The Drive Thru: L’Oreal reopens offices, more chains file for bankruptcy, and the future of the department store remains in flux

Rumours are swirling about the return of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, which one store says could launch as soon as August 28. Facebook/Starbucks


Congrats on making it to another Friday! It’s hard to believe it’s already (checks notes…) August! If you’re generally confused, as I am, about what day of the week (or month) it is, don’t sweat it. You can always count on the retail team at Business Insider to let you know another week has passed by with The Drive Thru, our weekly and punctual round-up of everything you need to know in retail and restaurant news.

By the way, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to The Drive-Thru here to stay on top of it all – and to get me, Shoshy Ciment, and my colleague, Kate Taylor, in your inbox every Friday!

Here’s what you need to know:

Retail bankruptcies of the week: Tailored Brands, Lord & Taylor, and Le Tote

Lord and taylor
Lord & Taylor filed for bankruptcy on Monday REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

Another week, another bankruptcy filing. This week, three major companies joined the ever-growing list of the 28 retailers that have filed for bankruptcy or liquidation in 2020.

Bucking the trend: On the bright side, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it is opening 11 new locations this month.

L’Oreal is reopening its US offices – and some employees resent being made to return to work in a pandemic

An image of employees returning to work in a New York L’Oreal office, which was shared in the company’s internal communications portal in early July. An anonymous current L’Oreal employee

L’Oréal USA, which employs nearly 11,000 people, began calling its employees back to work in early July. But internal communications reveal a sense of fear and frustration among employees regarding returning to the offices.

Some employees who want to work from home are being required to give the company access to their medical history or a doctor’s note. At the same time, L’Oreal workers say they are being bombarded with screensaver images of smiling employees in the office, even as they dread returning to work in person.

“They keep repeating how positive people are reacting and it’s bull***t because no one wants to go back,” said a current L’Oréal employee who works in California. “It’s pure gaslighting.”

In a statement to Business Insider, L’Oreal said, “Being together is a key ingredient to our culture and essential to the success of our business in a creative industry.”

Read some more of my reporting on L’Oreal here.

The future of shopping: Department stores, dressing rooms, and tech for social distancing

JCrew Personal Shopping7
Bethany went to a private shopping session at J.Crew and tried clothes inside an actual dressing room. Bethany Biron/Business Insider

The future of the physical store is in flux. As Madeline reported this week, “department stores will likely have to evolve to survive.” Such changes, she found, could play out in the form of downsizing or an upgrade to omnichannel services.

Some stores are already getting creative. J.Crew is offering 30-minute private shopping sessions to allow shoppers to use the normally closed fitting rooms. Bethany tried a session and said it was the “closest to a state of pre-pandemic normalcy” she felt since the pandemic began.

At the same time, new technologies are making it easier for stores to implement social distancing. Catherine rounded up five retail startups, which have raised $US90m from VCs, that are focused on making the future of shopping a safe and distant one.

Retail history lessons you probably never learned in school

Trader Joe's test cookies in milk oreos
The Oreo was created out of a sibling rivalry between two brothers. Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Some of our favourite brands and chains have interesting and unexpected origin stories. Here are few pieces of retail history you might not have heard about before.

Everything else you need to know: