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roblox.com

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Founded Year

2005

Stage

IPO | IPO

Total Raised

$919.74M

Date of IPO

3/10/2021

Market Cap

71.45B

Stock Price

122.65

Revenue

$0000 

About Roblox

Roblox (NYSE: RBLX) is a social platform that aims to help power the imaginations of people around the world, allowing users to create adventures, play games, roleplay, and learn with friends.

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970 Park Place Suite 100

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Supply-chain issues are driving secondhand gifting, but Gen Z was into pre-owned presents before any woes

Nov 27, 2021

Soon you might buy digital sneakers to wear on your digital date in a digital world. Combined with the hype around digital goods and cryptocurrency, companies and futurists are starting to imagine what shopping in the metaverse might look like. Photo illustration: Mark Abramson/Bloomberg via Getty Images; The Fabricant; Protocol November 27, 2021 Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_ ) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com. November 27, 2021 Before the internet, the mall was the spot for watching movies, hanging out, listening to music, finding love — and an embodiment of all-American consumerism. "The shopping center was Amazon, it was Facebook, it was Tinder, it was Spotify, it was Netflix," said retail futurist Doug Stephens. "It was the gathering point in the community." It's been tough to transfer that '80s mall glimmer to the internet. Mainstream online shopping is convenient and practical, but you can't have a meet-cute or stumble into an arcade while shopping on Amazon. Protocol spoke to experts who agree that online retail is headed toward a more immersive future. In other words, a metaverse future: that word we all love that means everything and possibly nothing at all. It's an "embodied internet" , an ever-present space where we can meet as personalized avatars. The metaverse doesn't exist yet, but precursors like virtual reality and multiplayer video games do. Retail is everywhere online, so it makes sense that it's been at the forefront of growing conversations about the metaverse . Everyone's building their own digital interactive space — like a crypto group trying to buy the Constitution in a virtual Sotheby's auction room in 3D VR space Decentraland last Thursday. Combined with the hype around digital goods and cryptocurrency, companies and futurists are starting to imagine what shopping in the metaverse might look like. Shopping is about the experience As malls decline ever more rapidly , it's easy to see them as nostalgic, once-constant fixtures. But the truth is that malls were disruptors in their own right . Starting in the 1960s, they drove business away from downtown retailing districts in hundreds of U.S. cities. Now many malls face a similar fate due to the rise of ecommerce, growing income inequality and dwindling department stores. And it's all made worse by the pandemic. Not all malls are dying. A key factor is whether they're located in affluent communities . But another common trait among successful malls is their focus on experiential tenants like climbing walls, movie theaters or axe-throwing centers. "[These malls] are the biggest, shiniest pennies in the marketplaces they serve," said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School. Shopping is not just about buying stuff; it never has been. It's about the experience and the community that grows around it. Wish was created with this idea in mind. Its tagline is "shopping made fun." The shopping app is designed for people who want to discover items rather than shop with specific items in mind, CPO Tarun Jain said. Wish is built on a never-ending feed of random, affordable products for users to peruse. "We really focus on the fun and entertainment piece, which I believe is where a lot of commerce is heading," Jain said. The stumble-in or window-shopping aspect of malls is what Wish is all about. "A lot of people go to stores just to browse," Jain said. "That's an underlying human emotion. People enjoy the concept of that." Wish launched back in 2013, when the idea of the feed was novel. Now everything's a feed, so Jain said the company is focused on taking the customer experience to the next level. Its user research has shown that consumers want to communicate with the platform, Jain said, the same way they'd communicate with a retail worker in a physical store. Wish also wants to introduce product videos. Sometimes people just want pure entertainment while shopping, Wish has found. The app includes a "Blitz Buy" game where consumers can spin a wheel to view a "select number of discounted items." "We tried an experiment where we took it out and our numbers showed that our users love it so much and we should not mess with it," Jain said. A metaverse shopping center would fit in naturally with gaming and entertainment industries. Video game companies like Epic Games and Roblox have been early leaders in metaverse-like realities. Video games and retail are already linked in that players can often buy weapons, apparel or currency within a game. Luxury brand Balenciaga brought digital garments to Fortnite . The worlds are closely intertwined. Limitless design When you're not bound by the laws of physics, the design options are endless. "We could transport the consumer into any unique or remarkable environment that they want," Stephens said. "A consumer might want to shop for a handbag on Mars. The sky's the limit in terms of what we can do." Why design an exact replica of a traditional mall when you can instead shop in outer space? These potential fantastical locations are what's so exciting about the metaverse. Companies are already thinking about how to turn shopping into a 3D experience. One of them is Obsess , which builds virtual platforms for major retailers. Part of its website is dedicated to the metaverse and the many different forms it can take. Brands can work with Obsess to design their own interactive world on their own websites, or on platforms like Roblox or Oculus headsets. Stephens noted that the tech isn't quite there yet. "To walk around with an Oculus headset on, it's ridiculous," he said. "But we have to appreciate that every year or two, technologies we use are becoming infinitely more powerful, smaller and more wearable." Think about tech like an Apple Watch. Even with our phones, we're constantly plugged in and interacting with the internet. As Stephens said, the internet contains an "ambient level of retail commerce." Our experiences online have become more tangible, and retail is baked into those experiences: on our Instagram feeds or our favorite YouTube videos. "When you put these things together, the notion of a parallel reality, almost a digital twin of the physical world that we can move into ... it makes perfect sense," Stephens said. The future of digital retail Will people buy digital sneakers to wear on their digital date in a digital world? That's the age-old question, and it's part of the debate around NFTs and digital goods in general. The answer is a resounding yes from digital fashion house The Fabricant. The Fabricant believes fashion is inherently an emotional experience, and doesn't necessarily require physicality. Right now people can project The Fabricant's clothing on their bodies through photos or videos. But ultimately, this clothing is meant to be worn in the metaverse. Clearly, The Fabricant faces a lot of skepticism. What's the point of clothing that you can't physically wear? It's betting, though, on the eventual existence of the metaverse and a growing adoption of NFTs. "The world has come around to our point of view," Michaela Larosse, head of content and strategy, said. "When we launched in 2018, we were very much an outlier." The Fabricant believes fashion is inherently an emotional experience, and doesn't necessarily require physicality. Image: The Fabricant The company is big on expanding beyond physical boundaries and the "democratization of fashion creation." But their digital garments are not very accessible right now. They're expensive and rare. Larosse said The Fabricant hopes to draw more people in with The Fabricant Studio , where anybody can mint their own digital fashion NFT. She thinks digital retail will be a much more collaborative process. If more people start believing that exclusive digital goods have inherent value, maybe they would buy digital-only clothes to wear on their virtual shopping trips. But there's also room for brands that can pair physical goods with digital ones, like the sculpture created by NFT artist Beeple that sold for almost $29 million this month . Larosse advised retailers to delve into the crypto space, as these users are likely to be early adopters of metaverse shopping centers. She also noted that the unending possibilities in a virtual world might make it more difficult for current retailers to adapt. "There's no gravity: All things are possible and you can go anywhere," Larosse said. "That's a challenge to create a world of virtual spaces that correlate with their brand values and that resonate with users." Where does this leave brick-and-mortar malls? Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia, said "consumers, depending on the category and where they live, still will seek to touch, feel, try, rather than just simply buy things sight-unseen." Physical retailing still represents the majority of commerce. Stephens said malls are still figuring themselves out. They may no longer be the sole community watering hole, but he believes their main purpose will always be gathering consumers into a community. They might just have to carve a place for themselves in the metaverse. Shopping Week 2021 As Airtable’s co-founder, Andrew spearheads Airtable’s long-term product bets and represents the voice of the customer in major product decisions. After co-founding the company, he helped scale Airtable’s original product and engineering teams. He previously led the redesign of Google's flagship Maps product, and before that was a product manager for Android. November 10, 2021 The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that by 2026, the shortage of engineers in the U.S. will exceed 1.2 million, while 545,000 software developers will have left the market by that time. Meanwhile, business is becoming increasingly more digital-first, and teams need the tools in place to keep distributed teams aligned and able to respond quickly to changing business needs. That means businesses need to build powerful workplace applications without relying on developers. In fact, according to Gartner , by 2025, 70% of new applications developed by enterprises will use low-code or no-code technologies and, by 2023, there will be at least four times as many active citizen developers as professional developers at large enterprises. We're on the cusp of a big shift in how businesses operate and how organization wide innovation happens. Giving people the power to build software that's not only fully customized to their teams' needs and workflows but is also visual and simple will do more than improve how their organizations operate — it will transform work as we know it. Allowing rigid, one-size-fits-all software to dictate your teams' workflows will be a relic of the past as teams unlock the efficiency and power that comes with building hyper-optimized applications for their specific workflows and teams. When the people that use the software can customize it to adapt to their needs on the fly, teams can more easily manage rapid change, adjusting the software to adapt to new processes and business needs without a developer's time or resources. And given the increasing rate of change in the world today, this ability to move faster isn't just a nice-to-have; it's mission-critical for staying competitive. Over the past 15 years, 40% of companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared from the list. Although some of them simply saw their growth eclipsed by upstarts, nearly all faced outside disruption they were ill-equipped to react to. Fortunately, today's leading companies have an advantage that their predecessors didn't — workplace technology that gives them the agility of the most successful and disruptive startups. When people can move beyond one-size-fits-all software and build the right solutions around self-designed business processes, it unlocks the differentiation needed to compete in increasingly crowded markets. This type of agility can be a company's secret sauce as team members, regardless of role or function, are empowered to drive innovation across the organization. We founded Airtable on the notion that the people doing the work within companies should be the ones building the software they use. For over a decade, we've offered the basic building blocks of software for people without advanced technical skills to build the applications they need. Today more than 250,000 organizations, including 80% of the Fortune 100, use Airtable to build workflows that precisely fit their team's needs and will scale with them as they grow. With Interface Designer, our newest feature, teams can now create complete, three-part applications in Airtable — a flexible database layer for their most critical information, a logic layer that automates manual or complex work and now an interface layer that allows people to customize how others interact with what they build. Interface Designer's simple drag-and-drop tools are built for anyone to use to simplify, contextualize and visualize their data and present their workflow as a full application that their team can easily view, interact with and contribute to. Creators can build multiple interfaces to make complex data accessible, actionable and shareable in a visual way that's uniquely powerful to each person in their organization. Creator-designed software not only needs to work: It needs to be dead simple for everyone in an organization to be able to easily understand and interact with it. Simple drag-and-drop custom layouts mean that it takes minutes, not hours, to create an interface and share a full application with teams. Now teams can easily build consumer-grade applications that help them reach their most ambitious outcomes faster. And instead of hiring a developer or waiting for an IT department's resources to free up, the people closest to the work — marketing, product and HR team members — can build custom interfaces tailored specifically to how their teams operate and customized to how others in their organization think and work. Whether it's reporting on progress to executives, gathering information from other teams or creating review and approval processes, people can now build simple and beautiful, yet powerful, applications within Airtable to orchestrate how work gets done. Interface Designer enables teams to build complete applications that give teammates the information they need to take action. Mia Lama, a product operations specialist at Twilio, for example, needs to customize how information is shared across several different teams to ensure people have the right context and clear understanding of what's needed from them. She shared: "As our workflows have evolved, they've become more complex and cross-functional, making it difficult to provide context and clear processes. With Interface Designer, we can customize the way data is shared across teams, allowing us to make right decisions in real time." Empowering everyone to create the exact applications they need to manage their work -- apps that look and feel like the ones we use in our personal lives -- will let us accomplish more and unlock new sources of creativity for the world. The next generation of innovators won't be Silicon Valley engineers, they'll be marketers, product managers, operations managers, and content creators who have the new superpower to build software that drives progress for their organizations. Keep ReadingShow less Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron ) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com. November 26, 2021 Crypto took huge steps toward the mainstream this year. Bitcoin soared in value, Coinbase went public and VCs poured even more money into the industry. In case consumers didn't get the message, they'll surely notice when the Staples Center turns into Crypto.com Arena next month and FTX airs its first Super Bowl ad in February. But the industry is largely missing the biggest opportunity for cheap, viral promotion over the holidays — by letting consumers give loved ones crypto or NFTs as a gift. With the supply chain wrecking shopping lists, it would seem like a great time to capitalize on instant, virtual presents. It's unlikely to happen. Don't expect shiba inu coin or CryptoPunks to suddenly compete with Apple AirPods or Brooklinen Super-Plush Robes beneath Christmas trees. The options currently available are often too technical, requiring education and coordination to make the gift happen — hardly the formula for a surprise stocking-stuffer. A recent study by NORC at the University of Chicago found that nearly two-thirds of consumers were at least slightly familiar with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. It's helped that popular apps like Square's Cash App and PayPal's Venmo offer crypto trading. But only about a fifth of consumers have purchased or traded crypto, the NORC study reported. This shortfall comes at a critical time for the industry as it gears up for a PR and marketing offensive ahead of widely expected regulation. Cryptocurrency as a concept is now widely known, but consumers still generally view digital assets with skepticism, and they face intense scrutiny from regulators and policymakers. A gift that's hard to give Coinbase, the largest crypto marketplace in the U.S., already lets customers send crypto as gifts. Customers can log in to their account, pick a crypto asset amount, provide the email address of the recipient and send the gift. It's a formula for spreading a new fintech product that hearkens back to PayPal, which didn't require recipients to have an account before someone could send them money via email. But the recipient then needs to set up an account on Coinbase, which hosts the wallet that will receive the crypto. Coinbase spokesperson Andrew Schmitt called it a perfect gift for the "crypto-curious." A new marketing campaign that's expected to roll out this holiday season aims to make crypto an even more accessible gift. Blackhawk, the payments company famous for the racks of retailer-branded gift cards found in supermarkets and drugstores, is working with a major crypto marketplace to make a crypto gift card available in popular retail outlets. It's not the first time someone's tried to offer a crypto gift card, but those products and the companies behind them have mostly vanished, sometimes with a trail of customer complaints. Blackhawk, which spun out of the Safeway grocery chain in 2014, brings a solid reputation with consumers and distributors. Blackhawk declined to disclose the partner it's working with. But Tristan Roffey, Blackhawk's vice president for strategy and business development, said the rollout "has the potential to kind of demystify crypto for a lot of consumers through a form factor that they know and trust, which is a gift card." Blackhawk also recently announced a partnership to let users of Bakkt's crypto exchange app buy, send and redeem traditional digital gift cards from retailers, including DoorDash and PetSmart. The gift cards will be denominated in U.S. dollars. Blackhawk's plan would make crypto gift cards available to more consumers through traditional brick-and-mortar chains like Safeway and Home Depot. But the upcoming Blackhawk initiative also underlines the complexities of crypto. The gift cards will not actually represent crypto tokens. Instead, they will have a value in dollars that can be redeemed for cryptocurrencies through the partner exchange. To redeem the gift card, the recipient would have to create an account on the exchange and then receive the equivalent value in crypto. The crypto gift card "provides consumers an easy entry point to a relationship with the exchange," Roffey said. Roffey said when he and his team began talking about rolling out a crypto gift about two years ago, the idea was met "with mild enthusiasm and some pause." Security was a big concern. NFTs: A nifty gift? NFTs have exploded in popularity, and could offer more promise as holiday gifts. Like a piece of art, the value is more subjective. But giving a token which represents ownership of a unique digital good is still more challenging than wrapping a picture in a frame. NFT marketplaces have not built out the infrastructure to make giving easy for unsophisticated consumers. Conceptually, nonfungible tokens were designed with the idea that ownership could be transferred. But gift-givers face a lot of technical hurdles. Most NFTs are sold on the Ethereum blockchain where the "gas" or transaction fees are high. Many NFT buyers have expressed surprise at spending more on gas than on the actual token. And as with crypto tokens, giving an NFT requires dealing with where to store it. Wallets, whether hosted by an exchange or held by an individual in software or hardware, are a necessity to hold crypto, so they're key to making a gift. If someone buys an NFT for a gift on an open marketplace such as OpenSea, they have to ensure that the recipient has a wallet to receive it. Dapper Labs, the maker of the NBA Top Shot NFT series called Moments, which commemorate basketball game highlights, has tried to address this. Moments are designed so buyers don't have to think too hard about crypto wallets; they're easy to buy with credit cards or bank transfers. "We're trying to be the Trojan Horse to this entire NFT space," Jacob Eisenberg, community lead at Dapper Labs, told Protocol. Still, givers have to hold a Moment for seven days before giving it away and must have 10 Moments in their account, a rule the company implemented to prevent people from creating multiple accounts to snap up newly issued Moments. A new Top Shot user will have to jump through hoops to give these NFTs — not a great recipe for spur-of-the-moment giving. There are other subtle aspects to giving NFTs. Many see them as more than a certificate of ownership — NFTs have become social signifiers. Gift-givers need to think about those implications, and whether the recipient will be keen on joining in on the online fun. "If I give you an Adam Bomb NFT from the Adam Bomb Squad, I just invited you to a community that's vibrant and has a Discord where there's hundreds of messages a day," said Ian Rogers, chief experience officer at crypto hardware startup Ledger. "It's a really different thing." A risky present Besides annoying or confounding the recipient, crypto gifts pose other challenges. A gift could turn into coal if there's a flash crash in crypto, something that's happened repeatedly with the volatile currencies. And Melody Brue, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said givers and recipients must remember that digital assets "can very easily vanish into thin air if someone is even the slightest bit careless with storage — and that goes for exchanges, paper and hard wallets." "Even the savviest of crypto investors have lost millions by losing storage devices or keys," she said. "And once lost, they are virtually unrecoverable." As with physical art, the value of NFTs is largely subjective and speculative. And several celebrity-themed NFTs have crashed in price recently. And if the price soars, the recipient could face an unexpected tax bill. Rogers, a former Apple executive, said it will take time for crypto and NFTs to become the kind of products that are easily gift-wrapped for the holidays. "We are not yet at the point where we are selling an iPod at Target," he said. "We're still in the days when we're selling the graphics card at Fry's. A year from now, honestly, let's have this conversation. I bet it is 100 times easier than it is today." Shopping Week 2021 Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com. November 26, 2021 "I'm selling meditation, so I shouldn't be stressed," said Charlie Rousset, the co-founder of sleep and relaxation gadget-maker Morphée. But even deep breathing can't help Rousset feel less on edge this Black Friday. Paris-based Morphée has sold 200,000 units of its first device over the past few years. This year, Morphée has been looking to expand from Europe to the U.S. But in the face of global logistics and the supply-chain crisis, Rousset has been forced to scramble to even cater to the company's existing markets. "This crisis is huge," Rousset said. The only thing left to do now is "wait, cross fingers and hope that it will be better soon," he added. Morphée is one of many companies feeling the pressure, especially on Black Friday. Retail is undergoing momentous change, sped along by a series of compounding global crises and radical shifts in consumer behavior over the past 18 months. Many of these changes had been years in the making, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the timeline of these shifts in unprecedented fashion. Now, retailers, brands and shoppers are contending with the effects of overwhelmed ports and shipping companies; component shortages causing production slowdowns and massive price increases; and the pandemic influencing everything from manufacturing and labor to how we shop and what we buy. Looming over the entire industry is Black Friday, long seen as the official start of the U.S. holiday shopping season, and as such, an important deadline for anyone looking to sell goods to the masses. Amid the crisis and the COVID-fueled growth of ecommerce and new shopping trends, a growing number of industry insiders are asking: Is it time to say goodbye to Black Friday for good? Delayed containers, empty shelves The most visible signs of the current retail crisis are the ships currently waiting to dock at North American ports, including a record-breaking 100 vessels in Long Beach. They're just the latest obstacle for any company looking to get its goods from China to U.S. store shelves. Woot co-founder and former Amazon executive Darold Rydl is among the people who've spent the last few months eagerly awaiting delayed containers. "It was supposed to leave in August, and got delayed because the port got shut down due to coronavirus," Rydl told Protocol. "Then the typhoon hit, so they had to shut the port down for a week. Then it was the Moon Festival, so they were shut down for a week again. Then there was all the backlog to work through." In the end, the container, filled with toys, didn't leave China until early October — two months behind schedule. And the drama wasn't going to stop once the container made it to U.S. shores. "Will it get unloaded at the port? Will it be able to get on to a truck?" Rydl asked. "Will it be able to get to our warehouse? Will we have it in time for [holiday shopping]?" Shipping delays are just one component of a broader global supply-chain bottleneck affecting almost every product category imaginable. While there isn't just one culprit to blame, COVID-19 is undeniably the biggest instigator, affecting what can be produced and shipped, how much it costs to do so and, on the other end, what consumers most eagerly want to buy. "Customers were at home, and the things they were buying changed," explained Jordan Speer, a retail analyst with the firm IDC. "Hotel and travel dried up. Apparel dried up. Consumers started buying things for their new home offices and their new homes: exercise equipment, furniture, games, bikes." Meanwhile, the virus closed Chinese factories, where a majority of these products are produced. As spending habits shifted and demand for certain items skyrocketed, supply couldn't keep up, and now every link in the chain is stuck playing catch-up. "It's uncharted territory. There are ups and downs within the semiconductor industry, but this is not restricted to semiconductors. It's more of a global issue," said Gaurav Gupta, a semiconductor and chip manufacturing analyst with Gartner. "I've not seen anything like this before." Gupta and other analysts now say these supply-chain issues, and the chip shortage in particular, will persist well into next year and potentially last until 2023. Not only are there component shortages and shipping delays, but prices for transportation — ocean freight shipping, container storage and truck delivery, for example — have also risen dramatically, according to Hong Kong-based freight marketplace Freightos. Sending a shipping container from China to the West Coast once cost around $3,800 per 40 square feet. It now costs more than $17,300, the Associated Press reported in October. The problems don't end when containers reach U.S. shores. Ports have been overwhelmed by a deluge of containers, with logistics experts pointing to a lack of container storage space as one of the factors exacerbating the situation. The result: It takes many more weeks to get goods from docks to warehouses. "We got word our last sea shipment arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 24. We received it Friday, Oct. 15," said Nathan Betzen, operations manager at consumer electronics startup Flirc . Under normal circumstances, the shipment would have reached the company two weeks earlier — two weeks that can make or break a company's holiday schedule, especially if goods still have to be shipped to retailers. Flirc's contingency plans to stay stocked for the holiday season involve shifting some of its goods to air freight. That's a strategy that others are exploring as well, even if it comes with a significant price tag. "It's never a good option to do air freight," Rousset said. "But we still do it." Paying extra for air freight can mean that a company loses money on its products, but running out of stock completely might be worse, he argued. An executive for a major consumer electronics company who wasn't authorized to talk on the record about the subject suggested that some of the bigger, well-known companies are going down the air freight route as well — if their inventory isn't already stuck on a container ship, that is. "A lot of containers were on the water ahead [of] knowing what the receiving port delays would be," the executive told Protocol. Others simply don't have the luxury to pay for air freight, either because their products are too big and bulky or because their margins are already too slim. In some cases, both of these factors come into play simultaneously, as an executive for a major TV brand told Protocol on the condition that we wouldn't use his or his company's name. "There is barely enough margin in the TV hardware business to be able to pay for ocean shipment — air shipment is out of the question for big- and small-margin products like TVs," the executive said. Massive price increases, yearlong lead times for components As companies scramble to get their hands on precious chips and other components, hardware startups are often squeezed the most. "A lot of chips that were $10 or less are now hundreds of dollars," said Crowd Supply founder and CEO Josh Lifton, whose company caters to developers looking to turn their ideas into products for enthusiasts and early adopters. And the problem doesn't stop with price increases. "Parts that people designed around even a month ago aren't available anymore," Lifton said. Rousset struggled with these availability issues when he tried to buy SD cards for Morphée's hardware a few months ago. Factories that used to take smaller orders were now turning him down. "Even if you pay double the price, you can't get them," he said. The shortages and long order waitlists are affecting virtually every product, but the ones being hit the hardest are consumer electronics devices and automobiles, analysts and retailers told Protocol. Both categories of products rely on hundreds of chips to produce a single unit, be it a full car or a gaming laptop, and many of the lower-cost chips being squeezed right now are produced only by a select few suppliers in Asia. It's not the big-name brands you might be thinking of, like the AMD chips inside Sony's PlayStation 5 or a Nvidia graphics card that powers a new PC. "When we're talking about the semiconductors in shortage, they're not the things we think of as maybe the more well-known components like processors or memory. Those are actually pretty healthy," said Ryan Reith, a consumer electronics expert with IDC. The real shortage, Reith added, "are the smaller what we call ICs, or integrated circuits, that are critical" to the operation of the device. Many devices, including cars, rely on countless ICs to operate various electronics functions. If one part is absent, Reith explained, and that part might come from Vietnam or Taiwan, then it holds up manufacturing in China, which holds up shipping to the U.S. "This is going to take long to recover from because if the demand is strong and the supply is not able to meet the demand, either there has to be a considerable demand softening or there has to be some support for new capacity," Gupta said. But, he added, the problem is that "80% of the chips are being fabricated in Asia," similarly noting that these are not high-end chips but the ICs made by older, traditional fabrication plants, many of which are outside China. "The entire ecosystem where the shortage is … it's very difficult to bring that back into the EU and U.S., which are more focused on the advanced [chips] for which there is no shortage," Gupta added. "The reason is that they are low-price chips, so profitability is low. From a cost perspective, it doesn't make sense for companies to invest in increasing capacity for those." These shortages will likely translate into higher prices for consumers and more constrained supply during Black Friday and well beyond. "As we head into the holiday season … there's a strong potential that we see products priced higher than they normally would be. But more importantly, less inventory of these products [will be] available," Reith said. Some hardware companies have been forced to redesign their products as a way to make do with whatever components they can get their hands on. "You used to have one design to go to market with; now you have five or six," said IoT veteran Ben Corrado, who has been working with a number of consumer hardware companies. Changing hardware design due to component availability issues isn't just a matter of replacing one chip with another. "It requires redesigning the entire firmware based on what's available," explained Andrew Ochoa, CEO of wearables company Waverly Labs , which recently had to go through this process. "We've had to find new ways of architecting the same product." And while companies can ship the same product with different internals, they have to be careful not to change too much of what's under the hood. Swapping out key components will force them to re-certify the product with the FCC, which costs time and money. "It is a daunting process," Ochoa said — a process Waverly Labs was lucky to avoid, for now. As companies are scrambling to get their hardware to U.S. ports and ultimately to consumers, they're also having to fast-track their 2022 planning. Multiple executives told Protocol that vendors are asking them to order components a year ahead of time, as opposed to the eight weeks of lead time that used to be commonplace for the industry. That means that companies need to predict how much product they will sell during the 2022 holidays even before they've made it through this year's season. "How can we know?" Rousset asked. "We can't." Time to ditch Black Friday? As executives are forced to make those 2022 plans even before knowing whether they'll be able to keep shelves stocked this year, they can't help but wonder how much Black Friday will matter next year. Will it still be the tentpole shopping event that kicks off the holiday season, or will the current crisis contribute to its demise? Should companies continue to plan around Black Friday, or should they break with the rest of the industry and actively discount it? It's not an entirely new question. Labor advocates have long pointed to the stress the shopping holiday imposes on workers. Unions have used Black Friday to strike for better working conditions, while environmentalists have called for Black Friday boycotts to highlight the impact consumer culture has on the planet. Those critics received a huge boost when outdoor retailer REI announced in 2015 that it would close its stores on Black Friday, encouraging people to spend time outside instead. "It was a massive decision," said Gunjan Bhow, who joined REI's board of directors last year. "The biggest shopping day [of the year], and we are closing." Bhow acknowledged that the move helped REI build some brand goodwill with consumers for keeping its stores closed that day ever since. "But the impact of losing the sales was as material for REI as any other retailer," he said. Bhow used to be the global chief digital officer for the Walgreens Boots Alliance, and before that held executive roles at Disney, Amazon and consumer electronics maker Plantronics. In those roles, he got to see firsthand how important Black Friday has been for retail and consumer electronics, but also how that importance has waned over the years. "Black Friday was created using scarcity," he said. "The whole doorbuster concept: You will miss out if you don't wait in line before the store opens, because [there are] only 25 TVs at this price." With companies competing for the lowest price online, that idea of scarcity has increasingly fallen by the wayside, to the point where Bhow believes REI's decision to close its doors that day wouldn't make nearly as big of a wave nowadays. "Honestly, now, that decision is not that important," he said. "It's kind of an increasingly irrelevant holiday, to be honest," agreed b8ta CEO Vibhu Norby, whose company sells consumer electronics and other goods both through its own stores as well as in partnership with bigger retail chains. "Black Friday has lost a ton of importance. At this point, it's just another day." There are still lingering concerns around shopping in-store and the added convenience of ecommerce that the pandemic highlighted like never before. According to IDC, 23% of recent survey respondents said COVID-19 led them to start doing more of their shopping online, and that they expect to continue doing so long after. "We're not going to go back to pre-pandemic levels," Speer said. "I think these behaviors have become ingrained: There was enough time. It wasn't like the pandemic lasted a week." The pandemic also accelerated certain trends, like curbside pickup and what's known as BOPIS, or buying something online and picking it up in the store. Both offerings reduce the amount of time customers spend inside a retail shop, where someone might be more enticed by a deal or buy something extra they didn't intend to. "What the pandemic then shifted was that customers who didn't buy online went online, which forced the retailers to increase their capacity and shift their resources," said Ant Duffin, a retail expert with Gartner. "What [retailers] are now looking at is that [they] know last-mile fulfillment is really, really expensive and they don't want to do that, so what they need to do is look at alternatives." That's not to say that all of the industry's woes are going to disappear if it ditches Black Friday, or that Black Friday itself will fade away quickly and quietly. The reality, for now, is that Black Friday has become an ingrained artifact of U.S. shopping culture. We can expect it to stick around but lose relevance as retailers effectively dilute its meaning and purpose by making it an extension of the whole holiday shopping season. "Old habits die hard," said Speer. "Before the pandemic, for a few years now, I would say retailers have been expanding Black Friday to be more than just one day. For better or for worse, Thanksgiving itself became a shopping day, and then Cyber Monday and then deals starting earlier in the season, bumping up to the beginning of November." Speer said this is an effort for retailers to both juice more sales out of Black Friday and also to distance themselves from the negative connotations now attached to it. "It's not healthy shopping," she added. "Christmas is Christmas," Ochoa said. Even if consumers don't go deal-hunting the day after Thanksgiving anymore, they still want their gifts to arrive in time for the holidays, leaving everyone scrambling in order to line up products for a few very busy weeks — something that may not get easier any time soon, as component shortages may persist for years. "We don't know when this is going to end, and if it will ever end," Lifton said. On the flip side, if products don't arrive in time for the holidays this year, consumers may walk away with the lesson that they have to start shopping earlier next year, in turn further weakening Black Friday. "I have teenage children," Bhow said. "I don't think they'll recognize Black Friday when they are older, because it [will] look completely different." Shopping Week 2021 Here are the five biggest trends that will affect Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images November 26, 2021 Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com. November 26, 2021 Shopping is changing. It's not just the influence of COVID-19 altering what products we buy and how we buy them. It's also the many shifts in consumer behavior and retailer strategy — from the steady rise of ecommerce to the boom of on-demand delivery — years in the making, which have all been accelerated by the pandemic. Nowhere will these shifts be more apparent this year than Black Friday, the most resilient of U.S. shopping holidays and once the cornerstone of the holiday shopping season. The ingrained culture, norms and irresistible deals of Black Friday were shattered last year before the availability of vaccines and during a frightening uptick in case numbers. A year later, many of the changes have become standard behavior, and retailers are being forced to adapt to a new reality. To understand the state of shopping today and where it's going in the future, here are the five biggest trends that will affect Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. Curbside pickup and BOPIS Among the shifts in shopping: the point of contact with retailers. COVID-19 meant shopping less in store and more online, with many consumers flocking to whatever store or website promise them cheap and fast last-mile delivery. But delivery is costly, and it's not sustainable for many brick-and-mortar retailers already operating on razor-thin margins unless they operate at the scale of Amazon or Walmart. That's where curbside pickup and BOPIS, or "buy online, pickup in store," come in, and the trend is expected to continue growing. "The cost of fulfillment for these companies is incredibly high," said Ant Duffin, a senior commerce analyst with the firm Gartner. "So what 'buy online, pickup in store' is being used for now is to drive online revenue, but also drive people into stores to give that economic balance between the two different channels." A Gartner survey of retailers found that more than 65% of them expected the share of revenue captured by BOPIS orders to nearly double over the next few years to about a quarter of all sales. Curbside pickup, which pre-pandemic was almost exclusively used for groceries, is now being expanded to include almost any product you can buy in store, Duffin said. Far fewer doorbusters Black Friday's reputation is one of shopping chaos: the doorbusters, the stampeding crowds and the injuries and violence that can result. This year, like last year , expect far fewer of these types of aggressive, in-store-only deals designed to get consumers lining up and chasing each other down the aisles. "We've seen a lot shift away from concentrating [deals] on Black Friday itself, not to mention the bad press that comes along … like people getting trampled," said Jordan Speer, a retail analyst with the firm IDC. "It's not healthy shopping." While it's expected that at least some retailers will concoct strategies to get more people to come into the physical store, it certainly won't be the only way to score a cheap TV or discounted laptop. Now, more retailers push their deals up ahead of Thanksgiving week, and ultimately put more deals online after Black Friday. Rise of the shopping bots Hot in-demand items like new game consoles and affordable laptops have become extremely hard to come by over the last 18 months, due in part to complex global supply chain issues and an ongoing chip shortage. But where this plays out more directly for consumers is in the online shopping channels, where humans are increasingly competing with automated software to put products in digital shopping carts and clear the checkout process. Bots have become integral sources for online shopping and deal-hunting, especially during the pandemic. The biggest subset of these bots are the scalpers looking to scoop up extra inventory and flip it for profit. "Scalper bots are becoming increasingly well known as attackers target high-end 'hot drops' — whether it's designer trainers or the new PS5 — and consequently receive extensive media coverage," explained Thomas Platt, security firm Netacea's head of ecommerce, in a webinar earlier this year . The scalper bot industry, Platt added, is becoming more sophisticated, too, as "the number of scalper bot actors grows and elite bot groups come to the forefront." Yet scores of everyday shoppers are also now turning to bots, through Discord channels and Twitter accounts , to help notify them when inventory is back in stock or even turning to bot accounts to buy products secondhand. These practices, once reserved for supply-constrained commodity markets like limited-run sneakers and concert tickets, have exploded onto mainstream retail channels, making it harder than ever to buy new consumer electronics without employing some savvy software. Cyber Monday and the extension of the shopping season Black Friday is no longer just Black Friday. And that's both a blessing and a curse for retailers and shoppers. On one hand, the extension of the U.S. holiday shopping season is a multiyear trend that's been picking up steam long before the pandemic. It started by turning Black Friday into a multiday affair that includes Thanksgiving and the addition of Cyber Monday. Now, retailers are looking at making it a multimonth shopping holiday by promoting Black Friday deals as early as October . "A lot of the retailers this year have started Black Friday deals much earlier," Duffin said. "I think it's interesting in the current environment, as retailers are trying to draw out the process and take the pressure off themselves." Duffin said it's evidence that Black Friday, at least the spirit of it, is alive and well, even if the deals aren't what they used to be and they're no longer centralized on a single day in November. "Shopping holidays and shopping events have become well ingrained in society and culture," he said. "For brands and retail, it's part of their core calendar, and it's a value lever they can pull at this time of year, and it will create a certain amount of value." What that value amounts to, and how much it may diminish in the future, Duffin said will greatly depend on the success of this year's shopping season. Higher prices and emptier shelves Black Friday isn't going back to how it used to be, and both sellers and shoppers are now faced with a choice: Embrace the new form Black Friday has taken, or simply abandon it altogether. And the new shape of holiday deals in the U.S. is higher price tags and fewer available products, at least for the foreseeable future. "As we head into the holiday season, there's a strong potential that we see products priced higher than they normally would be. But more importantly, less inventory of these products available," said Ryan Reith, a consumer electronics expert with IDC. "My personal belief is the channels like Amazon or Walmart are going to do everything they can to look as normal as possible. But I think what people are going to find is that the products they might have gone in for might not be there. There might be something similar, but it's going to be a higher price than they want." This is, unfortunately, the new normal for many industries. Experts don't expect global supply chain and chip shortage issues to abate at least until well into next year. Meanwhile, retailers are adjusting every facet of their business — from how much inventory they buy and hold at a given time to what types of marketing strategies they employ — to keep their businesses afloat, ride out the uncertainty and try to adjust to new consumer behaviors. "I think we have seen permanent changes in omnichannel fulfillment. We're not going to go back to pre-pandemic levels," Speer said. "I think these behaviors have become ingrained, because there was enough time. It wasn't like the pandemic lasted a week." Shopping Week 2021

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