The Monthly Retail Recap: May 2023

The Monthly Retail Recap: May 2023

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

Despite steady Q2 spending, inflation has consumers more financially unstable than ever.

And the brands that are winning folks’ hard-earned cash? Well, they’re the ones that are most trusted or most creative.

Here the retail strategies you need to know.

👉 ICYMI, here’s what happened in April.


The most trusted brands in America, ranked

Band-Aid ranked #1 on Morning Consult’s Most Trusted Brands list for the second year running (out of ~1,500 brands). The Johnson & Johnson-owned brand holds this top slot on both the US and worldwide rankings.

Other top runners on the US list include:

  • UPS (moved from 4th to 2nd)
  • Amazon (first time cracking the top 10)
  • Lysol (moved from 2nd to 4th
  • Kleenex (moved from 3rd to 5th)

But how much consumers actually trust these brands depends on which generation they belong to.

The average trust among US adults was 20 points. Gen X and Baby Boomers have the most confidence in brands on this list (22 points). Millennials second most (just below average).

And Gen Z? Well, they don’t seem to trust anyone (11 points).

Perhaps this is because the young generation hasn’t had time to build trust with brands. Or maybe they’re just jaded.

Regardless, one thing’s for sure: Corporate America has its work cut out to win over the most economically powerful generation to date.

🤿 Dive deeper: A data-backed cheat sheet for marketing to GenZ.


Lululemon gave away $98k worth of leggings

Dupes are having a heyday. And Lululemon, the athletic-wear brand that often gets duped, isn’t having it.

At Century City Mall in LA, the popular legging brand held its first-ever “Dupe Swap.” During the 2-day event, ~1,000 people traded in their knockoffs for Lululemon’s bestselling $98 Align leggings. (Some folks even camped out overnight for their free pair.)


Trust us, no one is missing their dupes. Align Legging Dupe Swap is back tomorrow at Century City Mall in LA, while supplies last. #lululemonalign

♬ original sound – Ethan Palazzo

As far as Lululemon is concerned? The event was worth every penny. Half the people who attended the event were new to the brand, and half who participated were GenZ.

Not to mention that the activation allowed the company to showcase its “superiority in this space” by allowing people to put its product to the test, per Nikki Neuburger, Lululemon’s chief brand officer.

Plus, it led to lots of stellar press for the cult-favorite retailer.

📝 Note
To simplify inventory management for the event, the team gave out only one SKU: the black 25″ Align leggings. And they stocked all sizes, using sales data from North American stores to inform quantities.


Barbie lands her dream partnerships

Barbie has been building her dream partnership portfolio for decades.

But in anticipation of the upcoming live-action film, she has secured a few notable additions.Forever 21, Balmain, Gap, Swoon, and Backdrop included – just to name a few.

Source: Backdrop

And Anthony DiSilvestro, CFO of Barbie’s parent brand Mattel, has commented that the movie tie-in is boosting sales, with gross margins expected to reach 47% by EOY (up from 45.9% in 2022).

Chances are good partner brands see a similar financial lift.

Graza partners with trendy NYC restaurants

Graza is taking the next logical step in its micro-influencer strategy: restaurants.

So far, the squeezable olive oil company has partnered with several hyper-trendy New York City favorites to host one-off pop-up events and produce special items.

Think: A calzone pop-up at Pasquale Jones, sharing a crowd-favorite recipe from Carbone and hosting a dinner party with Caleta.

This activation strategy gives strong Caviar circa 2015–2016 vibes.

(Oh – and these partnerships are on top of a huge wholesale deal that gets Graza’s olive oil into every Whole Foods across the US, by the way.)

🤿 Dive deeper: Graza’s micro-influencer launch strategy.


Oatly offers to buy competitors ads

The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) recently launched a “wood milk” parody campaign aimed at Oatly that claimed only cow milk is “real milk.”

(The FDA’s February decision to allow plant-based milks to actually call themselves “milk” is likely fueling this beef.)

The wood milk project, however, backfired as people called out milk’s environmental impact. And Oatly is instigating.

In its latest marketing shenanigans, the oat milk brand has offered to pay for one out-of-home ad for dairy brands.

All a milk company has to do is reveal its climate footprint by filling out 70+ questions. This survey is the same one Oatly took before adding its carbon footprint to its product packaging.

Why? Because it’ll likely make oat milk look better despite Oatly’s own share of ethical concerns. (Alternative milk requires fewer resources and produces lower emissions than cow milk on average.)

But that’s only if a dairy brand actually takes Oatly up on this offer.

Amazon had a rough month

In Early May, Amazon reported optimizing its logistics for speed and cost.

These efforts included removing 12 touchpoints from the fulfillment process and offering customers $10 to pick up their order rather than deliver it to their homes.

However, despite these optimizations, the New York Times speculates that the network is still subject to “an under-appreciated vulnerability.” This is due primarily to explosive growth.

With so many warehouses and delivery fleets, Amazon’s vast scale makes it easy for workers to shut down operations at key sites, a form of protest called “choke point organizing.”

But this month, warehouse workers and drivers didn’t make headlines for picketing; Amazon’s corporate workers did.

On May 31, hundreds of Amazon employees walked out, citing a “lack of trust” in leadership. The biggest frustration? The company’s return-to-office mandate and greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: NYT

This was the same day the tech behemoth agreed to pay the FTC “more than $30 million to settle allegations of privacy lapses in its Alexa and Ring division.”

In other news…

  • Omsom (a DTC brand offering elevated instant noodles) hosted a full-fledged rave to launch its new collection

about last night… 👀 #brooklynrave #asianownedbusiness

♬ Day n Nite Crookers Remix – 777

  • Cogsy unveiled a way to track in-transit inventory, giving ecommerce brands full visibility into their stock movements
  • Apple announced its first-ever “spatial computer,” dubbed Vision Pro
  • Kraft Heinz launched a frozen mac and cheese line that prioritizes comfort, while competitors opt for healthier options
  • Victoria’s Secret plans to host a reimagined version of its famous fashion show this fall (the first time since 2018)
  • BNPL leaders (think: Klarna and Affirm) are tightening their credit standards to unlock profitability
  • A trading card store in Japan banned adults from buying Pokemon cards so kids (AKA, not resellers) can enjoy the game
  • Pickleball courts are replacing shuttered Bed Bath & Beyond and Old Navy storefronts in US malls

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 June’s Monthly Retail Recap.