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Holiday Sales on the Rise — Online

Santa is going to make his rounds this year, but instead of down the chimney, the gifts are coming via e-commerce delivery — and don’t look for lots of high-priced fashions under the tree. 

The National Retail Federation released its much-watched holiday forecast Monday, predicting overall sales this season would grow between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent to a range of $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion. 

But all of that growth — which tops the five-year average of 3.5 percent — is coming from the web as people continue to shy away from stores amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Nonstore sales, dominated by the web, are expected to increase between 20 percent and 30 percent, for a total haul of $202.5 billion to $218.4 billion.

Without the web, brick-and-mortar sales are seen falling 1.4 percent to 2.2 percent.

A separate outlook from Customer Growth Partners was even more bullish overall, seeing a 5.8 percent gain, but weakness in apparel-related categories with less costly “comfy and casual” styles ruling the work from home world. The Customer Growth Partners’ crystal ball has apparel specialty store sales falling 13.5 percent while department stores will drop 11 percent. The categories perking up include home improvement (up 8.9 percent), sporting goods/toys (8.5 percent), consumer electronics (8.1 percent) and food and beverage (3.5 percent).  

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There are also concerns all around about just how long the spending will continue into the New Year as consumers hunker down for the winter and try to wait out the pandemic without the motivations of the holiday season. 

The NRF forecast, which covers all of retail outside of automobiles, gasoline and restaurants, comes a month late this year given myriad uncertainties for both retailers and consumers — from rules on which stores can stay open where to when and if additional fiscal stimulus will be coming to shoppers from Washington.

Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the NRF, told reporters on a conference call on Monday that this would be “a holiday season like no other,” but that retailers are prepared to operate safely in the pandemic, in many cases exceeding local regulations.

Shay noted that consumers have responded “very positively” to holidays during the pandemic — from Mother’s Day to the Fourth of July — with many looking for “opportunities to celebrate.”

He also reiterated his pitch to keep stores open through the pandemic, with the appropriate safety measures and pointed to the mammoth retail workforce.

“Those 52 million jobs, they’re all essential,” Shay said.

The NRF’s projection factors in both psychological and economic foundations that should support growth, but also comes with a big COVID-19 caveat. 

Jack Kleinhenz, the trade group’s chief economist, made the case for why consumer will keep spending.

He pointed to the record savings; less spending on travel, dining and entertainment; the wealth effect from rising home prices; lower debt loads; cooler weather in the north, and a general desire to make up for a bad year.

“We owe it to our family to have a better than normal holiday season,” Kleinhenz said, summing up the attitude of at least some consumers. 

And there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Kleinhenz pointed to optimism around the growing number of vaccines nearing approval. 

But he also noted, “There’s a long shadow over many of the positive elements…that includes the surging virus and the expiring government support. This could pump the brakes on momentum and have a consequence to spending. We do believe that there is energy in spending throughout the end of the year. Rising cases could set the recovery into reverse.”

Customer Growth Partners also pointed to solid economic fundamentals, despite the epic pandemic recession and crushing unemployment that is clamping down on so many. 

The group singled out solid disposable income, up 5.4 percent year-over-year; healthy household balance sheets; strong personal savings for many, and the renewed focus on goods over services during the pandemic. 

“After the COVID-19 store closures crushed sales by 12 percent in April, traffic and sales have rebounded ever since, culminating in the most recent actual data from the six mega-retailers that account for almost 30 percent of all U.S. retail sales,” said Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. “The steep 18.5 percent jump in combined third-quarter sales of these retailers (Amazon, Costco, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Walmart) shows that consumers are out and buying — like they haven’t been in over a year.”

Even if that does continue through the holidays, 2021 is still a question mark.

“The key question is how sustainable the growth will be going forward, given the remarkable strength of household finances — and the uncertain pace of COVID-19, particularly on employment growth,” Johnson said. “But if the economy can generate at least the current monthly rate of 660,000 new jobs — retail spending is poised to expand in 2021 at about a healthy 5-plus percent.”

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Outerwear Brand Therma Kota in Expansion Mode

When Mosha Lundström Halbert married four years ago in Iceland, she never imagined her New Year’s Eve wedding would generate international attention. But when it did, the reaction to her princess-worthy wedding parka — an ivory, sequined style handmade by her designer mother Linda Lundström, sparked an idea.

“From Vogue to the front page of The Globe and Mail, the amazing response to that coat got me thinking about this white space in the market that we needed to fill,” Lundström Halbert told WWD. “We could do that by making warm, evocative and glamorous coats that anyone could wear, regardless of their size, and look great walking their dog in a blizzard or at a black tie ball.”

To that end, she enlisted her mother and graphic designer sister Sophie Lundström Halbert to cofound Therma Kota in 2017 — a Nordic-inspired, made-to-measure, anti-fast-fashion shearling coat brand that has been worn by Michelle Obama, Iceland’s First Lady Eliza Reid, Canada’s Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Jamie King, Sarah Rafferty and Coco Rocha, among others.

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Equally appealing was Therma Kota’s “zero waste” philosophy, which ensures that each of its reversible, sustainably made vests ($680 to $840) and coats ($1,140 to $1,980) comes with a pair of mittens created from excess shearling to reduce wastage.

That ecological mindfulness is also behind the fall launch of Therma Kota’s first shearling handbags, all handcrafted with smaller pieces of shearling that would otherwise be discarded.

The lineup includes a mini ($205), medium ($365) and large option ($450).

“It takes quite a few coats to make one handbag, but for the past three years I’ve been saving the smaller pieces. When I had enough rectangular ones we stitched them together like a puzzle. Every bit of our material is used,” Lundström said.

“The fact that we’re offering these new bags is a testament to how strong coat sales have been,” said Mosha Lundström Halbert, who is the brand’s fashion director and a former fashion director at WWD sister publication Footwear News. “We’re self-financed and have been profitable since day one. But even in this challenging environment sales rose in 2020 because of our direct to consumer platform.”

Therma Kota’s sales, in fact, have risen 40 percent in 2020, which it attributes to new product categories such as its Kokkur aprons and growing its audience organically in Canada, the U.S., Europe and especially Scandinavia. These online shoppers select the styles they want and share their measurements to get a perfect fit. Orders are turned around within two to three weeks.

“We have a video tutorial and easy online instructions on how to measure yourself. There’s no extra charge for this service so most customers opt for it. They love that it removes any fit issues or uncertainly from the online shopping experience,” said creative director Sophie Lundström Halbert. “We’ve had 100 percent customer satisfaction from our made-to-measure orders.”

Up next is Therma Kota’s U.S. expansion into winter resort markets, beginning with The Art of The Cozy pop-up in Aspen, which will run from Dec. 15 to April.

A winter footwear collection is also on Therma Kota’s radar, according to Mosha Lundström Halbert.

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Tourism New Zealand: $12.9 billion spending gap without international visitors

New Zealand faces a revenue gap of $12.9 billion a year without international visitors.

Research for Tourism New Zealand shows that it takes 12 overnight trips from Kiwis to equal the spend of one international visitor and foreign tourists spend up to three times more a day than locals.

International visitors spend $232 a day, Kiwis travelling around the country spend $155 a day while those residents staying local spend $74 a day.

“Kiwis are doing a fantastic job travelling domestically but New Zealand will need high value international visitors to sustain the sector and the economy outside weekends and public holidays,” said Tourism NZ chief executive Stephen England-Hall.

Total spending by international visitors was $17.2b in the 12 months ended March last year.New Zealanders spent $23.7b on domestic holidays and it is estimated this will be because they can’t holiday overseas this will be boosted by $4.2b – half of what Kiwis spent on trips abroad last year.

The study by Tourism NZ – a government agency -and economists, Fresh Info, drew on data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment data as well as Stats NZ.

It showed Government revenue was boosted by $849 for every international visitor.New Zealand tourists paid about $11 a day in GST while international visitors paid $26 a day.

Every $178,000 of tourism spend created one job and this was equal to 42 international visitors or 480 domestic overnight trips.

England-Hall said tourism was vital to the country’s recovery and the research would dispel some misconceptions.

“Tourism is a major employer of women and youth and on average every $178,000 of visitor spend creates one new job.These jobs are important for our regions, especially where there may be few other employment options.”

“Embracing technology and improving digital capability could lift tourism productivity even further.This could result in higher wages and better standards of living, especially for our regional communities.”

England-Hall said the research showed there was still some work to do to become more environmentally sustainable.

“The sector is doing some incredible things to reduce or offset carbon with many operators moving towards being carbon zero. While there is still work to be done, tourism’s carbon efficiency is improving, and its intensity is lower than other large sectors including agriculture, utilities and mining.”

He said the study results would be shared with Government and industry with more research expected to be conducted in the coming months.

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MeUndies Secures $40 Million Investment

Los Angeles-based innerwear and loungewear brand MeUndies has secured $40 million from Provenance, a growth equity investment firm also based in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Shokrian, founder and chief executive officer of MeUndies, in a statement pointed to Provenance’s “track record of success partnering with leading direct-to-consumer brands. Over the past nine years, we have worked hard to establish our incredibly loyal community of customers, who love our focus on inclusivity, our high-quality products, our approachable price point and our frequent and unique product drops. We have a well-established foundation and this investment and our relationship with Provenance will enable us to expand our MeUndies brand community into new markets and new channels.”

The men and women’s underwear brand, which has sold more than 16 million pairs of underwear since its inception in 2011, plans to use the extra funds to expand its design, production and distribution capabilities, invest in marketing and grow its omnichannel operations, including the possible addition of stores. 

MeUndies opened an L.A. flagship, its first store, in 2018. The brand also operates an e-commerce business, meundies.com, selling products both à la carte and by way of a monthly subscription service. 

The company has partnered with public figures, such as Pittsburgh Steelers wide-receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, podcaster Joe Rogan, comedian Bill Burr and actor Dax Shepard, for various collections.

For the investment, MeUndies was advised by investment bank The Sage Group and law firm Cooley LLP, while Provenance was advised by Perkins Coie LLP, an international law firm. 

“We are highly impressed with Jonathan Shokrian and his team and their proven ability to deliver on MeUndies’ growth strategy,” Anthony Choe, founder of Provenance, said. “The brand enjoys the highest customer loyalty of any company we’ve seen in any consumer category. MeUndies’ fun, creative print designs and affordable range of products resonate strongly with its core Millennial and Gen Z audience and the company’s ability to drive growth organically through its brand community is powerful. We’re excited to be copilots on this next phase of the brand’s journey and to support its continuing growth.”

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Macy’s Names New Head of Corporate Communications

Macy’s Inc. has named Malek Robert “Bobby” Amirshahi senior vice president of corporate communications, succeeding Cheryl Heinonen.

Macy’s said Heinonen will be leaving the company after the holiday season to relocate back home to the West Coast.

Amirshahi’s start date at Macy’s is Dec. 7. He will be responsible for leading both internal and external communications as well as Macy’s cause work. “In this role, he will help drive alignment and consistent messaging across business strategy, transformation, colleague and culture initiatives,” Macy’s said in a statement Monday. He will report to Danielle Kirgan, chief transformation and human resources officer of Macy’s Inc.

“Bobby brings a strategic mind-set to how communications and reputation can advance the business and inspire people. His energy, experience with high-profile brands and passion for inclusion make him a great fit for Macy’s Inc.,” Kirgan said.

Amirshahi is a more than 20-year veteran of the media and telecommunications industry. He is currently senior vice president, corporate communications at Univision Communications Inc., the leading Hispanic media company in the U.S. Prior to Univision, Amirshahi held several public relations, corporate social responsibility and communications roles at Time Warner Cable, Cox Enterprises and its subsidiaries.

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U.S. manufacturing, services activity expanding rapidly in November: IHS Markit

(Reuters) – U.S. business activity expanded at the fastest rate in more than five years in November led by the quickest pickup in manufacturing since September 2014, a survey showed on Monday in an indication the economy keeps making progress at clambering out of the COVID-19 recession even as infections surge.

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IHS Markit’s manufacturing and services sector purchasing managers’ indexes both topped even the most optimistic forecasts in a Reuters poll that predicted both would level off, offering a counterweight to data suggesting economic momentum was slackening after the third-quarter’s torrid rebound from an historic plunge last spring.

The readings also offered one of the first pictures of the state of the U.S. economy after a presidential election three weeks ago in which Democrat Joe Biden beat incumbent Republican President Donald Trump.

“The upturn reflected a further strengthening of demand, which in turn encouraged firms to take on staff at a rate not previously seen since the survey began in 2009,” IHS Markit Chief Business Economist Chris Williamson said in a statement.

Markit’s manufacturing index climbed to 56.7 from 53.4 in October, above the median forecast in a Reuters economists’ poll of 53. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The services index, meanwhile, rose to 57.7 – the highest since April 2015 – from 56.9 a month earlier. The Reuters poll had pegged the expectation at 55.0.

Markit’s composite index – a blend of the manufacturing and services readings – increased to 57.9 from 56.3 in October. It was also the highest since April 2015.

Markit said its subindex for employment also rose at a record pace as well, potentially welcome news in a U.S. job market that still features more than 10 million people without work who had been employed before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in the first quarter.

With the election now over and subsequent news of successful COVID-19 vaccine candidates, Markit said survey respondents were the most optimistic about the year ahead since May 2014.

Nonetheless, Markit’s survey results about current activity are at odds with a number of other recent readings on the U.S. economy that are far less favorable as a result of a resurgence in COVID-19 that has lead to record after record of new daily infections and rising deaths.

Last week, October retail sales reported from the Commerce Department showed the weakest increase in six months, while the Labor Department reported the first weekly increase in new claims for unemployment benefits in a month.

Meanwhile, a clutch of high-frequency indicators tracked by economists for a real-time reading on activity showed further signs of flattening out.

It is clear the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter will come nowhere close to matching 33.1% annualized growth rate in gross domestic product posted in the July to September period, but just how much it has slowed remains less certain. The Atlanta Federal Reserve’s “GDPNow” model currently estimates activity in the current quarter expanding at a 5.6% annualized rate.

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UK watchdog fines FX broker TFS-ICAP for fake trade reports

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s financial regulator on Monday fined currency options broker TFS-ICAP 3.44 million pounds ($4.6 million) for routinely reporting fake trades to customers for over seven years.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Financial Conduct Authority is seen on its building in Canary Wharf, London April 1, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said that between 2008 and 2015, brokers at the firm were telling customers that a trade had occurred at a particular price or quantity, when no such trade had actually taken place, a practice known as “printing”.

“Brokers saw printing as being part of the role and one that ‘everyone was doing’,” the FCA said.

“It took place openly on desks, with the motivation of generating business for the firm.”

Printing trades could generate additional revenue and in turn boost pay of brokers, the regulator said.

TFS-ICAP was not able to comment immediately.

The fine, following an investigation that also involved regulators from the United States, would have been five million pounds had TFS-ICAP not agreed to resolve the case, the FCA said.

“The FCA is grateful for the assistance provided by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the United States in this investigation,” the watchdog said in a statement.

Since 2018, a senior manager and desk head have left TFS-ICAP, and the composition of its board has changed, the FCA said.

An independent monitor appointed in 2018 has reported no instances of printing.

“This market should take notice that printing, or providing information to clients where the basis for the information is not true, is not in keeping with appropriate standards of market conduct,” said Mark Steward, the FCA’s executive director of enforcement and market oversight.

($1 = 0.7484 pounds)

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9 Ways to Support Small Businesses

Wondering how you can help as a consumer? Here are some ideas.

By Ellen Rosen

In the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers buoyed small businesses with gift card purchases and online fund-raising campaigns. But as the pandemic persisted and restrictions constrained operating hours, many independent businesses continued to struggle.

Throughout the country, owners have creatively come up with strategies to keep businesses afloat, which benefits consumers, proprietors and a neighborhood’s commercial health

“There’s a multiplier effect,” said Bill Brunelle, the managing partner of Independent We Stand, an organization that helps its small-business members nationwide with marketing. “If you buy at a hardware store, that owner may hire a local accountant, while the employees may go to local restaurants and other nearby stores. The success of one business can steamroll through the economy.”

Ande Breunig, a real estate agent in Evanston, Ill., said, “Everyone complains about the lack of retailing, but we can only keep these businesses afloat with our participation.” Ms. Breunig started a Facebook group hoping to motivate residents to increase their support of local shops and services.

So how can consumers contribute to this virtuous cycle, especially during the all-important holiday season? Here are some tips to consider.

Buy Local

Before you reflexively hit “place order” with an e-commerce behemoth, find out whether a local retailer offers the same item. Independent bookstores, for example, can often order and quickly receive your selection. While you can get many things online, “go for a walk, go into a store, keep your mask on and shop,” said Ellen Baer, the president and chief executive of the Hudson Square Business Improvement District, devoted to an area west of SoHo in Manhattan. “Think of the people on the other end of the purchase.”

But shopping locally does not necessarily mean forgoing all online sites. Platforms like Bookshop and Alibris connect users to small booksellers. Clothing boutiques can sell through sites like Shopify, Lyst.com and Farfetch, as well as Sook, a newcomer that also hosts stores selling housewares.

When sending gifts to out-of-town friends and family, look for independent stores in their towns. And don’t assume that an e-commerce site can out-deliver a local business — even online sites have experienced delays because of the pandemic’s supply-chain disruption.

Go to the Source

There are always times when you need delivery. But on other days, think twice about how you order takeout. Rather than using a delivery app, ask for curbside pickup: Sites like Grubhub and Uber Eats charge restaurants fees that can reduce already thin margins. Instacart and Shipt, two companies that offer shopping and delivery, also charge the merchants who use the sites.

And while it is easy to purchase through a so-called digital shop on sites like Facebook and Instagram, shopping through third-party apps typically reduces the net profit for the merchant. (Facebook, which owns Instagram, has waived selling fees through the end of the year but will re-evaluate the practice in January, a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email.)

Be Social

Help bolster a business’s social media presence by “liking” hardware stores, dry cleaners and other independent shops on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Write positive reviews, post photos generously of purchases, and don’t forget to tag the businesses. And consider slightly broader efforts, like community email lists and social media groups like Nextdoor.

Retailers are savvy when it comes to selling, but many don’t fully understand that social media plays a crucial role, Ms. Breunig said. Through her Facebook group, she started an “adopt a shop” effort, in which residents select a store and commit to shopping there once a week (with no spending minimum) and posting about their experiences on Facebook. Within five days, Ms. Breunig said, 24 Evanston stores were “adopted.”

Beyond Charity

You can double the effect of philanthropic efforts by involving small businesses whenever possible. Order meals for essential workers from independent restaurants. Shop local when buying for clothing drives. And even if it’s a bit more expensive, purchase from local markets for food drives.

Suzanne Fiske, the director of on-air development for WHYY, the public radio and television stations in Philadelphia, had yet another idea. “Our listeners care about the mom-and-pop shop next door that is having trouble during the pandemic,” she said, so she asked donors on social media platforms to name their favorite local business when they contributed to be read aloud. The station awarded the two with the most votes — Horsham Square Pharmacy in Horsham, Pa., and MYX, a Bryn Mawr, Pa., start-up that creates a custom-blend beverage dispenser — radio advertising worth $3,500. The promotion also motivated listener donations, with more than 700 contributors calling on the day of the small-business challenge, close to three times the typical number, Ms. Fiske added.

Loyalty Counts

Service businesses — including personal trainers and hair salons — have especially been affected by the pandemic since they are among the trickiest to reopen. Gift cards help, but so does generous tipping for the ones that are open.

And remember that small businesses rely on regular customers, even as they try to attract new ones. Like so many others, Symone Johnson, who owns Indulge Hair Salon LLC in Englewood, N.J., was unprepared for a sudden closure in March. She began making videos to help her clients style their own hair without charge and hosted virtual sessions to recreate an online version to allow socializing.

Her clients offered to pay, but she declined, she said. “I didn’t do it for the financial benefit — it kept me busy and I didn’t think of myself.” New clients came after watching the videos, she said, and both they and the pre-existing clientele showed their generosity. “Instead of a 20 percent tip, it became a 50 percent tip,” Ms. Johnson said.

Accept the Rack Rate

Everyone loves a discount, but perhaps now is not the time. If you can afford it, pay full price.

Participate in Community Efforts

While the pandemic has left many feeling isolated, local business organizations are trying to fill the void with socially distanced community programs that can spur economic activity.

The Chamber of Commerce in Wellfleet, Mass., on Cape Cod, for example, is sponsoring a monthlong, online bingo contest in which each square is a “call to action,” including donating to a local nonprofit or taking a virtual class.

Share ideas with local business organizations or municipal governments seeking ways to help. Downtown Phoenix is expanding its traditional holiday market, Phoestivus, to use empty storefronts to showcase the creations of local artisans as well as some retailers’ inventory. Items displayed in the storefronts can be purchased on smartphones using QR codes or other forms of touch-free payment.

“It’s a way to bring a community out,” said Samantha Jackson, the senior director of strategy and community affairs at the nonprofit Downtown Phoenix Inc. “There are people who don’t come downtown who stick to their neighborhoods who are surprised at how nice it is.”

Offer Your Skills

If you’re an accountant, a lawyer, a banker, or a digital marketing specialist, to name just a few, local businesses may welcome your help. Kimberly Pardiwala, for example, who most recently led a business that arranged group sales for Broadway shows, grew concerned that restaurants would again suffer with the onset of cold weather. The Larchmont, N.Y., resident approached David Masliah, the owner of the town’s popular Encore Bistro to order prix fixe dinners regularly for her neighborhood association. “We are all so separate now, so it’s important to restore our community,” she said.

Practice Kindness

Proprietors are under enormous, sometimes existential, pressure right now, so share emotional support when you can. Ask retailers how they are holding up and inquire about employees who may now be unemployed.

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MAS announces funding of up to 25 billion yuan for banks in Singapore

SINGAPORE – Funding of up to 25 billion yuan ($5.11 billion) for banks in Singapore was announced in a new initiative by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Monday (Nov 23).

The scheme enhances yuan liquidity and supports banks’ abilities to meet their customers growing business needs in the currency for Singapore and the region, said MAS in a statement.

Yuan funding of up to three months will be channelled to primary dealers – banks in Singapore approved by the MAS – through the authority’s money market operations.

These funds will strengthen their credit intermediation capabilities and the overall yuan market liquidity in Singapore.

To support the development of the offshore yuan market in Singapore, the authority previously established the MAS Overnight RMB Liquidity Facility along with the MAS RMB Facility.

Banks could access these backstop facilities to obtain overnight and term RMB liquidity respectively, when needed to facilitate settlement needs and financing of cross-border trade or investment.

Following the introduction of the new initiative, the MAS Overnight RMB Liquidity Facility, which had a size of five billion yuan, will be discontinued from Monday.

The MAS RMB Facility remains in operation.

Market participants indicated that longer tenors and larger amount of yuan funding by the new initiative was better than the MAS Overnight RMB Liquidity facility, said MAS.

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Wish, long slammed for selling counterfeit goods, has already recorded $2.7 billion revenue for 2020

Wish, the ecommerce platform that sells cheap Asian goods to the masses, said it had revenue of US$1.7 billion (NZ$2.7b) in the first nine months of 2020, up nearly a third on last year, as it prepares for an initial public offering in New York.

The San Francisco-based digital marketplace, registered by the name ContextLogic, said it had facilitated the sale and shipment of more than 640 million items in the 12 months to the end of September.

But its net losses have grown faster than revenues, rising to US$176m in the first nine months from US$5m in the same period last year.

Wish is one of a group of consumer-facing tech companies aiming for a public listing in the US before the end of the year, joining Airbnb, meal delivery service DoorDash and the video game platform Roblox.

The app is aiming for a valuation of between US$25bn and US$30bn on the public market, according to two people briefed on the process. Some of its bankers had initially pitched the company on a valuation as high as US$40bn, one of the people said. It last raised money at a valuation of US$11.2bn last year.

Wish, which grew out of a machine learning algorithm developed by its chief executive Peter Szulczewski, a Google alumnus, has become a popular platform for purchasing discounted items from China, targeting low- to middle-income consumers with a personalised feed of products.

The company’s prospectus featured a sampling of items on the site, ranging from $3 beauty products to a US$16 tool kit and a US$104 video camera. Its mobile app has been the most downloaded global shopping app for the past three years, according to the data provider Sensor Tower.

But it has also faced backlash for the quality and safety of products sold on its site — a concern it flagged in the prospectus.

“In addition, we may be subject to unfavourable publicity that would create a public perception that non-authentic, counterfeit, dangerous, illegal, or defective goods are sold on our platform, or that our policies and practices are insufficient to deter or respond to such conduct,” Wish said.

Wish noted that PayPal temporarily stopped processing payments on the site in 2014 “as a result of concerns related to products listed on our platform”.

It also said the coronavirus pandemic had affected business, disrupting supply chains from China and causing a temporary decline in the number of merchants on the site. On the other hand, the company said it had benefited from customers avoiding physical retail stores during the pandemic.

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Wish warned that economic tensions between the US and China could also have an impact, citing US threats to impose tariffs on $500bn of imports from China. The company said most of its merchants and some of its operations are based in China.

Mr Szulczewski will retain majority voting power over Wish through a dual-class share structure, according to the prospectus. Yuri Milner’s DST Global and the venture capital firm Formation 8 were the largest outside shareholders in the company.

– Financial Times

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