This is issue no. 234. The last issue had a 44.77% open rate with a 🔥9.68% of you who also wondered why every startup luxury brand looks the same. Here is a great tweet by Jeff Richards on Walmart's acquisition of Tell him that @2pmlinks sent you.

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Today's Top Intelligence (14 Reads)
Adidas' New Strategy: Sell Sportswear To Women Using Bloggers and Models, Not Athletes
Brand Feature: Some may feel disappointed to hear that top female athletes may not hold the same sway over women as models and bloggers. It’s not clear whether that’s because of cultural attitudes or the fact that brands haven’t always invested as much in promoting female sports stars, such as Serena Williams.

Editor's note: Take a trip to your local Dick's Sporting Goods and you'll see this strategy take hold. While I disagree with Adidas' approach, it seems to be working for them. Only Nike continues to use elite female athletes with Olympians like Allyson Felix as the face of their brand campaigns. 
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Last Word Topic: For publishers, the promise of the internet has been the potential for immediate global reach. In theory, huge audiences can be translated into massive ad revenue. The Athletic, based in San Francisco, isn't chasing that kind of scale. Instead, it charges subscribers $40 annually for in-depth coverage of local sports in Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit -- (it also covers the Golden State Warriors). The company says it can turn a profit in a city once it gets between 8,000 to 12,000 subscribers. It has no plans to sell advertising.

eCommerce: Alibaba hopes to increase that figure with the launch of the luxury pavilion, which is part of Alibaba’s overarching “New Retail” plan to help retailers and brands get access to and value from the company’s vast amounts of customer data. The new luxury platform is a separate hub on Tmall, with an improved user interface and distance from the crowded sea of lower-brow brands and retailers — as well as, essentially, counterfeiters — that populate the marketplace. Brands have to be selected by Alibaba to sell on the new site, and at launch, Burberry, La Mer, Hugo Boss, Maserati, Guerlain, Zenith and more were there selling clothing, leather goods, skin care, watches and even cars through the site.

eCommerce: Is the "retail-pocalypse" even real? For venture capital-backed, digital-first, direct-to-consumer fashion brands, it doesn't seem to apply. And Outdoor Voices is the latest example of a brand that banked on e-commerce to get started, raised substantial capital ($22.5 million to date from investors, including VC firm General Catalyst, Leandra Medine, Gwyneth Paltrow and French clothier A.P.C.) and is now expanding its fleet of brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S. — strategically, of course. Next up? Los Angeles. 

Data / eCommerce: Stitch Fix may be an e-commerce outfit (see what we did there?), but it has solid data on its customers’ preferences, along with a team that knows what to do with it. Human stylists pick out the items that go into a Fix, but they lean on data that Stitch Fix aggregates through an array of algorithms that can, say, match products to customers or figure out how Stitch Fix should update its inventory. One algorithm reportedly even analyzes a customer’s Pinterest activity to appraise their styling preferences.

eCommerce: The owner of Gucci and Saint Laurent has established a joint task force with Alibaba to take action against sellers of counterfeit products on- and offline, the companies said in a statement. The deal is a breakthrough for Alibaba as it tries to convince brands that it will step up efforts to counter fakes. Accusations of Alibaba’s unwillingness or inability to eradicate illegal merchandise culminated in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. by Kering in 2015 against the Chinese e-commerce giant.

Retail: Chamandy didn’t say if the new website would give consumers the option to choose the cheaper, foreign-made products or pay a premium for goods made in the U.S. He detailed such a plan to reporters three months ago. The company is already boosting overall revenue by selling blank American Apparel basics to wholesalers, who then customize the items. That segment of the screen-printing business is the most lucrative, and Gildan predicts American Apparel will contribute to higher margins.

Brand: Anything good can spread via word of mouth. Most startups that make something people want can grow via word of mouth, especially in the beginning. Early stage startups sell to early adopters, who are more conditioned than general shoppers to spread the word about brands and products that resonate. Early on, these companies have very favorable unit economics and they're able to grow quickly and cheaply.

eCommerce: A study by Internet Marketing Inc. found 97 percent of millennials will post on social media while traveling, with three-quarters posting once a day. Sixty percent were also willing to upgrade their travel, whether that meant early deplaning or purchasing Wi-Fi. Another study by Mintel showed travel was more important than paying student loans, buying a "big ticket" item or starting a family.

Media/eCommerce: And even though late-stage private investors such as Fidelity are facing losses in the Blue Apron and Snap IPOs, there’s no sign they plan to exit from the market. Fidelity portfolio managers will continue to invest in private companies they believe are good long-term opportunities, according to a spokesman. He added that the investments in Snap and Blue Apron represent small positions in the Fidelity funds that make private investments, which have also bet on winners such as Facebook Inc.

eCommerce: Several people familiar with Etsy’s thinking say the company has grappled with the expectations of public markets and failed to prioritize its marketplace, which now accounts for less than half of its revenue. Since 2015, Etsy generates most of its money from providing add-on services to merchants, such as shipping labels and advertising. Shares shot above $30 in their first day of trading in April 2015 but soon crumbled and have been trading below the $16 IPO price for about the past two years.

eCommerce: The five-year-old company, founded by CEO Katrina Lake, sends boxes of clothing and accessories to customers personalized to their tastes. Stitch Fix says it uses a combination of algorithms and stylists to choose what it sends to each customer. Customers pay an initial $20 styling fee that can be used toward the purchase of clothing they keep, and receive a 25 percent discount if they purchase every item.

Brand: The company said it expects charges of about $110-130 million in fiscal 2017, related to facility and lease terminations and severance costs. Under Armour said it closed 33 factory outlets and 23 Under Armour branded stores in the 12 months ended June 30. The company, which wooed investors with its quick-paced growth until a few quarters ago, has been battling intense competition from Nike Inc and Germany's Adidas AG .

eCommerce: The young mattress company Tuft & Needle already gets 25 percent of its sales through Amazon. Soon it’ll find out what happens if it outfits a store with Amazon technology, too. The self-funded startup — which generated the vast majority of its 2016 revenue through online sales — plans to open its fourth store this October in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle. Inside, customers will find tablets to read product reviews from Amazon; Alexa-powered Echo devices programmed to answer customer questions; QR codes to enable one-click purchasing through the Amazon app; and, eventually, the company hopes, the perk of two-hour delivery through Amazon’s Prime Now service, too.

Last Word: A Sign of Things To Come
Each section of the newspaper is being unbundled into highly-specific, subscription-driven verticals behind paywalls and it's the next evolution of local media.

We don't need 5, 10 pieces a day, we don't need 20 pieces a day in a city, if we can get 3 stories that you can't get anywhere else in a city, we see unbelievable subscriber yield. That's the pitch, do great work, be surrounded by the best talent in the market, and great things will happen. We'll handle the rest, we know how to acquire users beyond your Twitter followers, we know how to find them on Facebook, acquire them, retain them, and we'll handle the production, we'll handle the platform, and you just do great work. Frankly, to most folks, that's refreshing. Some outlets still do great work, but especially at the local level they're really sliding around figuring out how to make it work for their organization. - Alex Mather, Cofounder of The Athletic

In a recent interview with Ben Thompson (Stratechery), Mather discusses his business model for The Athletic. Even if you aren't a sports fan, you should still pay attention to what they are building. This is a loose comparison but consider the growing number of subscription-driven media groups and how they've disrupted national or local papers. The Information (unbundled "tech"), Stratechery (unbundled "business"), Skift (unbundled "travel"), and TheSkimm (unbundled "lifestyle") are each making waves. I am adding The Athletic to the tracking list of media groups who've embraced the the subscriber sales funnel as a core competency. The Athletic is your local sports section done right or at least that's the mission.

According to The Athletic, 8,000 - 12,000 subscriptions achieves break even in each metropolitan area covered (Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, and the Bay Area). To get there, their tech stack enables "a paywall, insider access, more advanced analytics, and a mobile experience to differentiate." As media evolves, optimizing for eCommerce efficacy will become a core competency. 
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