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Friday 15th May

In this week's edition: the opportunity in scooter disinfecting, how to avoid Zoom fatigue and booze delivery's future.

How to approach DIY photoshoots.
As big brands dip into their archives for campaign imagery, smaller companies with summer product lines to launch have taken a scrappier, more DIY approach. Krewe, the New Orleans-based eyewear company, reached out to a photographer quarantined with a model and allowed them to take creative control. In this case, it led to a self-styled shoot using vintage clothing. Another eyewear brand, London-based Monc, has enlisted the creativity of its community by sending new sunglasses to designers, writers and artists with the general brief of shooting themselves being creative under lockdown. Direction was minimal and founder Freddie Elborne says he's keen to 'continue community-driven campaigns in the future.’ Brooklyn-based swimwear brand Andie, meanwhile, is turning to volunteering employees with outdoor space. Art director Alda Leung let people choose three to four colours, before deciding which suits worked for each individual’s style and skin tone. She then sent an art direction deck, outlining what she wanted. The images, taken on mobile phones and digital cameras, are then retouched and used on Andie’s website and social media. 'Resolution isn’t the biggest importance,’ says Alda, ‘I’m more concerned about whether the suit is well represented, the shadow and the light.’ She adds: ‘But quite a few were not great.’

How businesses around the world are adapting, evolving and reopening.

Detroit. Fisheye Farms has gone from selling its produce to restaurants to residents after partnering with Steward, a platform for investing in sustainable farms, to set up an e-commerce platform.

Tokyo. Creative agency Whatever has teamed up with designer Akihiko Kimura to create WFH Jammies – combining the formal look of a shirt up top with loose comfort everywhere else.

London. Craft brewer Five Points is recreating the draft beer experience in people’s homes by offering specially-made five litre kegs of beer.

South Korea. CJ CGV, a major cinema chain in South Korea, has gone completely contactless using robots, automated snack bars and unmanned ticketing systems.

LA. The robata grill has been fired up at MTN in Venice as Juan Hernandez and Pedro Aquino, chefs de cuisine at Gjelina and MTN respectively, have launched a Oaxacan pop-up restaurant – takeaway only.

NYC. Influential streetwear brand Sprayground has launched its new Miami 305 collection using 3D animated models in a short film.


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‘There's a big opportunity for a new layer of verification in the cleaning industry’

Reilly Brennan, Venture capitalist
San Francisco

Reilly Brennan is a founding partner at the seed-stage VC fund Trucks, which backs entrepreneurs in the transportation sector. 

How has the virus affected the transportation industry?
Covid-19 has pushed the growth curves forward in a few categories, in some cases a little bit, in some cases a lot. Take the automotive retail space – the way dealers move vehicles, new or used. Pre-Covid in the US, only about a fifth of car dealers allowed you to buy something online. A dealership with inventory on their website would fall into that category. In recent months, all of those dealers have had to move to some sort of online platform, because in most states dealerships aren’t deemed essential. And so overnight, you went from 20% to 100% online.

Will e-scooters take off as people avoid public transportation?
I'm fascinated by the use of scooters and how cities have in some ways warmed up to them, but also still capped them, where you can only put down 3,000 or 5,000 scooters and often not within protected bike lanes. One of my friends who worked at a scooter company said what they found was that there weren’t heavy users, because once somebody took 12 rides a month, they fell off the platform. And it wasn't because they no longer liked the category, it was because they bought their own scooter or bike. From a cost-benefit analysis, if you do 20 monthly trips on a Bird and you're going on the same route over and over again, you don't necessarily benefit from the distributed sharing aspect of it. We're just getting to the point where the hardware in a lot of these retail scooter models is getting good enough where you could buy one and use it as your daily driver.

There’s also the cleanliness aspect of shared scooters...
We’ve had a very low standard for what would be acceptable in terms of cleanliness. We have the idea that visible dirt shouldn't be on a shared bike or scooter – if you're a frequent user, you've got in the habit of looking for a bike in the rack that’s the cleanest or which has full tyres, and maybe you’ve gone a step further and brought some wipes. But the big question for a lot of these shared models, is what are the visible things you can do to guarantee the end user that what they're getting on is actually clean or disinfected? And this is a question not only for transportation, but for all shared-use environments, from concerts to restaurants.

Will that be a feature of an existing company or an opportunity for a new company?
There's a big opportunity for a new layer of trust and verification in the cleaning industry that's probably from a different company. Shared scooter companies have been cleaning them more often, but as an end user, what you want to know is that you're the first person to use it after it's been cleaned. You don't want to know it's been cleaned within the last hour. That's just simply not good enough. The opportunity is also from a design communications perspective – the same way you might give a hotel guest the subtle insight that you've cleaned the bathroom by carefully folding the end of a toilet paper roll. There will be some visual cue for users of shared transportation modes that an object has been cleaned.

To hear the full conversation, tune in to this episode of the Courier Daily.

Avoiding video call fatigue: If it hasn’t hit you yet, you might just be incapable of feeling. Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy, authors of No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work, discuss a few ways to maintain engagement during video calls.

A practical toolkit for reopening your workplace. How struggling businesses can renegotiate rent. Is the pressure to perform wearing us all down? In a post-Covid world, will the restaurant group of the future look like thisSnacks and other perks for employees working from home. And three reads: how to approach strategic planning when the sky is falling, how to run your startup in a recession, and how to build a ‘slow burn’ startup.

The future of wine, beer and spirits delivered to your door.

For Michael Wiper, the founder of craft brewing company Wiper and True in Bristol, UK, Boris Johnson’s initial lockdown speech on 23rd March sounded like a death knell. ‘Around 80% of our beer was going to pubs and restaurants,’ says Michael. ‘We woke up to £13,500 worth of cancelled orders, and the prospect of no new ones. We’d started the year with major growth plans but were suddenly battling for survival.’

A recent survey from the British Beer and Pub Association, which represents more than 20,000 pubs across the country, showed that 40% of British publicans didn’t think they could survive until September under lockdown. And if some can reopen in July, as the government has suggested as a best-case scenario, the possibility of two-metre distancing will mean many having to reduce capacity by 70% or more. ‘Without extra government support, this could be devastating,’ says Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the BBPA.

At least consumers have not suddenly gone teetotal – in fact, 21% of people in the UK have admitted to drinking more during lockdown. Sales of alcohol in British supermarkets and off-licenses were up 27% in April, according to consumer analysts Kantar, while the US has seen a 75% rise in tequila sales and ironically, perhaps, 50% growth in sales of Corona beer. But it has been online that the industry has really boomed, with data analysis firm Nielsen reporting a 477% increase in online alcohol sales in the US.

For a small craft brewery like Wiper and True, this shift has meant a rapid change in business model. Within 48 hours of lockdown, the team had opened an online shop and a socially-distanced kiosk outside the brewery. ‘We thought these would be nice things that might buy us some time,’ says Michael. ‘But they went berserk. At the kiosk, we had hundreds of customers a day, and we had to hire a delivery company to back up our drivers because [online] we were selling so much beer.’

Previously, half of Wiper and True’s 500,000-litre annual production went into kegs to be served in bars, but now all the beer goes into cans – a much more laborious and time-consuming process. While staff at the brewery’s tap room have been furloughed, the 17 full-time production and sales staff have been retained.

Others have adapted in more extreme ways. During lockdown, married couple Ben Hodges and Christina Kimeze launched a London-wide cocktail delivery service, Halo Drinks, in less than three weeks. Ben, who previously worked in food and drink for experiential film company Secret Cinema and went on to co-found The Crystal Maze Experience, was working on funding for a new project when lockdown ruined his plans, as well as those of Kimeze, an illustrator and branding consultant who was planning to take up a postgraduate fine arts degree. ‘We would never have thought about ordering cocktails at home before this,’ says Ben. ‘We knew that, if we were going to launch a business tailor-made to the current situation, we needed to do it fast. In some ways, that focus helped us.’

With research based on gifting bottles of pre-mixed premium cocktails to friends, they quickly found a kitchen in West Kensington where they could fine-tune a menu of nine cocktails, from classic Negronis to the signature Working From Home (bourbon, gin, bitters, lime, ginger ale, sugar syrup). With Monday-Wednesday devoted to mixing and production, including dipping their bottles in wax and adding Christina’s labels, they’ve spent Thursday to Saturday driving bottles to customers across London (with their 10-month-old daughter in tow). ‘It’s been mad but we’re already breaking even,’ says Ben.

Across the world, alcohol delivery is at record levels. US online drinks giant Drizly has reported a 1,237% spike in sales of ready-to-drink cocktails, with 1,771% growth in sales of mixers, syrups and bitters, suggesting a sharp rise in at-home mixology. And the competition is growing, with lots of new brands entering this space.

While alcohol delivery may not retain such intense popularity when physical stores reopen, some retention is inevitable. Ben and Christina have committed to Halo Drinks as their business beyond lockdown. ‘It does feel like there’s something in this that will stay,’ says Ben. ‘But like everyone else right now, we’re just trying to be nimble, and hoping for the best.’

Illustrators: Yosuke Yamauchi | Giulia Sagramola | Danae Diaz

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