Apr 1, 2019

Three retail startups enter the $1 billion unicorn club

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.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 1,225,360 — Total deaths: 66,542 — Total recoveries: 252,615Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 312,249 — Total deaths: 8,503 — Total recoveries: 15,021Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. Surgeon general says this week will be "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. "We're having the convention at the end of August." Biden says DNC may have to hold virtual convention.
  5. States updates: The Louisiana governor warned that his state is set to run out of ventilators in four days. Illinois governor claims Trump doesn't understand the word "federal."
  6. Oil latest: Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Work update: Employees still going to work are often facing temperature checks, distanced work stations, protective devices and mass absences.
  8. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Illinois governor: "The president does not understand the word 'federal'"

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that President Trump's comments about the federal government's stockpile of medical equipment suggest he "does not understand the word 'federal.'"

Why it matters: White House adviser Jared Kushner argued at a press briefing last week that the "notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use."

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll passes 8,500

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 8,500 in the U.S. early Sunday, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day since April 1.

Why it matters: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday that this upcoming week will be "the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 46 mins ago - Health