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If Main Street is going to be saved, enduring American vanity will be among the primary reasons.

Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

What's happening: Nail and waxing salons — in addition to pet grooming shops, cosmetics stores, tattoo parlors and gyms — stand out as improbable avatars of the future of retail, surviving and thriving amid the decades-long annihilation of mom-and-pop apparel, book and hardware stores.

By the numbers:

  • Between 1990 and 2017, the number of nail salons for every 100,000 Americans nearly tripled, from fewer than 2 to nearly 7.
  • Pet grooming surged by one-and-a-half-times, and cosmetics almost doubled.

A common theme among the victors: The offerings can't be easily replicated online.

The big picture: The mainstays of retail — the mall and Main Street — have been picked apart by Walmart, discount chains like Dollar General, and, of course, Amazon. Now brick-and-mortar stores are stabilizing, and the industry is climbing out of the rubble to survey what has worked.

They are aggressively curating inventory, meticulously upgrading existing shops, adding entertainment features like trampoline parks, free food and drink and, of course, providing hair, nail and cosmetic services.

"The stores that will do well are the ones that know how to get you to leave your house.”
— Natalie Bruss, partner at Fifth Wall Ventures, a retail investment firm

On the ground:

  • Nordstrom Local, a new concept by the Los Angeles department store, has no inventory — you shop online and just pick up in store — but draws clients with free beer, wine, and consultations with personal stylists.
  • Kellogg’s has opened a pop-up cereal bar in New York City.
  • Away, the new luggage brand, puts up elaborate sets that serve as the perfect backdrops for Instagram photos.

Noteworthy: The boom in nail salons has been accompanied by labor abuses and human trafficking.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden close to picking Nick Burns as China ambassador

Nicholas Burns. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.