The Drive-Thru: Nike and Under Armour CEOs are out, Nordstrom's mega-store opens, and Popeyes' pumpkin pie fills a chicken sandwich-shaped hole in our hearts
Welcome to another week of The Drive-Thru, where I'll be breaking down the biggest stories in shopping, fast food, and more. You can sign up to become a Drive-Thru subscriber here - which means that every Friday, I'll send you a rundown on what happened in retail over the last week.And, this week was a busy one!
The CEOs of Under Armour and Nike announce surprise departures on the same day.
Under Armour kicked off Tuesday with a bang, announcing that CEO and founder Kevin Plank would be stepping down after 23 years, to be replaced by Patrik Frisk, the company's president and chief operating officer.
Hours later, Nike announced that CEO Mark Parker would be stepping down after 13 years, to be replaced by former eBay CEO John Donahoe.
It came as a surprise that the two executives would make such similar announcements on the same day.
Experts are hoping that Frisk brings change and reinvention to Under Armour, while some are questioning the decision against bringing in fresh blood. Meanwhile, Donahoe is set to continue Parker's digital push at Nike, though some analysts voiced confusion as to why Nike didn't promote internally.To understand what exactly is going on, you should read:
- Bethany on why Frisk has his work cut out for him on reinventing Under Armour, as Plank continues to do more big-picture work on fixing the brand's reputation.
- Mary on how Parker represents another step in the "digital transformation" that Nike is constantly talking about, and why that might be bad news for mom-and-pop retailers.
Nordstrom's flagship store is out of control.
Nordstrom has been heavily hyping its massive New York City flagship store. The 320,000 square feet of retail space opened this week, and Bethany was there to report on the chaos.
- Massive crowds that made it almost impossible to shop.
- Facial workouts by FaceGym.
- A gender-neutral bathroom sign made out of lipstick.
- Mochi doughnuts, a bar, and an Instagram-ready Burberry café.
Barneys' bankruptcy and sale to Authentic Brands Group for $271 million has been seen by many as the death of a certain brand of luxury retail that once thrived, especially in New York City. Nordstrom clearly wants to help usher in a new era of experimental luxury shopping. But, it remains to be seen if a selfie-centric store can actually bring people back to old-school shopping centers.
Chick-fil-A's reputation might actually be catching up with the chain.
Chick-fil-A's first store in the UK will be short-lived, with the shopping center saying it won't renew the chain's lease when it's up in six months.It was never really clear whether Chick-fil-A actually wanted to keep this "pilot" location in Reading open in the long term. And, the chain quietly opened a location in Scotland around the same time, and that restaurant hasn't shown any sign of closing.
I tend to be skeptical of how much bad press actually impacts Chick-fil-A. Sales have more than doubled since 2012, reaching $10.5 billion in 2018, up from $4.6 billion. But, it does seem like the protest led by LGBTQ activists in Reading and online backlash played a role in the closure - or, at the very least, the narrative around why it would shut down.
When I was reporting a big piece on Chick-fil-A's culture over the summer, experts told me that the only way that Chick-fil-A's reputation would actually impact its financials is through expansion, especially international expansion. At the beginning of 2019, Chick-fil-A only existed in the US. For the next six months, at least, it is in three countries: the US, Canada, and the UK.
While Chick-fil-A has old-school vibes, most people underestimate its ability to evolve. Watch this space to see whether Chick-fil-A can pull off a reputational evolution now that boycotts are actually impacting its plans.
Read me on Chick-fil-A's reputation catching up with it here. Plus, if you're confused about what the chain is actually donating to, I've got an explainer on that as well.
Peloton bikers are sick of being forced to listen to '80s music after spending $2,000 on a bike.
Mary talked to Peloton users who are annoyed by subpar playlists after the company was hit with a $300 million lawsuit.
In the words of one bike owner: "The music now consists of TONS of '80s music (and not even good '80s music for the most part - think doing an ab workout to a slow jam by Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam), a few rap artists, and a bunch of stuff I've never heard of for the most part."
VSCO girls are killing the Kardashian-spawned era of cosmetics.
Hayley broke down what this really means: Bare-faced VSCO girls are ending the Kardashian-led era of contouring and lip kits to bring in a new reign of Carmex, Burt's Bees, and Mario Badescu facial sprays.
Taste test of the week: Fill the chicken sandwich-shaped hole in your heart with Popeyes new pumpkin pie.
Popeyes' chicken sandwich seems to be on the cusp of a return, with a major franchisee telling Bloomberg the sandwich will return in early November. But, as customers anxiously await the day, Irene suggests trying the chain's new pumpkin pie.
Irene's take: "There wasn't a single stale bite of this pie. Every single bite burst with flavor. My only complaint was that there weren't enough bites."
Everything else you need to know
- The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon, Walmart, and Target are selling clothes produced in blacklisted factories in Bangladesh.
- Destination Maternity becomes the 19th major retailer to file for bankruptcy or liquidation this year. If you've never visited the store, here's a look into why it's struggling.
- Walmart is warning shoppers of a "national supply shortage" of dish soap.
- Politico reports that Dick's Sporting Goods' CEO - who has been getting a lot of press for his work on gun control - is considering a presidential run, because it's apparently very difficult for a CEO to talk about political issues without thinking he should be president.
- Neiman Marcus' gift guide includes a $70,000-plus dog house. That's about a third of the median price to buy a home in the US.
- Dunkin' is launching its Beyond Meat breakfast sandwich nationally in November. As the fourth biggest chain by locations in the US, this will be the biggest national launch of plant-based "meat" in America.
- McDonald's chicken sales took a hit in the Great Chicken Sandwich Wars of 2019.
- At least one Popeyes franchisee is on a hiring spree as the chain prepares to bring back its chicken sandwich.
- Kanye's album is out and it is giving Chick-fil-A a lot of free advertising that Chick-fil-A definitely didn't ask for.