go door to door, speaking to their neighbors in New York about signing up for the gym. The model provides flexible work for ambassadors and savvy sales reps, as opposed to robocalls or outsourced workers halfway around the world, for brands.”

  • “Covid tested the Field Day model, forcing the startup to rethink how it would build local connections without the possibility of the face-to-face conversations on which it had previously staked its brand.”

  • “Ultimately, the company transitioned from focusing on in-person canvassing to phone calls. After a serious setback in the early Covid days, it is now doing more business than before the pandemic.” READ MORE

RETAIL

Is Dollar General’s Popshelf the best new concept in retail in decades? “Last year was not a banner one for launching new retail concepts. Many in the industry put their efforts into building out their e-commerce and omni-channel capabilities as the pandemic raged across the country. Dollar General was among the small, hardy group that launched new store concepts in 2020. Its first store under the Popshelf banner opened in Tennessee last October, and didn't get many visits from media or financial analysts. The first analyst who did take a look at the store in person called it the best new concept he has seen in nearly two decades.”

  • “In announcing the new format, Dollar General said that it targeted suburban female customers with household annual income ranging from $50,000 to $125,000. Popshelf is really the first dollar store to devote itself entirely to that demographic.”

  • “Key to the banner's proposition to its target customers is Popshelf's merchandising, which focuses on seasonal and home decor, health and beauty, cleaning supplies, party goods and other categories.”

  • “Annualized sales as of May stood at $1.7 million to $2 million per store, compared to $1.4 million in first-year sales for a traditional Dollar General. Gross margin rate at Popshelf stores is roughly 40 percent, eight percentage points higher than at Dollar General stores ...” READ MORE

THE COVID ECONOMY

Because of the Delta variant, companies are once again delaying returning to the office: “Several hospital systems that previously held off making vaccines mandatory for health care workers are now willing to do so. Google employees in California who have voluntarily returned to the office are again wearing masks indoors. Goldman Sachs is considering whether to reinstitute testing for fully vaccinated employees in the company’s New York City offices, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because nothing had been decided. And on Monday, Apple told its work force that it would push back its return-to-office date from September to October.”

  • “For employers wary of the legal ramifications and political backlash of mandating a vaccine, the tide has begun to turn, if ever so slightly.”

  • “Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York on Friday encouraged private employers to require workers to get vaccinated. He also said the city might broaden the number of city workers required to get vaccinated or to be tested weekly.”

  • “In Los Angeles, Endeavor, the parent company of the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, reopened its Beverly Hills headquarters this month. But it decided to shut down again last week when the county reimposed its indoor mask mandate in the face of surging case counts.” READ MORE

In Europe, countries are demanding proof of vaccination: “The Italian government announced on Thursday that it would require people to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test in order to participate in certain social activities, including indoor dining, visiting museums, and attending shows. The move follows a similar announcement made by the French government last week and comes as the debate in Western nations heats up over how far governments should — or can — go in circumscribing the life of the unvaccinated.”

  • “In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that his government planned to insist on proof of vaccination to enter nightclubs and similar venues by the end of September, but the idea was met with a swift political backlash and is not yet certain to go ahead.” READ MORE

LITIGATION

Amazon will no longer force customers to use arbitration to resolve disputes: “In a brief email to customers, Amazon said anyone using its products would now have to pursue disputes with the company in federal court, rather than go through the private and secretive arbitration process, which critics say puts consumers at a huge disadvantage.”

  • “The five-sentence note informing Amazon’s customers about its updated ‘conditions of use’ did not explain the reasons for dropping arbitration. When asked about the reasoning, a company spokeswoman did not elaborate.”

  • “Amazon has been hit with roughly 75,000 arbitration claims alleging that devices, such as the Echo, that feature the company’s voice-operated assistant, Alexa, were recording customers without their consent.”

  • “Amazon faces potentially tens of millions of dollars in fees that it will have to pay the private arbitrators to have those cases heard.”

  • “‘For most companies, arbitration was always part of an effort to evade liability, not just to escape class actions,’ said Travis Lenkner, a lawyer at the firm Keller Lenkner, which is representing the consumers in the Alexa-related claims. ‘This is the first company to turn tail. Others may well do so.’” READ MORE

Businesses that suffered ransomware attacks are now getting hit with lawsuits: “Eddie Darwich and his wife, Abeer, had been running the EZ Mart fuel station on Castle Hayne Road in Wilmington, N.C., for 11 years the day the gas dried up. At first Darwich was skeptical of the other gas station owners who were calling him with news of a strange computer hack attack on Colonial Pipeline, the company that ran the network of fuel pipes serving much of the East Coast. The pipeline had been shut down, and panicked drivers were buying extra fuel, leading to a run on gas supplies.”

  • “‘For more than a month I did not see my customers,’ he said. ‘It hurt a lot.’”

  • “Now he’s suing Colonial Pipeline over those lost sales, accusing it of lax security. He and his lawyers are hoping to also represent the hundreds of other small gas stations that were hurt by the hack.”

  • “It’s just one of several class-action lawsuits that are popping up in the wake of high-profile ransomware attacks.” READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

Laszlo Bock, former head of HR at Google and CEO of Humu, a workplace behavior company, says most companies will bail on hybrid workplaces: “What our data at Humu shows is that one-and-a-half to two days per week from home is optimal for productivity and happiness. And that's sustainable over time, like over years. When you vary from that, you end up in bad states where either people get burnt out or they get forgotten or they stop being productive. So the third thing is companies not being able to actually strike that right balance of how much should people do and not being intentional enough about when they're together and how they use that time. That's why I think two years from now, 80 percent of this is going to snap back to the office.”

  • “It will be a function of exhaustion. It will be a function of a need for productivity, a need for control by the senior executives, and inequity.” READ MORE

Gene Marks says it's time for business owners to step up and solve their labor issues: “So are we paying enough to attract those workers? Are we offering the right benefits? Have we considered increasing hourly wages, enhancing our health insurance, arranging work-from-home schedules, expanding paid time off, providing mental health counseling, helping with college loans — all of the things that bigger companies are doing to fill out their payrolls? Or are we still paying and doing things the same way we did before the pandemic began. If that’s the case, then I can understand why many business owners are short of help.”

  • “Of course, many small businesses will say that these things cost too much and can’t be afforded. And I agree these are difficult obstacles to overcome. But c’mon, we’re smarter than that.”

  • “There’s work opportunity tax credits, forgivable Small Business Administration loans and many other government funding programs still available to help. There are very affordable contactless point of sale and other self-service technologies that can help us reduce overhead.”

  • “And we can always raise our prices. I’m seeing many upper-end restaurants doing just that and customers continuing to pay because a) we recognize that these are inflationary times and b) sure, we’re willing to pay more if we get our food while it’s hot and continue to have a good dining experience at your restaurant.” READ MORE

OPPORTUNITIES

Traffic is surging, and parking startups are cashing in: “During the depths of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic, cars sat idly in driveways, city streets were deserted, one-time commuters worked from bed—and it was much, much easier to find a parking spot. All of which was devastating news for the small cadre of tech startups dedicated to helping people find and reserve places to park. For SpotHero, which makes an app that helps drivers locate parking spaces, business was down 90 percent in April 2020 compared with February. The company laid off half its employees. ‘It was a really hard time for us,’ Chief Executive Officer Mark Lawrence says.”

  • “Now, at last, drivers are back, and so is the familiar American pastime of hunting for a parking spot.”

  • “The result has been a wave of new customers for SpotHero and companies like it. SpotHero bookings started to come back in January, then accelerated.”

  • “Meanwhile, SpotAngels, which uses crowd input to create maps of nearby open spaces, says monthly revenue since its previous high in February 2020 had tripled by May 2021” READ MORE

A columnist asks why a black entrepreneur had to leave Boston to open her business: “Courtney Blagrove’s oat-milk ice cream is all the rage. She opened her first store over a year ago and landed a national shipping deal. Fans pay tribute with TikTok videos not only to celebrate the luxurious, creamy concoction but to show how much they love supporting a Black-owned business. ‘I don’t even know how they do it,’ @simaraland says on one video. ‘Well, I mean it is Black woman-owned so probably the Black girl magic.’”

  • “With write-ups in The New York Times, Forbes, and Black Enterprise, Blagrove is entertaining expansion opportunities from California to Florida, but success is bittersweet:”

  • “She wanted her first brick-and-mortar shop to be in Boston, where she co-founded Whipped Urban Dessert Lab. But plans to be in the Seaport District were stymied after she ran into trouble dealing with her landlord, WS Development, over a 200-square-foot space.” READ MORE

REAL ESTATE

Home prices are setting records in Phoenix: “Phoenix was a hot market before the pandemic, and it has been a major beneficiary of new remote-work policies, as workers in expensive cities decided to move for cheaper housing. Even as home prices in Phoenix soar, housing in the area is still cheap compared with many other big cities in the West. The Phoenix-area median existing-home price was $399,900 in June, up 31.1 percent from a year earlier, according to the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service. That’s more than $100,000 below the median home prices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Denver.”

  • “‘When people come here from Seattle and Portland, they are thrilled at what they can buy,’ said Alan Jones, division president for home builder Lennar Corp. ‘And from California, they go beyond being thrilled.’”

  • *Economists say the current housing boom is less risky than the last one, because mortgage-lending standards are stricter and the U.S. has a shortage of homes.” READ MORE

THE 21 HATS PODCAST

Episode 69: “I Didn’t Look Like Them, But I Could Act Like Them” This week, we introduce a new regular on the 21 Hats Podcast team. Her name is Diana Lee, and she’s the founder of a digital marketing agency. In a conversation with Jay Goltz and Stephanie Stuckey, Diana explains how she got her business off the ground by helping car dealers target diverse communities within their markets, how she bootstrapped her business by convincing those car dealers to prepay 50-percent upfront, and how her first attempt at building a software platform ended with her spending $1 million on a platform that no one wanted to use.

If you see a story that business owners should know about, hit reply and send me the link. If you got something out of this email, you can click the heart symbol, you can click the comment icon below, and you can share it with a friend. Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren