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Retail Brew // Morning Brew // Update
Retailers’ expectations in 2023 and beyond.
January 25, 2023

Retail Brew


Welcome to Wednesday. We’re happy to report that the QSR sign wars have continued, this time between a McDonald’s (which apparently is selling bagels again!) and a local bagel shop called Bagel Grove in Utica, New York. We might just have to side with Bagel Grove (which apparently offers bagel subscriptions) on this one.

In today’s edition:

—Maeve Allsup, Katishi Maake, Erin Cabrey


Event horizon

People at a conference listening to a man in front of a futuristic vehicle
“NRF Big Show”/Jason Dixson Photography

What’s the saying….the only constant is change? At NRF last week, retailers leaned into that wisdom, drawing on the challenges of 2022 (inflation, supply-chain issues, international conflicts), and weighing in on their expectations for the coming year and those after.

John Furner, US president and CEO of Walmart (and NRF board chairman), described the current state of play this way in his opening remarks: “This environment will remain dynamic; it will remain full of changes, full of challenges, and it’s a unique time for all of us…to serve customers as the wants and needs continue to change.”

Following Furner’s opening speech and throughout the weekend, we heard from retail executives, tech leaders, and economists about what they’re expecting in the coming months.

Consumers won’t be alone in tightening their belts: Several speakers alluded to their consumers’ increased desire for discounts and savings, but when it came to predictions for the rest of the year, retailers reining in spending was also top of mind.

Ads are out, authenticity is in: If we had to put together a list of NRF buzzwords, “authenticity” would definitely make the top five. It came up in conversations about everything from how to ~vibe~ with Gen Z to conscious capitalism.

We’re still playing around with emerging tech: If you’re sick of hearing about experimentation with Web3 or the metaverse or other tech trends (AI, anyone?)…too bad.

  • “This is the year to start figuring it out, have somebody on your staff, start doing the research around Web3, and then report back in,” Neal Hubman, global head of client solutions at Reddit, told audience members. “That’s what we’re seeing when some of the largest brands now that are spinning up teams tend to focus on it.”

Read the whole story here.—MA



A revamp for the checkout champs


The start of a new year is the perfect time for a visual refresh, and Bolt is greeting 2023 with a sleek new vibe.

It’s all good news. Bolt’s snazzy design revamp (check it out for yourself) aligns with the same top-notch value and capabilities merchants already expect from their One-Click Checkout. The shockingly simple tool that builds a seamless checkout process (and lifelong customers) isn’t going anywhere.

Compared to guest checkouts, Bolt’s One-Click Checkout converts more shoppers into buyers, which means you can say farewell to abandoned carts and helloooo to more conversions.

Bolt’s CEO discusses their new look here. Check it out—and revamp your checkout experience while you’re at it.


Crack the code

Phone scanning QR code at resturant Albert Hu/Unsplash

Beaconstac is a QR code customer engagement platform that’s stacking $$$. The startup recently closed on a $25 million Series A funding round, which it hopes to use to further the company’s mission of helping its users create QR campaigns that can be used for marketing data collection, and/or everyday operations.

The company declined to disclose revenue figures, but said it grew 200% over the course of the last year.

Co-founder and chief executive Sharat Potharaju believes the QR market is poised to grow. He told Retail Brew that 1.8 million QR codes generated by Beaconstac were scanned 150 million times worldwide by customers last year. Plus, more than 30% of US adults already use smartphones to redeem or scan coupons while checking out in-store, according to a Prosper Insights & Analytics survey. The number of unique smartphone users scanning a QR code is predicted to reach 99.5 million by 2025, increasing from 83.4 million in 2022, according to eMarkerter.

  • Beaconstac will use its latest cash infusion to develop its platform and grow its 75-person workforce by roughly 200% this year.
  • Potharaju says the appeal for QR codes include reducing friction and streamlining operations by “digitizing access to content versus manuals or physical documents.”
  • Also, users can drive customer engagement and measure the return on investment of physical marketing channels, including the ability to collect first-party data.

Since there are touchpoints between brands and consumers, Potharaju said there is a greater need for frictionless tech that meets consumers off and online.

“This funding validates our leadership position in the market and gives us the resources to build additional products on our platform, as well as continue helping businesses embrace QR codes for customer engagement,” he said.

Keep reading here.—KM



Coworking with Zarina Lam Stanford

Zarina Lam Stanford, CMO of Bazaarvoice Zarina Lam Stanford

On Wednesdays, we wear pink spotlight Retail Brew’s readers. Want to be featured in an upcoming edition? Click here to introduce yourself.

Zarina Lam Stanford is a tech industry vet with experience at IBM and SAP, and now, as CMO at software company Bazaarvoice, she helps retailers like Sephora, Walmart, and DSW leverage user-generated content.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in retail? Every day, I get to practice my trade as a business leader, an observer—particularly on retail trends—a brand ambassador, a storyteller and, most of all, being an everyday shopper!

One thing we can’t guess about your job from your LinkedIn profile? Being an investigator. It’s the part of my job that is most enticing and fun as well: seeing patterns, testing hypotheses, predicting trends, understanding shoppers’ behaviors, and finding and sourcing evidence.

What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on? Reframing our brand’s narrative, with an underscored emphasis on “reframing.”

Which emerging retail trend are you most excited about this year, and why? The leading retail trend that excites me as an industry practitioner and a consumer is that retail is everywhere, 24/7, while taking omnichannel to the ultimate.

What’s your go-to coffee order? Chai latte, half the sugar, with oat milk (a bit high maintenance, yes I know).

Worst piece of advice you’ve received? At the risk of sounding like a renegade, for me it has to be “follow the rules.” In my opinion, there are two types of rules; those that are made simply to homogenize are not necessarily the ones I will follow to a T. However, the rules that are made to be guardrails which are there for the purpose of guiding, I will “follow” as guidelines.

What was your favorite retail product when you were 15, and what’s your favorite retail product now? As a teenager growing up in Hong Kong, I was obsessed with jeans, specifically Levi’s jeans as they transcended freedom—the American dream—when I was 15. A few years later, I myself became a transplant in the US! As of late, one of my favorite retail products are trucker jackets, specifically my Levi’s ex-boyfriend trucker jacket. I guess I am what they call a boomeranger!



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Today’s top retail reads.

Taking on water: With 50% market share, Vita Coco established itself as the clear leader in the $600 million coconut-water category. Co-founder and executive chairman Mike Kirban share the ups and downs the brand has faced along the way. (Food Dive)

In the fry of the beholder: From Lisbon, Portugal, to Freeport, Maine, a look at 13 beautiful McDonald’s locations around the globe. (Architectural Digest)

Here’s the deal: Augustinus Bader and Naturium are among the top targets for beauty deals this year. (Business of Fashion)

Learn: Want to impress the boss? The Brew’s newest course, Financial Forecasting, will help you map out your finances and stay ahead of the curve (no matter what comes next). Reserve your spot today.


  • Walmart is raising its starting wage for store workers to between $14 and $19 an hour.
  • Dollar Tree president and CEO Michael Witynski is stepping down, with executive chairman Rick Dreiling set to replace him. 
  • Michael Kors tapped Versace COO Cedric Wilmotte as its next CEO.
  • Sheetz said it will review its policy that bans workers from having “obvious missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth.”
  • introduced a third-party marketplace called Gifts & More.
  • The FDA proposed new limits for lead in baby food.


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Written by Maeve Allsup, Katishi Maake, and Erin Cabrey

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