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D2C Brands Favor Retail as Consumers Resist Spending 

Despite the alleviation of inflation, consumers remain cautious about their spending habits. Consequently, direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands are facing challenges and are compelled to revamp their previously successful strategies. As a result, many are venturing into the realm of traditional retail. 

Caraway, which sells cookware, has recently joined the ranks of D2C brands transitioning into traditional retail, with its products now featured at The Container Store. Caraway’s complete range of pots, pans, and bakeware is accessible at about 80 The Container Store locations. 

Last year, the brand initiated its collaboration with The Container Store by introducing its cookware set in five stores. Following the success of the initial launch, Caraway looked to broaden the partnership.  

While the brand may seem to benefit from this decision, the partnership also proves advantageous for the retailer. In particular, during the first quarter of fiscal year 2023, The Container Store reported consolidated net sales of $207.1 million, marking a 21.1% decrease compared to the corresponding period in FY22. Consequently, the retailer has reportedly been seeking to revamp its assortment to attract customers. 

“Considering evolving customer needs, our merchant team evaluated our entire assortment, identified key growth categories that complement the organizing solutions and custom spaces customers are already coming to us for, and have curated an unmatched assortment,” said Stacey Shively, chief merchandising officer at The Container Store during the announcement of its refresh. 

State of the Consumer

According to a recent PYMNTS report, consumers’ outlook on the economy, particularly regarding inflation, is increasingly pessimistic. With that, it appears that they are preparing for the likelihood of persistent price pressures.  

In line with this sentiment, the University of Michigan’s preliminary findings for November reveal a fourth consecutive month of decline in overall U.S. consumer sentiment. The overall reading for November was 60.4, a decrease from October’s 63.8. 

Breaking down the survey, the current conditions index dropped to 65.7 from last month’s 70.6. Anticipating future developments, as indicated by the expectations index, the reading came in at 56.9, down from 59.3 in October. These readings are at their lowest levels since May. 

Read more: Sentiment Sours as Consumers See Inflation Rising for Years to Come 

Moreover, in the report “New Reality Check: The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report — The Savings Deep Dive Edition,” by PYMNTS Intelligence and LendingClub, it was discovered that savings have served as a resource consumers have used to navigate inflationary pressures. However, this reservoir of savings is diminishing. 

This is because inflation erodes the purchasing power available both in hand and in the bank. Our findings indicate that real savings have declined by a low single-digit percentage. 

As a result, brands and retailers are under increased pressure.

Brands Expanding Into Retail

In July, PYMNTS reported that Lululemon entered into an agreement with Zalando to broaden its distribution in Europe. 

Lululemon expanded its distribution network to reach customers in 12 markets. Furthermore, the company leveraged Zalando’s distribution network, extending its reach into Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. 

In a statement at the time of the partnership announcement, David Schneider, co-CEO of Zalando, said the partnership enriched Zalando’s product assortment and aligned with Zalando’s mission to enhance the customer experience by providing the most relevant and captivating brands. 

Then there’s Nike. In late June, PYMNTS reported that Nike was set to pivot, not due to the failure of its D2C efforts, but as part of an initiative to enhance its already successful strategy. 

In the company’s earnings call in June, Nike’s president and CEO, John Donahoe, said the focus on “giving them what they want, when they want it and how they want it.”   

Nike said that its approach, consistent since 2017, remains unaltered, recognizing the importance of its wholesale partners. In a strategic initiative, Nike aims to broaden its influence by judiciously initiating new openings and forming partnerships within the multibrand wholesale sector. 

Apart from sustaining partnerships with major multibrand retailers such as Dick’s, JD, Footlocker, and Sports Direct, Nike also acknowledges the importance of local neighborhood stores in validating its brand authenticity. 

Read more: Nike’s Share of Direct Sales Hits $21.3 Billion, a 14% increase in FY 2023