news digest | Oct 26, 2021 |
Martha Stewart debuts NFTs, Pinterest deal is a no-go, and more

It’s been a busy week for the design industry—Martha Stewart remains ever relevant by minting her own Halloween-themed series of NFTs, while blue paint has become the latest victim of supply chain snarls. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading, and more.

Business News

Lumber prices are on the upswing again, Fortune reports, reaching $545 per thousand board feet in a 40 percent increase from August’s low point of $389. While the current market price is still well below the bubble’s peak of $1,515 in May, some industry leaders expect it to keep rising. Scott Reaves, director of forest operations at Domain Timber Advisors, told Fortune he expects prices to reach the $700s, while the futures price for November is up to $772. The cause of the surge is twofold: Buyers who backed away when prices reached 300 percent above pre-pandemic level began slowly returning after costs bottomed out in August, while a particularly bad wildfire season in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and British Columbia has caused strain on the supply side.

In a phenomenon dubbed “The Great Resignation,” U.S. workers are leaving their jobs en masse, breaking all-time U.S. records for three months in a row this summer, The Atlantic reports. While the trend was set in motion by pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium and student-loan forgiveness, some say it may be indicative of changing attitudes toward work on a larger scale—after months at home, many workers no longer view their jobs as central to their identity. Others have left the corporate realm in favor of migrating away from urban areas and starting e-commerce businesses amid the sector’s recent boom. Companies and employers, meanwhile, are responding accordingly to the workforce’s newfound mobility, as wages for low-income workers are rising at their fastest rate since the Great Recession.

On par with that trend, The Container Store has announced a new company-wide $15 per hour minimum wage, the Dallas Business Journal reports, a $1 hourly hike. According to John Marazio, The Container Store’s executive vice president of human resources, the retailer issued the new policy to stay competitive in a tight job market after facing difficulty finding workers for regular year-round full-time and part-time positions in its distribution centers and stores.

Amazon has announced plans to hire 150,000 seasonal staffers—roughly 50 percent more than last year—to help meet demand during this year’s holiday shopping period, Bloomberg reports. As online shipping skyrocketed during the pandemic, the e-commerce giant has ramped up logistics operations—as of September, Amazon had already opened 250 new warehouse and delivery facilities in 2021, with plans to debut another 100 in the same month.

Paypal has announced that it will not pursue the acquisition of Pinterest, Fox Business reports. The statement follows reports last week that the payments company was pursuing a deal to buy Pinterest for $45 billion or $70 per share—a purchase that would have earned the spot of biggest acquisition of a social media company since Microsoft's 2016 $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn. After rumors of the deal surfaced, PayPal’s stock took a dive, falling almost 12 percent in three days—Pinterest’s own shares surged 13 percent after the initial reporting, only to fall roughly 12 percent following Paypal’s recent statement, Reuters reports. The news comes after Paypal’s announcement last month that it had purchased Japanese “buy now, pay later” firm Paidly in a $2.7 billion deal expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Digital media company Recurrent Ventures has announced the completion of a $75 million round of financing provided by North Equity LLC, bringing the company’s funding to more than $100 million to date, Yahoo Finance reports. Recurrent currently oversees a group of media titles that includes Domino and Saveur, and the company plans to acquire other digital media properties with the new capital.

Shopify has announced plans for two new business-to-business offerings, launching in its premium platform Shopify Plus as well as a new program to be rolled out in the first half of 2022, Insider reports. The company is known for providing tools to aid business owners in selling product online to consumers. Analysts say the move could be a significant one, putting Shopify on the path to attracting larger, more established brands.

MarketTime, a provider of business-to-business commerce solutions, has announced the acquisition of Brandwise, the largest provider of sales tools in the gift and home industry. The new combined company will support $4 billion in annual wholesale commerce across dozens of product segments. Brandwise founders Jannetta and Todd Litzman will remain in leadership roles with the new company, with Todd serving as president of MarketTime and Jannetta serving as executive vice president.

Product lifecycle platform Clyde has raised $41 million with the completion of a $25 million Series B round led by Headline, along with $16 million in working capital. With the new funding, the company plans to expand its platform and further its vision of helping merchants in the furniture and mattress segments maximize their own product lifecycle programs.

Fireclay Tile announced that it has received a minority investment from Los Angeles-based growth equity investment firm Provenance. With the new funding, the direct-to-consumer tile company plans to quadruple its Northern California factory, open new retail showrooms, and broaden investments in brand-focused and digital initiatives.

Martha Stewart debuts NFTs, Pinterest deal is a no-go, and more
Wool blanket by the Spanish designer Mantas Cornejo, now available on the Tuga platform Courtesy of Tuga

Launches and Collaborations

Online design brand Tortuga Living has moved beyond producing its own furniture and home goods with the launch of Tuga—a new e-commerce marketplace offering products commissioned by partner designers and studios. The launch includes a wool blanket by the Spanish designer Mantas Cornejo, bird feeders by Helsinki-based Studio Tolvanen and a selection of cooking and lifestyle books from Workman Publishing.

Design and renovation experts and HGTV stars Drew and Jonathan Scott have announced the launch of Scott Living by Drew & Jonathan, a new furniture collection available exclusively on Wayfair. Scott Living features three distinct lines, each with hundreds of products, with more to launch seasonally—the Brentwood features modern styles, the Hawthorn includes classic heirloom looks, and the Mesa highlights an industrial ruggedness.

To celebrate the opening of a new Afrofuturist period room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Met Store has commissioned four collaborators to create products inspired by the exhibit. Titled “Before Yesterday We Could Fly,” the exhibit explores the oft-overlooked history of Central Park between 1825 and 1857, where a community of mainly African American residents lived before they were displaced by the park’s construction. It envisions what the area, called Seneca Village, could have looked like today if it hadn’t been removed. The accompanying collections—created by Sheila Bridges, Ten Thousand Things, Harlem Candle Company and Roberto Lugo—includes tabletop items, apparel, candles, jewelry, tote bags and mugs.

Sotheby’s has launched an NFT-exclusive marketplace called Metaverse, ArtNews reports, becoming the first blue-chip auction house to do so. All NFT sales will now take place on the platform, which will display works so viewers can easily access the transaction history of each piece, in a format similar to platforms like OpenSea and Nifty Gateway. With the new feature, Sotheby’s has entered the ring alongside design marketplace 1stDibs, which launched its own auction-based NFT platform in August in response to the growing market for digital art.

Canadian direct-to-consumer kitchen cookware brand Kilne has launched in the U.S., offering its six-piece knife set, three-piece essential knife set and Kilne steak knife set. The company initially launched in December 2020, led by husband-and-wife team Noelle Hjelte and Mike Gettis, who set out to create chef-tested cookware that was accessible to everyday home cooks.

Recommended Reading

Today’s big-box and online retailers can deliver nearly any product imaginable to your door for a reasonable price—and it’s all thanks to a 1980 law that set the course for low-cost quick-shipping to dominate global commerce. When President Jimmy Carter signed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 to deregulate the trucking industry, the cost of shipping and logistics fell drastically, and American consumers soon had access to a wider variety of goods at a much lower price. As Insider reports, however, those benefits came at a major cost, resulting in sinking pay and poor working conditions for the once-solid trucking profession.

The name Laura Ashley often serves as a stand-in for all things demure and prairie-chic, bringing to mind images of frilly, floral dresses, bedspreads and tea towels. But Laura Ashley was a real person—for The New York Times, Amanda Fortini dives into her legacy and enduring appeal, which began with Victorian influences in England’s pastoral countryside and has since spawned a global textile empire and inspired countless popular modern design brands.

Cue the Applause

Frederick A. Bland and Miguel Flores-Vianna were honored as this year’s recipients of the The Soane Honors, distributed by the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation annually to two outstanding figures who embody the Soanean spirit. Bland was distinguished for his ongoing commitment to civic engagement, along with 50 years of design leadership in architecture, planning and historic preservation. Flores-Vianna, meanwhile, was honored for his excellence in photography over the past 25 years, offering an appreciation for global cultures and the built environment.

Marking the program’s 10th annual year, the National Kitchen & Bath Association has revealed its Thirty Under 30 Class of 2022, recognizing talented kitchen and bath professionals under the age of 30. This year’s cohort includes manufacturers, designers, remodelers and showroom specialists honored for career or educational achievements, commitment to excellence in the industry and leadership within their organizations. For the full list of winners, click here.

The National Wildlife Federation and Sustainable Furnishings Council assessed 118 furniture retailers on their wood sourcing policies to determine the fourth annual Wood Furniture Scorecard. According to SFC executive director Susan Inglis, this year’s scores improved more dramatically than any year previous. Companies honored for leading the way in sustainable practices include Cisco Home, Williams-Sonoma Inc., The Arrangement, and Working Wonders. For the full report, click here.

The International Society of Furniture Designers has announced the winners of the 2021 Pinnacle Awards, recognizing the top professional and student furniture designers in the industry for excellence in home furnishings designs through artistry, craft, innovation, and desirability in the consumer marketplace. For the full list of winners, click here.

Grant Kirkpatrick, founding partner at KAA Design Group, has received the USC Architecture 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award for his contributions to the field of architecture. Kirkpatrick is a former Architectural Guild board president, and is currently co-chair of the Board of Councilors at USC School of Architecture as well as a supporter of student scholarships and the school’s Master of Landscape Design + Urbanism program.

Homepage image: Pieces from Scott Living by Drew & Jonathan, a new furniture collection available exclusively on Wayfair | Courtesy of Scott Living

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