The Brand Move Roundup – May 27, 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.

A just-released survey from Adobe Advertising Cloud has revealed that a significant proportion of the American population is still buying luxury goods and still, surprisingly enough, wants to see luxury advertising. What’s more, that group is Gen Z, the under-25 consumers who statistically lack the job security and affluence that many older buyers enjoy. Adobe conducted its survey earlier this month, interviewing over a thousand shoppers to learn their feelings about brand advertising during the era of Covid-19. The survey’s most surprising finding deals with young consumers and luxury. While a huge swath of Gen Z (72%) report that it’s been negatively affected by Covid and the associated economic bedlam, that doesn’t seem to have dampened the young adults’ desire to shop. Over half of Gen Z respondents said they “aren’t hesitating when considering luxury good purchases,” and 40% report that they would actually like to see luxury (or “non-essential”) brand advertising right now. “While turning off all advertising may be tempting to brands, our findings show us that this isn’t the best solution,” Adobe Advertising Cloud’s product marketing head Ryan Fleisch said. “Pockets of opportunity still exist. The fact that a large percentage of Generation Z still desires luxury and non-essential brands is one example of this.” Gen X and the Boomers, though, each report by a margin of 76% that they’re “hesitant” to buy luxury goods at this time. Millennials aren’t far behind, with 75%. Many luxury brands have recently been directing their marketing efforts towards the small screen, notably Christian Dior’s “Designer of Dreams” Paris exhibition on Instagram. Luxe wristwatch brands including Patek Philippe and Rolex report they’re still receiving a steady stream of inquiries from prospective buyers, while handbag icons Chanel and Louis Vuitton have quietly raised prices in the United States.

American Well, a company that offers virtual medical visits, has just raised $194 million to help it keep up with skyrocketing demand. CEO Ido Schoenberg said the company decided to raise funds now because health care is rapidly moving online. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, telemedicine was growing slowly because of a patchwork of complex state-by-state regulations. Since the spring, states have loosened many of these regulations to encourage medical providers to conduct their visits online, letting patients avoid unnecessary exposure to the virus. “Currently the market is very kind to companies like us,” said Schoenberg. American Well, also known as “Amwell,” sells its technology to large employers and health systems. It competes with Teladoc, which has also seen skyrocketing usage since the pandemic. Schoenberg said that some of the new funding will help ensure that American Well’s technology is robust enough to handle the increased usage. The current level of demand could hold steady for months, he estimated, particularly if there’s a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall. “We want to make sure we can be there for clients and partners even if there is a storm coming,” he said.

Meanwhile, French company DocCity has raised over 15 million euros to develop new generation medical consultation surgeries. “Healthcare real estate will have to reinvent itself to meet new demands, in a very sensitive health context,” said president Xavier Boutin. The first opening is planned for the end of 2020, in Narbonne. A dozen projects are already underway and DocCity expects a rate of 8 to 10 openings per year, everywhere in France. These will be completely new-style treatment spaces for family doctors, with technology built in to help with aspects such as making and managing appointments. “We are entering a new era, in which the relationship between doctor and patient is changing, relying more and more on digital. DocCity is inventing the premises and the services that support this transformation, ”explained Boutin.

South-east Asian real estate portal PropertyGuru has launched a new digital feature allowing a 360-degree walk-through of a project, its units and the surrounding cityscape.

The feature, called StoryTeller, is available on the group’s sales automation platform, FastKey. According to the company, FastKey digitises and automates the entire property sales process from project launch to close of sale. It currently serves over 500 projects from 100 property developers in South-east Asia. PropertyGuru said the new feature allows agents to host viewings and close deals remotely. It also enables property developers to go-to-market as soon as their project is approved, without having to wait for the construction of its sales gallery or show flat. The group’s latest roll out comes after the Singapore government said last week that developers’ sales galleries will remain closed until further notice, with marketing and sales activity only allowed to continue on virtual platforms under phase one of the economy’s safe reopening, starting on June 2. “Social-distancing measures implemented amid the pandemic have reshaped consumer behavior and with it, expectations around property buying and selling. With sales galleries now empty and people still looking to explore properties amid a new normal, the time has come to evolve property discovery,” the company said.

Apple says it is planning to reopen more than 100 US retail stores this week, but because the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, most locations will only offer curbside or storefront service. By this week’s end, Apple says, about 130 out of its 271 U.S. stores will be open. Certain locations, but not all, will allow customers to walk inside the store and conduct transactions on-site with staff. Apple’s retail openings are being closely watched as both a key demand driver for Apple as well as a leading indicator for the health of the retail industry, where Apple’s locations often anchor important malls or shopping districts. The stores in the United States that have re-opened so far have focused on Apple’s Genius Bar, which enables customers to get service and support for broken iPhones and other Apple products. “This week we’ll return to serving customers in many US locations,” an Apple representative said. “For customer safety and convenience, most stores will offer curbside or storefront service only, where we will provide online order pick-up and Genius Bar appointments.”

Walmart is entering the fashion resale market with ThredUp, an e-commerce company that buys and sells secondhand clothes, shoes and accessories. Customers will be able to browse thousands of pre-owned items for women and children on the big-box retailer’s website. They can get free shipping so long as they spend $35 or more, and if purchases don’t work out, they can return the items at a nearby store. Walmart is expanding its online fashion selection in a timely bid to grab more market share in apparel and accessories. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated challenges for clothing retailers; major names, including J.Crew, Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney, have filed for bankruptcy. Others like Nordstrom have said they’ll permanently close some stores. Walmart dominates the grocery business, but still lags in fashion despite having acquired plus-sized women’s apparel company Eloquii and menswear company Bonobos, developed exclusive apparel lines with Ellen DeGeneres and Sofía Vergara and revived Scoop, a trendy brand that used to have stores in New York City. Denise Incandela, head of fashion for Walmart’s e-commerce business in the U.S., said the retailer has been talking to ThredUp for about a year. With the pandemic, though, she said buying fashionable, yet budget-conscious items may have even more relevance. “Everything that we do has been focused on making Walmart a destination for fashion,” she said. “We are absolutely seeing this as an opportunity to support a bigger portion of our customers’ closets.” Even before the crisis, however, Walmart was looking for ways to sell more higher-margin items like clothing to drive its e-commerce business, which has not yet turned a profit. ThredUp bills itself as the largest online thrift storeCustomers can send in clothes, shoes, handbags and more, so long as they’re in good condition. If they pass a quality inspection and sell, he or she gets a portion of the profits. The San Francisco-based resale company has over 45,000 brands, ranging from designer names like Marc Jacobs to fast fashion like Forever 21. ThredUp has struck deals with a growing number of retailers, including Gap, Macy’s, J.C. Penney and J.Crew-owned Madewell. Many of its partnerships with retailers have had a brick-and-mortar rather than e-commerce focus.

While the regular ice hockey season will be abandoned as part of the league’s formal “phased return to sport” protocol, 24 of the NHL’s 31 teams will resume play in the summer and fall to compete for the coveted Stanley Cup title. The Stanley Cup Playoffs air on NBC and the NBC Sports Network, which now has a huge hole in its schedule due to the cancellation of the Olympics in July and August. The plan announced today could potentially see the return of the NHL in time for when the Olympics would have occurred. However, while the return-to-play plan may have been formalized, it is not necessarily finalized.  “Although we are anxious to get back on the ice, we will not do anything until we are assured by medical officials and the relevant government authorities that it is safe and prudent to do so,” commissioner Gary Bettman said. The NHL anticipates reopening training camps no earlier than the first half of July. The Playoffs will be assigned to a hub city with secure hotels, arena, practice facilities and in-market transportation for players, coaches and essential staff. Each team will be limited to 50 personnel in the hub city, with limited support staff permitted in event areas. A comprehensive system of testing will be implemented in each hub city. Participating clubs will report to their respective hub cities – one for the Western Conference and one for the Eastern Conference – and play will resume. Neither exact dates nor hub cities have been announced yet.

German state rail operator Deutsche Bahn has announced that it will resume its long-distance rail connections to all neighboring countries. Starting in the last weekend in May, Deutsche Bahn is making a much larger number of services available again. In addition to resuming tourist ICE and IC services, particularly popular ICE city connections will be given more services as well. These are Munich-Dortmund via Nuremberg, Frankfurt and Cologne, Munich-Dortmund via Stuttgart and Cologne, as well as Basel-Dortmund via Karlsruhe and Cologne. Deutsche Bahn will use trains in double-traction formation to double the number of seats. Furthermore, Deutsche Bahn is increasing its services in regional operations. The average service level is already back up to 95 percent. DB’s Head of Passenger Transport, Berthold Huber, said: “Demand is slowly increasing again. More capacity also means more space for greater distancing and safe travelling. We’re rapidly increasing our tourist services again; we even want to extend them and win over as many passengers for environmentally friendly rail travel for the summer.” International connections are also being expanded; almost all services between Germany and Austria and Switzerland are now running again. The first trains between Berlin and Prague are also back on track and in mid-June connections to the Netherlands and Poland will resume. Further connections to all neighboring countries will follow depending on border circumstances.