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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

As once-thriving retailers like Gap, Victoria's Secret and JCPenney announce almost 5,000 store closings in just 2019, three retail startups have hit valuations of $1 billion or more — and entered the exclusive "unicorn" club.

Driving the news: In the past 10 days, Rent the Runway, Glossier and Casper have all topped $1 billion valuations. The success of the three charts the future of retail — a landscape peppered with tech-infused startups that begin online then go to Main Street.

Why it matters: These are physical product companies that, arguably, are being valued like software companies, notes Axios' Dan Primack.

All three companies have capitalized on a trend we've dubbed "the Instagramification of retail": New retailers are conducting most of their business online but building out a small number of shops in the glitziest parts of big cities to function as profitable billboards.

  • Shoppers — the majority of them Gen Zers and millennials — can swing by Rent the Runway's swanky D.C. showroom or Glossier's beautifully designed New York flagship to take a selfie or browse dresses and lipsticks as if walking around inside an Instagram post come to life.
  • Casper's stores, which are called "Dreameries" and include giant beds for patrons to take naps on, are also trying to sell the lifestyle instead of the mattress — in hopes the customer will eventually buy into both.

But, but, but: Such startups should beware the competition, says Moody's lead retail analyst Charlie O'Shea. "One of the key risks to the innovator is the copycat phenomenon whereby a larger, better-capitalized company recognizes the opportunity and decides to compete in the space," he says.

  • This is already happening in the mattress industry. Amazon has Casper and other mattress sellers spooked with its recent entry into the industry.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A price tag of $500 billion to $555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. presses Gulf countries to help resolve Sudan coup crisis

Jake Sullivan briefs the press. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Biden administration has asked its partners in the Gulf and elsewhere to press the Sudanese generals who carried out a coup on Monday to release captives including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and to reinstate the civilian government, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has limited influence over coup leader Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and other military leaders, many of whom have close ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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