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Thirsty AF: “We’re back, baby!”

Shoptalk and the real return of live events
April 1, 2022

This week saw the return of live events in the retail and eCom trade as over 9,000 people attended Shoptalk’s 2022 event in Las Vegas, Nevada.

How do we describe this event, in a word? Thirsty. 

Maybe it was the arid desert air. Maybe it was the relative lack of human connection. Maybe it was a palpable desperation expressed by vendors desperate to comp up over last year’s seemingly impossible growth numbers in a sector with headwinds. Whatever it was, everyone, everyone, needed something out of Shoptalk. “This is a surprisingly normal event” was a common refrain heard within the halls at the Mandalay Bay Expo center. 

But for some, it was far from normal. Employees of one-click tech startup Fast found themselves in search of a new job when they landed, as rumors of the company’s imminent sale or shutter were swirling about. Fast competitor, Bolt, gave away donuts that proudly declared “so good you’ll want to lick the box” while stealing a page from Fast’s playbook, selling a t-shirt for $1, featuring said donut.

We’ll need more than a good trade show to make this year a net-positive for eCommerce, it seems (unless your name is Lululemon, then, carry on as you were). In forthcoming research from CX firm Rightpoint, eCommerce buyers are playing a wait-and-see approach when it comes to building new CapEx-intensive projects this year. 93% of respondents in the survey said they will not build a new digital asset this year, rather they will make incremental improvements and see how the economy, the war, inflation, and supply chain issues all shake out. 

“We’re back, baby!” I heard more than one inebriated attendee declare, loudly, while bro-hugging.  We are. We’re back. But it’s going to take more than thirst to sustain us through the end of 2022.

— Phillip

Gender-neutral shift. Disney, caught in the midst of culture clashes in Florida, has decided to swap out language around traditional gender roles in its theme parks for a more welcoming and inclusive language. Phrases such as “dreamers of all ages” will replace "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls." 

More Sights & Sounds. Google Meet is getting new features later this year, including picture-in-picture mode, encryption, and the ability to use the meeting app inside of Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Five Below plans to open 400 new stores over the next two years, as part of their ​​“Triple-Double” expansion strategy. Pacsun has opened PACWORLD, an interactive Mall in Roblox. And do you have any idea what kind of crazy things are in the goody bags at the Oscars? One prize is “The title of ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady of Glencoe,’ along with a small plot of land in Scotland.” Not kidding.

Shaping up the shapewear space. Lizzo is partnering with Fabletics to launch her own shapewear line, Yitty. Of the new line, the Grammy winner said, “I decided to take on the challenge of allowing women to feel unapologetically good about themselves again.’ Yitty will be available in XS to 6X, and we are here for it!

Supply and profit struggles. H&M’s Q1 profits were lower than expected. They are yet another company facing the struggles brought on by pandemic supply constraints and further complications from the war in Ukraine.

Pour one out for the fallen Ugly. Ugly Drinks appears to have quietly shut down business over recent months. Though the sparkling beverage company has not confirmed the closure, their website is down, their products are unavailable on Amazon, and social accounts have no recent posts. The beverage space is notoriously difficult to enter for newcomers, so if the rumors are true, this news is not entirely surprising.

Jonesing for a 5 piece. This insane drone footage of cars lined up for hours for the grand opening of a new Popeyes in the UK goes to prove that universally, people really do “love that chicken from Popeyes.”

More Palate News. Chipotle is testing out RFID tech in a Chicago distribution center with the intention of improving traceability. Wendy’s has joined the Metaverse, launching Wendyverse in Horizon Worlds. E.L.F. cosmetics and Dunkin’ Donuts have teamed up to make coffee and donut inspired makeup palettes. And in case you’ve always wanted to turn everything you can think of into pizza, now you can, with Pizzafy sauce.

Oil Reserves. President Biden has ordered the release of up to 180 million oil barrels from U.S. reserves in an attempt to balance out rising fuel prices. This is the largest release since the creation of the reserve in 1974.

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