The Brand Move Roundup – May 7, 2020

We’re tracking the notable brand moves & highlighting the companies who are tackling this challenge successfully.

We started this series of brand updates on March 12, but the reaction has been so positive, and the crisis so fast-moving, that we’re going to move to a continuously updated rolling news format from now until it’s all over (hopefully soon). Keep checking back here for the latest updates on how brands are dealing with coronavirus.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has launched a new luxury platform targeting younger consumers that also aims to help high-end brands shed excess inventory built up during the global lockdown. Most labels have been enjoying a recovery in sales in China since March, but the pandemic has disrupted supply chains and warehouse planning across the globe, leaving fashion groups with vast amounts of unsold goods. Alibaba said it was piloting the new Luxury Soho platform to run alongside its Tmall Luxury Pavilion flagship site. “Brands are now sitting on a worldwide abundance of stock and are also needing to find ways to reach new consumers,” said Christina Fontana, head of Tmall Fashion and Luxury in Europe. She said the platform would help high-end houses reach newer consumers such as those from China’s lower-tier cities or so-called Gen Z shoppers, young clients up to the age of 25 who are just entering the world of luxury and are expected to become increasingly important for the sector. “With Luxury Soho, brands can now move selected products and collections onto an online outlet store and bring them in front of a specific audience,” she said.

San Francisco-based casual wear brand American Giant, like other clothing brands such as Hanes and Fruit of the Loom, has pivoted to producing protective facemasks – but has also reacted smartly to the new work environment by producing a loose-fitting trouser called the WFH Pant. The $148 garment, designed “for what working from home really means in 2020, when you’re taking care of business at your job, but also checking off everything else on your to-do list,” apparently has “the stretch, comfort and ease of a sweatpant, with the polish and structure of a trouser.”

Business solutions provider Ultimate Software, which closed a merger with Kronos Incorporated on April 1, has launched resources and features for its UltiPro platform to support its customers and their employees, and help customers navigate changing legislation, better understand employees’ feedback and needs, and communicate more effectively during this time of uncertainty. The list of HR and payroll-related product enhancements and resources includes features for navigating new employer-related legislation such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), impacting U.S. employers with 500 or fewer employees; the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; and other state and federal legislation related to COVID-19. Ultimate’s Perception survey solution now includes a new crisis check-in pulse survey, available at no additional cost to customers. The questionnaire, developed by Ultimate’s in-house industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologist, is to address employees’ needs during the current COVID-19 pandemic, but leaders can also leverage the survey to support their people, boost morale, and preserve trust throughout the organization. Employees can complete the survey from anywhere, on any device. UltiPro customers can now use a configurable field so HR can tightly control access to those able to mark employees as essential, to ensure only employees with a genuine need receive permission to work in the office. Kronos has introduced an automated employee contact-tracing tool to help customer organizations and their essential employees during the pandemic while providing new functionality to assist organizations in their planning for reopening facilities in the future. Leveraging data science to analyze labor records and time and attendance data, an organization can generate a report to quickly identify and communicate to employees who may have come in contact with a co-worker who has tested positive or is presumed positive for COVID-19, which can empower organizations to partner with health officials to ensure their people receive appropriate care, treatment, and proper direction to help reduce the risk of further transmission of the virus. “In this time of uncertainty and unexpected change, our top focus is helping our customers and employees navigate this crisis, remain productive, and stay connected,” said Greg Swick, chief revenue officer at Ultimate. “We remain committed to our customers and our people, and we are confident Ultimate and UltiPro will continue to support organizations worldwide, and help them put people first—every day.” Meanwhile, the companies have also launched numerous free resources and a network of support for customers, employees, and the community, including Ultimate’s COVID-19 Resource Center, a site for HR and payroll professionals to access live and on-demand webcasts, guides to effectively managing remote employees, and other useful content to support their people when they need it most. Ultimate and Kronos also created a Kids’ Corner – available for free to the public – that contains resources to help employees balance working from home while caring for kids, including best practices, a calendar of no-cost live-streaming education and kid-friendly entertainment, and activities to keep children occupied while their parents work.

Ultimate and Kronos have established an Employee Relief Fund for employees who are severely impacted by this pandemic, funding this program with a minimum commitment of $1 million dollars, and matching any employee personal donations to the fund dollar for dollar, up to another $500,000. Ultimate and Kronos have committed a minimum of $250,000 towards the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s global COVID-19 Relief Fund, and will also match employee contributions dollar for dollar. To date, Ultimate and Kronos, in partnership with their employees, have contributed over $400,000 to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. Ultimate employees created and funded a campaign to help feed frontline healthcare workers and first responders throughout local communities, already delivering more than 1,000 meals to hospitals in New York, South Florida, and Toronto. They are also sewing masks and using 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and essential employees around the country, including those working onsite at Ultimate and Kronos’ offices.

Founded in 2011 by Logan Plant, son of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert, London-based brewery Beavertown has slowly grown to be a major player in craft beer. Heineken bought a minority stake in 2018, injecting £40m into the company. However 85% of its sales come from pumps in now-shut pubs, bars and restaurants. Social distancing measures were introduced just as the brewer prepared for the launch of a new low-alcohol variety called Nanobot. Pre-lockdown, Plant had forged distribution deals with supermarket Sainsbury’s and pub chain Fuller’s. But the brand executed a swift pivot to DTC; it had a small website that pre-Covid-19 was doing £1000 in sales on a good month. Beavertown invested in the team and infrastructure, increasing the number of staff working online from two to eight and changing its production plans to only manufacture cans. Online sales slowly improved but on the day of Nanobot’s launch, the website achieved £25,000 in 24 hours. “It’s now the second biggest turnover for business for us. It’s grown 1000% which is crazy,” said Plant.

The firm, he said, had “always dreamed of creating a really good DTC model” and he is now talking about developing some kind of subscription model or a craft beer club to offer something different for its community of drinkers. “There’s a lot of different things. We feel we’re more than just a beer so how can we transcend that? Direct-to-consumer is the future.” Beavertown has already created a ‘Beavertown Session’ every Friday at 4pm where people can tune in to different experiences, such as an art class with the brand’s creative director, beer yoga, a live tasting with Plant or a music performance.