The Monthly Retail Recap: April 2023

The Monthly Retail Recap: April 2023

Welcome back to the one-stop shop for all the biggest retail news from the last roughly 30 days.

A lot can happen in a month. More Shopify layoffs (and selloffs), Walmart’s AI-powered vendor negotiations, Rent the Runway’s new subscription model, and Olipop’s eye-popping sales projections included.

So, let’s start unpacking.

👉 ICYMI, here’s what happened in March.

IMF’s newest projections further fuel recession fears

International Monetary Fund projects a 3% growth rate for the global economy for the next 5 years (down from the 3.8% average of the last two decades).

For reference, this is the slowest medium-term growth forecast since 1990.

If IMF’s predictions prove right, the “path back to robust growth is rough and foggy,” warns Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of IMF.

Shopify shed its logistics legs

Shopify reported $1.51B in Q1 revenue, beating expectations.

In the same press release, Shopify announced that it was offloading its logistics operations to Flexport. Meaning, the company is no longer trying to compete with Amazon’s logistics network.

The sale includes Deliverr, which the ecommerce platform bought less than a year ago for $2.1 billion, and 50+ warehouses nationwide.

Some of Shopify’s logistics team will move to Flexport as part of the deal. But the majority will be let go (~20% of the company total.

This announcement drove Shopify shares up ~40% in the following week.

Amazon’s new feature doesn’t woo Shopify brands as expected

The ecommerce marketplace recently invited select Shopify brands to try Explore Brand Selection. Amazon describes this new and totally optional beta program as a “way to assist you with the product listing process.”

AKA, Explore Brand Selection automates how Shopify brands upload ASINs to the third-party marketplace – rather than manually running this process.

The fine print Amazon sent out says the feature can “pre-fill 59% of required attributes.” But many sellers anticipate that this automation will come with lots of errors they’ll need to manually fix.

But that’s not most merchants’ biggest concern. Instead, they’re asking questions about what data this program will give Amazon access to.

The program’s representatives insist that sellers will not need to connect Amazon to their Shopify back-ends and that no confidential data will be collected. But even if that’s true, sellers still worry about Amazon collecting more data from them without returning the favor.

Ads drove major Q1 growth for Amazon

Amazon Q1 revenue reached $127.4B (up 9% YoY) amid layoffs, beating expectations. And ads were a driving force, topping $9.5B (an increase of 21% YoY).

Speaking of ads, Amazon is working to make its full-funnel ad offerings more plug-and-play. And Pinterest announced a multiyear ad partnership with Amazon to bring more brands to the social platform.

Walmart uses AI to negotiate with vendors

Walmart adopts Pactum AI to negotiate better prices with some vendors. Pactum AI automates negotiations with suppliers on the retail brand’s behalf to unlock hidden value.

So far, the big box retailer has only used the tool to negotiate physical products for its stores, like shopping carts. But it’s reached deals with 68% of the suppliers it approached, saving the company 3%.

🤿 Dive deeper: How to negotiate better vendor terms without Pactum AI.

Rent the Runway cleaned out its closet

Rent the Runway’s closet is too full. So, as of March, the subscription service has been sending customers more clothes for the same money. And it’s surprisingly boosting business across the board.

Active subscribers have surpassed a record-breaking 141,000. Meanwhile, paused memberships have dropped from 26% to 22% in roughly a quarter.

But doesn’t this raise Rent the Runway’s operational costs? Surprisingly, it does the opposite.

Adding another item doesn’t drastically increase the weight of the shipment — keeping transportation costs steady. But it does leave less inventory in their warehouses, lowering holding costs.

Plus, because orders are bigger, it takes 43% fewer employees to process the same volume of inventory, the team reports. (Rent the Runway laid off 24% of its workforce in September 2022.)

“We’re actually saving here having more items at home rather than on our shelves, and that’s great for us and for the business,” CFO Scarlett Brillet O’Sullivan told Insider.

🔥 Tip: You can make a similar play by offloading deadstock as a free gift with every purchase.

Competitors are accepting Bed Bath & Beyond coupons

Bed Bath & Beyond’s famous (infamous?) 20% off coupons have officially expired. The company will no longer honor discounts past their end date as it liquidates its inventory and prepares to shut its doors.

In its heyday, the company mailed out nearly 1 billion (yes, with a B) blue coupons annually. Many of which customers hoarded, knowing the end date in this instance didn’t mean the coupon was actually expired.

But the big blue coupons aren’t completely useless now.

Big Lots and The Container Store have taken the torch and are temporarily accepting 20%-off coupons from the dying competitor.

Olipop is shaking up the soda industry

Olipop is on track to sell $200m of prebiotic soda as gut health trends. (For reference, this target is more than double the brand’s 2022 sales.)

The soda alternative’s rise coincides with traditional soda consumption falling.

Today, “functional sodas” (the category Olipop falls into) account for 14% of the digestive health category.

🤿 Dive deeper: Olipop’s secret ingredient for delirious revenue growth.

And finally, a few more stories worth your attention

  • F*ck Oatly, a mysterious website spilling the oat drink brand’s PR mess-ups and scandals, launched last fall, and it turns out Oatly was behind it all along.
  • Forget curbside pickup. Target has introduced a new curbside returns service to ~25% of its stores.
  • Adidas plans to sell off $1.3B in unsold Yeezy stock and donate profits to charity. Kanye West will likely get a cut despite the partnership’s termination.
  • Consider this a cautionary tale: Samsung employees leaked confidential company information on 3 separate occasions by feeding it into ChatGPT.
  • US advertising is up 11% MoM on TikTok, despite a potential ban on the social platform.
  • Nissin (AKA, Top Ramen maker) reported a 41% bump in Q4 2022 sales after introducing healthier low-sodium offerings and a breakfast line.
  • Away is back with its first new brick-and-mortar since 2021 in San Jose, California. Later this year, the suitcase brand plans to open another location in Washington, DC.

Think we missed something major? Have the tea on an upcoming story? Drop me a line at – and I’ll see about working it into May’s Monthly Retail Recap.