The Weekly Closeout: Ace Hardware to hire 40K while Kohl’s pushes back against activist investors

It’s been another week with far more retail news than there is time in the day. Below, we break down some things you may have missed during the week, and what we’re still thinking about.

From Neiman Marcus reducing its use of fur to Five Below’s store footprint plans, here’s our closeout for the week.

What you may have missed

Neiman Marcus reduces fur inventory levels by more than half in goal to go fur-free by 2023

Neiman Marcus Group this week said that the retailer is on track to go fur-free by the early part of 2023, having reduced its fur inventory levels by more than half, according to a company press release.

In an email to Retail Dive, Neiman Marcus Group highlighted a number of “evolving corporate policies” including a partnership with the Humane Society which helped build out the company’s animal welfare and fur free policies, investments in sustainable leather and ongoing support from brand partners who are also going fur-free and introducing sustainable materials into their product assortment.

“Our Merchandising teams have begun asking brand partners to identify items with preferred product attributes that will power the new ‘Fashioned for Change’ and ‘Conscious Curation’ edits at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, which launch this spring,” Chris Demuth, senior vice president of people services, ESG and belonging at Neiman Marcus Group, said in a statement. Those curations will feature items made with bio-based vegan leathers and other sustainable materials, as well as responsibly manufactured products and items made by diverse-owned brands.

The retailer’s commitment to go fur-free was first introduced in 2021, where the company also revealed it would close all of its existing fur salons. The fur salons will be converted into “modern luxury experiences” featuring alterations, personalization, dining and more. The company intends to continue offering fur services, including storage, alterations and repairs.

“It is clear the future is fur-free, and that includes the ultra-luxury space,” Neiman Marcus Group CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said in a statement. “As a leader in luxury retail, NMG has an opportunity to help build a better future for our industry.

Ace Hardware to hire 40K ahead of its all-important spring season

Spring is like the Super Bowl for home improvement retailers. As soon as the temperatures begin to warm up, consumers flock to these retailers for the goods needed to transform their outdoor spaces.

To prepare for the busy period, Ace Hardware this week announced it would hire more than 40,000 store and distribution center associates beginning this past Tuesday. The retailer is offering full-time, part-time and seasonal positions across its stores and retail support centers.

“Ace employees enjoy competitive wages and benefits and product discounts for primarily locally owned businesses, serving thousands of neighborhoods throughout the United States,” the company said in its announcement.

Its larger competitor, The Home Depot, in February announced it would hire more than 100,000 new associates for the spring season.

Academy Sports + Outdoors’ 2021 comps up 19%

Following increased demand for sporting goods As consumers sought out recreational activities during the pandemic, Academy Sports + Outdoors this week proved its growth continued into 2021. The retailer reported fourth quarter. net sales increased 13.2% to $1.8 billion — a quarterly record for the company — while its comps during the period increased 13.1%, marking its 10th quarter quarter of comps growth.

For the full year, net sales increased 19.1% to a record $6.8 billion, while comps rose 18.9%.

The sector has continued to perform well recently despite demand of skyrocketing in the early days of the pandemic. Sales in the sporting goods, hobby and bookstores category tracked by the Commerce Department in January reached $7.4 billiona 1.7% increase year over year and a 29.2% increase from 2020.

But that demand may be easing. Academy Sports + Outdoors projected 2022 net sales could be between $6.6 billion and $6.8 billion, a decrease of 1.6% year over year at the midpoint.

Retail Therapy

Skechers and Martha Stewart are sole mates

Martha Stewart was enlisted as a spokesperson with Skecher’s new marketing campaign, where she wears Skechers’ Memory Foam and Arch Fit collections, according to a company press release.

“All of their designs and colors are loaded with cushioning and style — they’re a natural for the home, garden and workplace,” Stewart said in a statement. “I think they’ll really resonate with those who follow and enjoy the Martha Stewart Brand, and I look forward to building on our new partnership.”

Stewart is one of several ambassadors for the brand, which also includes singer and 4/20 enthusiast Willie Nelson, fitness personalities Brooke Burke and Amanda Kloots, golfers Brooke Henderson and Matt Fitzpatrick, and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, among others.

HomeGoods wants to bring your dreams to life

Have you ever woken up from a dream and thought “I wish I could bring that aesthetic to my real life”? HomeGoods is here to provide that solution as long as you’re willing to tell the details of your dream to a natural language algorithm.

The experience, called “HomeGoods Dream Vibes,” is being pitched as an effort to decode your “dream’s sentiment to find the textures, colors, shapes and decor details inspired by the mood of your dream.” The goal is that customers will tell an IBM algorithm about their dreams (as we will all do sometime in the dystopian future) and then be introduced to products “they didn’t even know they wanted.”

TV personality Tyler Cameron, who partnered with HomeGoods to test the dream-based inspiration experience, had a very wholesome dream about spending time with family and high school friends and used that to decorate based on a “Popcorn and PJs, Please” theme. If you have equally wholesome dreams, rather than the constant nightmares everyone else has been experiencing for the past two years, then this service might help spark some inspiration for your home.

Or, it could be the start of a future where we invite technology to not just suggest our future home purchases, but make them for us. And that’s how we end up like the family in Smart House.

What we’re still thinking about

10%

That’s the amount of price increases some Lululemon products will see over the course of this year. CEO Calvin McDonald announced the pricing adjustments during the retailer’s analyst call discussing full-year 2021 results, which included Lululemon topping $6 billion in revenue for the first time.

The company has also been branching out into new categories, including debuting a new tennis collection and its first footwear styles. According to the NPD Group, the opportunity in footwear could be big, given how loyal Lululemon’s female shoppers are. Women who bought Lululemon activewear spent 30% of their total purchases in the category there over the course of a year, according to the firm’s research. Fabletics, Under Armor and Adidas, by contrast, captured less than 10% of their customers’ purchases.

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