Happy Friday! This was another big week for bankruptcies, as well as a rough week for retail workers forced to face off against anti-mask customers.
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Here’s what you need to know this week.
It was another week packed with bankruptcies including:
- Lucky Brands, the maker of the coolest jeans I owned in high school
- Brooks Brothers
- Sur La Table, which is closing more than 50 stores
- Muji, my favourite place to shop when I pretend I’m capable of minimalism
The pandemic played a significant role in all four bankruptcies. However, COVID can’t completely explain the companies’ financial troubles. People may have ditched “hard pants” and suits while in quarantine, but as Bethany and Madeline report both Lucky Brands and Brooks Brothers have struggled to stay relevant in recent years as trends shift.
To quote Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, on Brooks Brothers: “Its formal, old-school approach found favour among mature and more traditional demographics, but it has become increasingly out of step with a new generation of consumers who are looking for a more edgy approach to smart casual.”
As BI’s science team reports, masks are crucial in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.But, convincing customers to wear masks is creating its own set of problems.
This week, I covered viral tantrums in stores like Costco and Target as customers refused to wear masks. Late last week, I spoke with a McDonald’s worker in California who was assaulted and had to go to the hospital. She told me she asked a customer to wear a mask, and he responded by grabbing and hitting her through the drive-thru window.
What are some solutions? Starbucks announced a national mask policy on Thursday, becoming the first restaurant chain to do so – and following in Costco’s footsteps. The chain is emphasising de-escalation and promoting other ways anti-mask customers can place orders, in an effort to avoid conflict.
But, some restaurants have decided the harassment is simply too much. Restaurants in states including Texas, California, and Michigan have announced plans to once again shutter dining rooms, blaming rude customers who refused to wear face coverings.
Whole Foods is facing backlash after sending workers home from a Milford, Connecticut store for wearing shirts printed with the phrase “racism has no place here.”
“We believe we are being targeted for speaking up about the injustices that are going on right now,” Graham Johnson, one of the reprimanded workers, told Hayley. “We’ve never had an issue with dress code at our store before now.”
The backlash in Connecticut is on top of the reports of almost daily protests at a store in Massachusetts over its dress code.
Irene wrote about a type of business that can have a direct impact on police brutality – corner stores that have often been sites of conflict and police violence. She talked with the Inner-city Muslim Action Network, or IMAN, about how the group tries to start conversations that make communities safer.
“We’re agitating storeowners to, in this moment, not be people who just self-identify as Muslim, but to really live that out in the way they practice their business, to be advocates for restorative justice in their neighbourhoods at a time like this,” said IMAN deputy director Shamar Hemphill.
Irene also took us inside the solar-powered McDonald’s that just opened in Disney. Disney World isn’t quite open yet, but the solar-powered McDonald’s is already open for drive-thru and delivery service.
Everything else you need to know
- Irene talked to alt-steak startup Redefine Meat’s founder and CEO about making plant-based meat out of 3D “pixels.”
- Mars Wrigley’s president talked to Shoshy about Skittles becoming a political symbol after the death of Trayvon Martin.
- Tie-dye is making a comeback!
- A major Wendy’s franchisee was accused in a lawsuit of spending $US1 million in PPP loan to fund his new house in Montana.
- Boohoo faces backlash over an investigation into workers’ pay.
- Ruby Tuesday is quietly closing more stores.
- A regional supermarket is testing drove delivery.
- Fast fashion retailer Shein sold a pendant necklace with a swastika charm on it.
- There’s a rare sale at Lululemon right now.
- Burger King is selling trendy craft beer (but not in the US).