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Consumer goods companies are operating in a volatile environment, as they see a pullback in consumer demand while continuing to face inflationary pressures from the supply side.
At the same time, some of the largest companies in the industry are moving forward with plans on structural shifts and innovation in 2023.
Here’s what we learned from this week’s earnings calls and updates from 3M, Newell Brands, Johnson & Johnson and Kimberly-Clark.
3M: Layoffs amid pullbackPhoto by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash
3M is laying off 2,500 employees in manufacturing as it adjusts for an economic forecast that is expected to continue to create a difficult consumer environment in 2023.
The maker of Post-It notes and Scotch tape is seeing pullback among consumers. It reported Tuesday that organic sales for the fourth quarter of 2022 were down 5.7% year-over-year, while adjusted earnings per share of $2.28 came in below the $2.45 of Q4 2021.
Consumers cut back on discretionary spending, and retailers reduced inventories, company leaders said. The U.S market showed particular weakness on sales, and was down high-single-digits.
“The slower-than-expected growth was due to rapid declines in consumer-facing markets, such as consumer electronics and retail, a dynamic that accelerated in December, as consumers sharply cut discretionary spending and retailers adjusted inventory levels,” CEO Mike Roman said. “We also saw a significant slowing in China due to COVID-related disruptions, along with moderating demand across industrial markets.”
January is also off to a slow start due to the same issues that hampered the end of 2022, Roman said.
By 2025, the company is also planning to exit the manufacturing of PFAS, known commonly as forever chemicals, that are used in consumer products like non-stick frying pans, waterproof gear and cosmetics.
Newell Brands: Layoffs and restructuringPhoto by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash
CEO Ravi Saligram announced that the layoffs are part of a plan called Project Phoenix that is designed to “further reduce complexity, streamline our operating model and drive operational efficiencies.”
“These actions are a continuation of the simplification agenda that we have driven over the last four years and in response to the difficult macro-economic environment,” Saligram wrote. “Project Phoenix will unlock savings for the company, while making us a more nimble and agile organization and well-positioned for long term, profitable and sustainable growth.”
Newell Brands is a lesser-known name to the general public but is influential, and has brands across home, outdoor and office categories. The company had 32,000 employees as of Dec. 31, 2022, according to its most recent annual report.
With the restructuring, Newell Brands said it is moving from seven business segments to three. These include learning and development, home and commercial and outdoor and recreation. It is also adopting a unified go-to-market strategy called “One Newell” for Walmart, Target and Costco. Newell is also moving to a single global supply chain organization, led by chief supply chain officer Dennis Senovich.
With the changes, appliance and cookware unit CEO Chris Robins will leave the company.
The company is also closing corporate offices in Boca Raton, Florida, and South Deerfield, Massachusetts.
In the third quarter of 2022, Newell reported a 19.2% decline in net sales from the prior year. At the time, Saligram said that sales “decelerated” in the third quarter after a strong first half of the year, “reflecting a tough operating environment as many retailers rightsized their inventory positions, inflationary pressure on both the consumer and our business, as well as the impact of a stronger dollar.”
Johnson & Johnson: Consumer health spinoff in 2023Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash
The consumer health division of Johnson & Johnson delivered growth in the fourth quarter as the company prepares to separate the business that makes Tylenol, Neutrogena, Listerine and Band-Aid.
U.S. sales in the company’s consumer category increased 11% over the fourth quarter of 2021, while global sales increased 1% globally. Results were driven by price increases, and increased over-the-counter sales during an active cold and flu season that saw elevated rates of respiratory infections. Neutrogena also grew significantly, contributing 5% to the company’s skin health and beauty segment.
Margins also improved from 18.6% to 22%, driven by moderating marketing spend from earlier in the year and supply chain efficiencies.
The strong quarter comes as the consumer health business is set to be spun out of J&J and get a new name: Kenvue. Leaders said the move is on track to take place in 2023. The consumer division is already operating as a “company within a company,” said CEO Joaquin Duato. Earlier in January, J&J filed paperwork with the SEC to provide the option for Kenvue to pursue an IPO at the time of the separation, if it so chooses.
J&J joins GSK and 3M among consumer giants that are spinning out health businesses into standalone companies in recent years.
Kimberly-Clark: Sales hold up as advertising spend increasesPhoto by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Kimberly-Clark sees demand holding up for household staples in personal care. The maker of Kleenex and Huggies said Wednesday that organic sales grew 5% in the fourth quarter of 2022, and 7% growth for 2022 as a whole.
For 2023, the company expects more modest net sales growth of 2-4%. Operating profit is expected to rise in the mid-to-high single digits when compared to adjusted operating profit in 2022.
CEO Mike Hsu said the company sees demand and elasticities “holding up” as the company has continued to raise prices as it faces higher supply costs. There was some inflationary impact on the number of units sold beginning to show up more in the fourth quarter. Prices rose 10%, and volumes were down 7%.
“I do think there is more pressure on the consumer, but I still think the category remains very resilient because of the essential nature of the category,” Hsu said.
Nevertheless, executives want to push ahead with innovation. In the next year, the company will spend more on marketing, research and other general expenses.
In particular, the company plans to increase advertising spending more in line with 2020 levels after a decrease over the last two years. This will include an investment in China.
This will be particularly evident in the second half of the year, when the company launches a new initiative that Hsu said will “blow your mind when you see it.” After apologizing for using such language on an earnings call, Hsu hinted that “We’ll do miraculous things with poop.“ Later, Hsu offered analysts a tour of the company’s “war room on poop superiority.”
“That’s kind of the business we’re in,” Hsu said. Such innovation is par for the course for a CEO who oversees diaper and toilet paper brands.
Trending in Economy
On the Move has leadership and promotion news from Pacsun, Calvin Klein and CVS Health.
This week, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies hires a new CEO, while a luxury ecommerce platform taps a successor to its founder. Plus, we’ve got news on top leadership hires and promotions at Pacsun, West Elm and Calvin Klein Americas.
Unilever appoints CEO
Hein Schumacher. (Courtesy photo)
Hein Schumacher will be the next CEO of Unilever, effective July 1. Schumacher comes to the maker of Dove, Hellmann’s and Ben & Jerry’s from Royal FrieslandCampina, where he is credited with leading turnaround efforts at the $11 billion business.
Succeeding the retiring Alan Jope, Schumacher will assume the top job at Unilever as it appears to be on the precipice of change following the appointment of activist investor Nelson Peltz to the board in May.
“The Board looks forward to Hein realising the full potential of Unilever as a winning business which delivers long-term growth and value for all its stakeholders,” said Unilever Chairman Nils Andersen, in a statement.
Brie Olson named co-CEO in Pacsun shakeup
Brie Olson. (Courtesy photo)
Brie Olson was promoted to co-CEO of Pacsun from the role of president. Olson will serve alongside co-CEO Mike Relich. With the move, Alfred Chang will transition to the CEO role at clothing brand Fear of God, which is a Pacsun brand partner. As president, Olson oversaw Pacsun’s AI and metaverse initiative, led a variety of brand partnerships and introduced a gender neutral collection.
The RealReal hires Wainwright's successor
John E. Koryl is joining The RealReal as CEO. Koryl is stepping in to lead the luxury ecommerce platform after founder Julie Wainwright stepped down in June. He comes to the company from the digital arm of Canadian Tire Corporation, and also previously played a key digital transformation leadership role while serving as president of stores and online Neiman Marcus.
West Elm taps Ralph Lauren Home lead as president
Day Korbluth. (Courtesy photo)
Day Kornbluth was named president of West Elm. Kornbluth comes to the Williams Sonoma-owned sustainable home retailer from Ralph Lauren Home, where she served as president. The company credited her track record of growing home furnishing brands with a focus on product and digital innovation. The move follows former West Elm president Alex Bellos' appointment as CEO at Food52 earlier this year.
Vera Bradley shakes up leadership
The travel and accessories retailer Vera Bradley announced a leadership shakeup that resulted in the following:
President Daren Hull, Chief Creative Officer Beatrice Mac Cabe and Chief Revenue Officer Mary Beth Trypus all saw their roles eliminated, and will be leaving the company.
The company will also add the position of SVP of merchandising and design, and is actively conducting a search.
Alison Hiatt joined Vera Bradley as chief marketing officer to oversee digital marketing, customer data and ecommerce. Hiatt brings experience from the food company Salt and Straw.
Pura Vida, which is owned by Vera Bradley, will see co-presidents Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman leave the company. With this, Vera Bradley will acquire a 25% interest in Pura Vida from Thall and Goodman for $10 million, effective January 30.
Vera Bradley said it is making these changes to "drive cost savings, add more focus on marketing and merchandising, and position the Company to deliver steady top- and bottom-line growth."
Master P named chairman of Launch Cart
Percy "Master P" Miller. (Courtesy photo)
Percy “Master P” Miller was appointed chairman of the board at Launch Cart, an ecommerce platform that bills itself as an alternative to Shopify. Alongside a rap career that yielded 90s hits with his label No Limit Records, Miller brings a track record as an entrepreneur in food and entertainment. “With his entrepreneurial spirit and deep understanding of the power of business, our partnership will make it easier for aspiring entrepreneurs to realize their dreams of starting an online business, building a brand, and generating income,” said cofounder Bernt Ullmann.
Kohler to lead Calvin Klein Americas
Donald Kohler. (Courtesy photo)
Donald Kohler was named president of Calvin Klein Americas by parent company PVH Corp. Kohler brings experience from a 15-year career in retail from Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo and Diesel. The company said his expertise includes direct-to-consumer, third-party driven business models and ecommerce. The new comes on the heels of the appointment of Inditex executive Eva Serrano as global brand president at Calvin Klein.
Skims appoints chief commercial officer
Robert Norton is joining Skims as chief commercial officer, and will lead international expansion. Norton joins the Kim Kardashian-founded shapewear brand from Moncler, where he served as president of the Americas. Over a two-decade career, he also previously served as CEO of the Americas for Roberto Cavalli and was an executive at Ralph Lauren.
“I have been a fan of Robert’s for several years and believe him to be a rare, creatively minded executive who knows how to build both a brand and a business,” said Jens Grede, cofounder and CEO of Skims, in a statement. “We are excited to have Robert on the team as we continue the evolution of SKIMS into a global retail brand.”
CVS Health creates chief product officer role
CVS Health announced a pair of appointments:
- David Joyner will join the company as EVP and president of pharmacy services, which serves employers, health plans and government. Joyner previously worked with CVS Health, and has 34 years of experience.
- Amy Bricker was named EVP and chief product officer for the consumer. She assumes the newly-created role to head consumer products and innovation after serving as president of Express Scripts.