The Modern Retail Podcast is a podcast about the retail space, from legacy companies to the buzzy world of DTC startups. Every Thursday, Cale Weissman, editor of Modern Retail, interviews executives about their growth and marketing strategies. And every Saturday Gabi Barkho, senior reporter, sits down with the Modern Retail staff to chat about the latest headlines in the retail world.
Modern Retail Rundown: Thrasio struggles, Amazon gets into car sales & retailers expect muted holiday sales
This week on the Modern Retail Rundown: E-commerce aggregator Thrasio is reported to be preparing for a bankruptcy, per the Wall Street Journal. Amazon announced it’s going to start selling cars, with its first automaker partner being Hyundai. And this holiday season, retailers like Walmart and Target are setting expectations for slower sales.
How Literie built a candle business on specificity and brand partnerships
Not all candles need to smell like a vague pastoral landscape intended to bring up abstract emotions -- some just smell like roasted nuts.
That's the idea behind Literie, a candle company behind very specific scents. Its first batch of candles were intended to encapsulate New York City. They included one that smells like the hot roasted nut carts littering Manhattan's streetscape and another that tries to capture the aromas of bodega coffee.
"This brand is more about the names of the scents," said founder and CEO Erica Werber. "It's not a fragrance company where you're trying to develop these notes and become the signature scent of someone's home. It really is about what is this scent or what is this name bringing into my life?"
Werber joined the Modern Retail Podcast this week and spoke about the company's growth. It first launched in 2021 with its five New York-centric scents, and has expanded into other areas like a New England candle that mimics the sea breeze and saltwater. Literie has also built a successful partnership engine, with high-profile collaborations with The Real Housewives of New York and the U.S. Open.
Literie first began as a side project during the pandemic, but the products became popular very quickly. And as soon as her very specifically scented candles went viral, retailers came knocking. For example, Macy's reached out to Literie about purchasing a wholesale order.
This moment, said Werber, was when she realized Literie was going to become a full-time job. When the order first came in, she said, "I really thought that I could have my manufacturer develop these, ship them to me and I would throw them in my car and drive them to Macy's." Of course, that's not how retail works. And so, Literie had to find a warehouse to fulfill the growing number of orders. "At that point, I was like if we're going to start investing just to do this Macy's order, then we have to really work to make this investment worth it."
Two years in, Literie is continuing to grow and expanding its retail footprint. And it's also open to bringing on new brand partnerships. But, according to Werber, even though the brand is still a startup she does have some hard rules.
For one, all partnerships must include the Literie name. "I don't need to put the time and effort into something that isn't going to get people to come back to my website or give us more name recognition," she said.
Modern Retail Rundown: Getir acquires Fresh Direct, TikTok shuts down Creator Fund, Amazon & Meta partner on in-app ads
This week on the Modern Retail Rundown: Rapid delivery app Getir acquired New York-based Fresh Direct to expand its grocery delivery business. Meanwhile, TikTok has officially shut down its infamous Creator Fund, which is being replaced by the Creativity Program. And, Amazon reportedly struck a deal with Meta to integrate in-app shopping features on Facebook and Instagram.
'We wanted to build a brand that was based on a collective perspective': R+Co president Dan Langer on growing a luxury haircare brand
R+Co has established itself as one of the premier players in salon haircare -- and over the years it's been slowly expanding. At the same time, the brand takes great pains to stay true to its roots -- and won't be straying far from its salon partners.
For example, the brand, which is owned by Luxury Brand Partners, recently launched a hair color line. According to R+Co president Dan Langer, this latest foray was due to feedback from its community of hair stylists and professionals.
"We want to build [the color business] out with the same philosophy of our heritage line, R+Co, which was involving a collective so that every shade of the line could be best in class," Langer said. "We're always in dialogue and conversations with different hairdressers, mainly because they're our friends -- and they're part of our own communities."
Langer joined the Modern Retail Podcast this week and spoke about the brand's journey. It first began 10 years ago; "we wanted to build a brand that was based on a collective perspective," Langer said.
So he brought together a group of experts -- the top haircare professionals in the industry -- to form the original line. From there, R+Co has grown mainly via its salon business. That remains the company's primary business model.
But over the years, R+Co has expanded into new areas. Beyond the new color brand, it launched a premium haircare line focused on sustainability called R+Co Bleu. Langer described it as the company's "couture collection… really focused on sustainability, performance, and design."
With all of these new sub-brands, however, Langer said the core remains the same. R+Co uses its collective of experts to make sure the products are quality -- and then taps them and their networks to get the word out.
At the end of the day, it's the salons that remain the biggest evangelists for a brand like R+Co. That business-to-business channel, Langer said, "is a huge part of our marketing."
Rundown: Amazon scraps Style stores, Walmart stores get a facelift & Michaels launches an Etsy competitor
On this week's Modern Retail Rundown, two Amazon Style stores are closing after the company tested selling apparel physically. Meanwhile, Walmart is revamping hundreds of its stores as part of an ongoing $9 billion investment. Last, we look at the new MakerPlace by Michaels -- which the company is positioning as a more seller-friendly competitor to Etsy.
How bedding brand Coyuchi has updated its marketing playbook
Home goods brand Coyuchi has been around for 30 years and has seen the industry transform.
Its core focus is on providing organic cotton products. It's perhaps most well known for its bedsheets, but has expanded into other areas like loungewear and napkins. But the focus has always been to grow keeping its promise of organic products that speak to its target consumer in mind -- which it considers its competitive advantage against the ever-growing DTC home goods space.
CEO Eileen Mockus joined this week's Modern Retail Podcast and spoke about Coyuchi's growth and strategy. The company first launched before DTC was a buzzword -- and as such grew via wholesale. "It was a lot of small retailers," she said. But over the years, the company invested more and more online -- and its e-commerce presence is now its largest sales channel.
"It's a big shift," Mockus said.
Mockus said that one of the ways Coyuchi was able to grow its online presence so much was by establishing its brand via these retail partners. Through that, the company was able to let customers know about its focus on sustainability.
The marketing behind its organic focus has also shifted. Sustainability-focused marketing a decade ago, she said, was "almost a scare tactic." That is, telling a customer about all the perils of using non-organic products. But now, the brand has realized it's better to use this focus as a way to explain why the product is enhanced. "We were really able to shift the conversation," she said.
But Coyuchi isn't the only brand having such a conversation. Search for DTC bedding on Google, and you'll be presented with dozens of different options. But Mockus said that Coyuchi being an early arrival -- as well as its focus away from the target millennial demographic most DTC brands go after -- has helped it stand out.
"It has definitely been a crowded space in the bedding market," she said. "We have always had a view to who our customer was."
Fun and informative!
Modern Retail has quickly become a favorite in my feed! I'm consistently impressed by the engaging conversations, insightful content, and actionable ideas. I truly learn something every time I listen... thanks Cale!
Thoughtful empathetic discussions
I’m impressed with the editing packing a lot information in a relatively short amount of time. The recent podcast with the Shein head of strategy not only increased my knowledge of the company but also increased my faith that some companies can help the retail industry and consumers embrace and accelerate their sustainability efforts.
Please do your homework!
In the first 2 minutes of this episode, there were multiple inaccuracies. Please do your research!