What happened to that Comb-Over? – Stellantis to Run Off-Road and On-Track Activations with Jeep, Ram and Dodge Vehicles at Motor Bella – Photos That Defined 9/11, and the People in Them—20 Years Later – Retail’s need for speed: Unlocking value in omnichannel delivery –

Today’s issue of TextileFuture’s Newsletter is firstly dedicated to men, because we have been taking the liberty to support also women, but today we address a problem of men. It is entitled “What happened to that Comb-Over?”, and it shows that many balding men got hair transplants during the pandemic in the U.S. Now they are girding themselves for the return-to-office whispers.

The second feature is gearing your curiosity to the US auto show with elements of the Panels taking place on Motor Bella, picturing start-ups and other than big industry players of the auto industry. It is entitled “Stellantis to Run Off-Road and On-Track Activations with Jeep, Ram and Dodge Vehicles at Motor Bella” (including all panels).

The third item is giving you impressions of people in pictures and texts of the drama of 9/11 and 20 years later. The feature is entitled Photos That Defined 9/11, and the People in Them—20 Years Later”. Text and pictures are self-explanatory and show also human destinies that caused the death of over 3000 people in the USA.

The fourth item is again a McKinsey survey, entitled “Retail’s need for speed: Unlocking value in omnichannel delivery” revealing some surprising results in every respect.

We wish you a delightful week full of personal success.

Here starts the first item

What happened to that Comb-Over?

Many balding men got hair transplants during the pandemic. Now they’re girding themselves for the return-to-office whispers.

Alex Williams

By guest author Alex Williams from the New York Times. Jim Oberman contributed to this article.

Joining the pandemic boom in cosmetic tuneups, many follicularly challenged men have used their time away from the office to embark on a fresh new look of their own: a hair transplant.

To some, a recarpeted scalp is a way of turning back the clock to a glorious youth. To others, it’s a business move, a way to burnish their image so as to rearm themselves for a return to the corporate trenches.

But to many, it’s … well, a little awkward. Wait, weren’t you the guy with the comb-over?

“Always, the dilemma is, what are people going to say?” said Robert Golden, 51, a tax adviser in Los Angeles who sprang for a hair transplant last winter while working remotely. “Do you tell anybody you’ve done it?”

Men often feel sheepish about undergoing a hair transplant, at least at first, said Fabien Beretta, the executive director of the Beverly Hills Hair Group in Beverly Hills, Calif., where Mr. Golden went for his transplant. “Men are a little more iffy about getting anything cosmetic,” he said. “Women talk about it openly. Guys want to hide it.”

There is nothing objectively embarrassing about a hair transplant. Even so, old stigmas linger. The internet is filled with articles like “Why You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed of Getting a Hair Transplant.”

New hair in general, particularly toupées, have long served as gag material in movies and television shows. “Why don’t you get a pair of white shoes, move down to Miami Beach and get the whole thing over with,” Jerry teased George in the “Seinfeld” episode where the latter bought a new rug.

This may explain why celebrities like Tom Hanks, Jude Law and Matthew McConaughey who appear, uh, “less bald than they used to be,” as Buzzfeed once put it, tend to remain mum about their bushy new manes, leaving tabloids to play the guessing game.

“It’s like one of those old ’80s rom-coms, where the geek suddenly gets this flashy makeover and shows up at the club,” said Mitchell Virzi, 29, one-third of the Los Angeles comedy team called the Virzi Triplets, identical brothers who all got hair transplants in recent months. “For a lot of guys, it can feel awkward, like you’re trying on a new personality.”

Then there are the perception problems of springing for a “luxury” like cosmetic surgery, particularly during troubled times.

Transplants are not cheap, averaging around USD 7000 but often rising to USD 20000 or more, depending on geography, the type of procedure and the amount of work that needs to be done, said Dr. Akash Chandawarkar, a former plastic surgery chief resident at Johns Hopkins University who is now in Manhattan.

To some guys, that can seem a little, well, vain.

“There’s still that old stigma, where guys aren’t supposed to worry about how they look and spend a lot of money on their appearance,” said Alex Virzi, another of the newly coifed triplets.

That doesn’t seem to be dissuading many balding men.

“It’s the largest demand I have ever seen,” said Dr. Marc Dauer, a hair restoration surgeon who practices in Los Angeles and New York City and has seen about a 30 percent surge in hair transplant procedures, and a 50 percent increase in transplant consultations, during the pandemic.

The Beverly Hills Hair Group has also seen a 25 % spike in inquiries in recent months, and other cosmetic surgeons interviewed reported a similar surge.

Some of this apparent boom seems attributable to the pandemic itself.

Extended time away from the office gave men the cover they needed to slip away for the procedure, then recover away from prying eyes of co-workers.

There is also “Zoom dysmorphia,” in which people feel the need to “fix” perceived “flaws” in their appearance spotted during endless hours of video conference calls. “On FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, people are looking at themselves more than anyone they’re talking to,” Mr. Beretta said. “It’s like they’re sitting at home all day looking in the mirror.”

Then there is the emotional drain of the last 18 months, which is enough for even people with the fullest heads of hair to find their shower drains clogging with hair. Intense stress, as well as post-viral inflammation from Covid-19, can also cause temporary hair loss known as telogen effluvium.

Whatever the traditional hesitations, the old shame over new hair may be fading, especially in this age of oversharing.

It helps that the post-surgery results are not as stark as they once were. A popular method of hair transplants these days — follicular unit extraction, in which surgeons plant individual follicles from the back of the head onto the top of the head — can take months to start filling in. (“It’s like a Chia Pet,” Mitchell Virzi said.)

For Mr. Golden, the tax adviser, his initial trepidations dissolved quickly once he saw how much his new hair boosted his confidence among friends and even with his wife, he said.

And when he finally returned to the glassy high-rise office a month ago and displayed his new tresses to colleagues, the real shock was how little people cared, or even noticed.

“To be honest, it wasn’t like I walked in and people said, ‘Oh, you got a hair transplant,’” he said. “It was done so well that people didn’t even really notice. They were like, ‘Did you get a haircut? You look younger.”


Here starts the second feature:

Stellantis to Run Off-Road and On-Track Activations with Jeep, Ram and Dodge Vehicles at Motor Bella

Stellantis announced that it will run off-road and on-track activations for media, industry and public attendees at Motor Bella, the all-new, auto-centric event, taking place at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan. The ride-along activations will take place throughout the show and feature Jeep, Ram and Dodge vehicles.

“One of the unique aspects of Motor Bella being held at the M1 Concourse was the opportunity to build a large-scale off-road track for ride-along activations,” said Rod Alberts, executive director, Detroit Auto Dealers Association. “That, along with the on-site 1-mile KeyBank Track will enable our attendees to really see, hear and feel many of the new vehicles that they’ll be driving in the future.”

In addition to the Stellantis vehicles, Motor Bella will feature activations and/or launches from Ford, GM and Toyota, with an expected 350 vehicles from 35 brands showcased throughout the show, as well as more than 80 speakers during Press, AutoMobili-D and Industry Days. The event will feature interactive displays on the KeyBank Track, a 120,000 sq. ft. off-road area and Woodward Avenue street course test drives. OEM participants will be organizing their own interactive displays and gamification-like drive opportunities for attendees.

Motor Bella, the all-new, auto-centric event, taking place at the M1 Concourse later this month, will host AutoMobili-D, September 21-22, 2021, to showcase next-generation technology exhibits and startup displays in a 25,000 sq. ft. pavilion. The event will showcase nearly 80 displays, including 36 emerging start-up exhibits. AutoMobili-D is presented …

AutoMobili-D at Motor Bella to Feature Nearly 80 Technology Exhibits and Two Full Days of Programming

Motor Bella, the all-new, auto-centric event, taking place at the M1 Concourse later this month, will host AutoMobili-D, September 21-22, 2021, to showcase next-generation technology exhibits and startup displays in a 25,000 sq. ft. pavilion. The event will showcase nearly 80 displays, including 36 emerging start-up exhibits.

AutoMobili-D is presented by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. Presentations at the M1 Concourse Event Center are sponsored by Autodesk and will feature a MAHLE hospitality area for attendees.

AutoMobili-D will host two full days of programming on the Motor Bella main stage and at the M1 Concourse Event Center. Programming will include topics ranging from “EVolution at the Speed of Thought” to “Racing to the Factory of the Future.”

On September 21, MEDC will host Match Meetings, providing AutoMobili-D startups new opportunities for business development. On September 22, there will be a Start-up Pitch Competition, presented by Global Automotive & Mobility Innovation Challenge, with media and industry executives in attendance voting for their favourite technology “elevator pitch.


Photos That Defined 9/11, and the People in Them—20 Years Later

By Jennifer Levitz from the Wall Street Journal

Thousands of photographs captured the shock, horror, heroism and humanity brought on by Sept. 11. Now, 20 years after the terrorist attacks, survivors and witnesses who appeared in some of the most compelling images told The Wall Street Journal their stories and what has happened to them in the years since.

Jenna Piccirillo awoke to what sounded like a crack of thunder. But when she looked out the window, the sun was shining on what seemed a perfect late summer morning in Brooklyn. She put her 3-month-old son, Vaughan, in his baby carrier and walked to the neighborhood deli for coffee. “That’s when I learned that the Twin Towers were attacked and it wasn’t an accident,” says Ms. Piccirillo, then a 31-year-old graduate student at Pratt Institute.

She was on the roof deck, watching in disbelief as the towers collapsed. She felt grateful for her son, but vulnerable—and, she says, “hopeless about humanity.”

“I’m sorry to bring you into this crazy world,” she recalls thinking as she gazed at Vaughan.

Now an interior designer living in Fairfield, Conn., Ms. Piccirillo says the picture reminds her of the larger devastation of the day. “We are a little blip on the map of those people who lost lives,” she says.

It also reminds her that the future for her son turned out better than she could have seen at the time.

Vaughan Piccirillo-Sealey was about 11 when his mom told him that he was in a well-known photo from 9/11 by Alex Webb, a photographer with Magnum Photos. “It was kind of surreal. ‘Is that really me?’ ” he recalls thinking.

As he grew older, the photo made more of an impression on Vaughan, now a student at the University of Connecticut. He noticed how his mother had placed his carrier so he was facing her and not the terrible scene across the river. And she is looking at him.

“Obviously my mother cares about me and my well-being and put me above the tragedy at hand, and I think a lot of parents would have done the same,” he says.

“It’s a good message,” he adds. “You have a choice to decide which narrative to point your eyes at, and I think my mother chose the ones of love and care over despair.”

Photographer Gulnara Samoilova started running as the South Tower collapsed. Even 20 years later, it’s hard for her to talk about that moment. She was pregnant at the time and fell as she tried to flee. “I thought I was going to be buried alive,” she says.

She got up, lifted her camera and started shooting, putting the lens between herself and this horrible unfolding reality. People looked like silhouettes in the dark, thick air.

In one of her first shots, Jonathan Markowitz (seen in the photo with a shirt covering his mouth) walks with some of his co-workers after they escaped the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Mr. Markowitz, then 46, was based in the Chicago area as a partner of SMW Trading Company and regularly traveled to New York to visit its office on the North Tower’s 85th floor. He had called his wife, Ruth Wenger, that morning to let her know he was on schedule to be home in Evanston, Ill., that night in time for parent-teacher conferences.

He was in a conference room at 8:46 a.m. when he heard a huge bang, felt the building sway and learned from an co-worker that a plane had just hit.

He and his colleagues began moving down the stairs, which grew hotter and more crowded by the minute, but the descent was orderly. Rumors circulated in the stairwell, but information was limited and they didn’t know a second plane had hit.

About 90 minutes later he was downstairs on the concourse level and feeling relieved, before someone yelled, “Get down!” He took cover behind his favorite smoothie stand as a floor-to-ceiling wall of dust and debris barreled toward him. Unbeknown to him at the time, that maelstrom was the South Tower collapsing.

Then the noise stopped and the lights went out. Dust choked the air, and he grabbed his blue shirt from the small suitcase he had carried down.

Mr. Markowitz called out to his colleagues Rob Leder and Bill Forney, and they all got up to walk toward an exit to the street, helped by someone with a flashlight. Outside resembled a black-and-white horror film, Mr. Markowitz recalls, with dust covering everything and office papers littering the ground like a giant ticker-tape parade.

“My job at that point was to get home,” says Mr. Markowitz, who is now 66 and works for a different trading company.

He never made it to the parent-teacher conference. But the effect on his family life was long lasting. There were more family vacations. And nearly any time his kids want to spend time with him, he’ll change plans to do it.

“You never know when you’ll have that moment,” he says. “That next chance may not be there anymore.”

Michael B Sauer had been enjoying a day off from his job as a customs officer at JFK airport when he saw the news of the attacks. The 34-year-old volunteer firefighter rushed to Ground Zero to help with search and rescue efforts.

Mr. Sauer, now 54, gets choked up when he talks about that day he spent searching for signs of life in what firefighters dubbed “the pile.” He heard car alarms and the distinct sounds of police and fire strobe lights coming from vehicles buried under the rubble.

“You’re walking around and listening for anyone banging or any sign of life,” Mr. Sauer recalls. “That’s what you’re there for, to try to help and hopefully get someone to safety.

“Body over here!” he recalls yelling to other rescuers at one point.

“Dead or alive?” others asked.


And that is how it went all day as he scoured the pile with a friend, another volunteer firefighter. “We didn’t find anybody other than the parts we found,” he says.

They traversed the peaks and valleys of the pile as wind blew ash into their eyes and throats. Mr. Sauer and his colleague were hours into the day when they stumbled onto a fire hydrant, a welcome sight.

“It wasn’t like there was a water fountain you could go to,” Mr. Sauer recalls. “This thing was just standing out there by itself with water coming out of it.”

Mr. Sauer was rinsing the grit from his mouth when he looked up and saw someone taking his picture.

He returned to his job at the airport the next day, though he volunteered again to sift for evidence at a Staten Island landfill where the Ground Zero debris was taken. By 2006, he took a role, which he still holds, in a new post-9/11 antiterrorism program at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The attacks “put a flame under our ass to just really do our job above and beyond to protect,” Mr. Sauer says.

He’s still a volunteer firefighter, as are his sons, ages 18 and 20, and at least once a year, around the 9/11 anniversary, he sends a text to Yoni Brook, the photographer who took his picture at the hydrant.

“We have this bond,” Mr. Sauer says. “It’s just a bond of that day, and him putting me in history.”

“To me it feels like it was just the other day,” he adds. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.”

Joanne “Jojo” Capestro hadn’t felt well that Tuesday morning, so she arrived at work with a cup of takeout tea. A sudden jolt made her spill it, and she felt the building sway. All the phones were ringing. Her first thought was that she needed to clean up that tea.

Then 39, she was a sales assistant at May Davis Group, a brokerage and investment banking firm on the 87th floor of the North Tower, about six floors down from where a plane rammed into the building. She and colleagues started down the stairs, although her co-worker, stockbroker Harry Ramos, stopped on the 30th floor to help someone. “I’ll meet you outside,” Ms. Capestro recalls him saying.

Life had changed drastically. Just the night before, Ms. Capestro had been watching a reality TV show with friends at her apartment in Brooklyn. And just that morning, she had joked with Mr. Ramos, a new homeowner who had come in with a sunburn from mulching over the weekend.

Ms. Capestro made it outside just as the South Tower collapsed. She screamed and dove under an SUV. “Everything was white when I opened my eyes,” she recalls. “I really thought I had died.”

She saw badly injured people, and then a colleague, and the pair clung to one another. She was desperate to know where her other co-workers were. That is when photographer Phil Penman snapped the photo.

All the May Davis employees made it out except Mr. Ramos.

Her survivor’s guilt still lingers, Ms. Capestro says. In the aftermath of 9/11, she hid at home, glued to the TV.

“I was really, really, really in bad shape,” she says. “It took me months to wake up and say, ‘I’ve got to put my best foot forward.’ ” She is now an executive assistant at Oppenheimer & Co.

In 2014, Ms. Capestro donated her dust-caked clothes from that day to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. After Mr. Penman shared all his work with the site, a curator recognized Ms. Capestro in his photos and introduced the two.

Ms. Capestro cried when she met the photographer. She says she is grateful that he documented her experience, especially as 9/11 recedes further into the past.

“When you tell people you were in the World Trade Center, they say, ‘Oh, across the street?’ ” Ms. Capestro says. “They don’t realize what I went through. They don’t realize what I saw.”

When she got married in 2018, she asked Mr. Penman to photograph her wedding.

“Phil was with me on the worst day of my life, and Phil was with me on one of the best days of my life,” she says.

Srinath Jinadasa (wearing a jacket in the photo), an engineer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who worked on the 74th floor of the North Tower, did one task before fleeing: He watered the geraniums on the window sill in his office.

At that moment, Mr. Jinadasa, now 79, says he didn’t realize the scope of the attack. He thought he might be living through something similar to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which had put him out of his office for months, and the plants had died. He didn’t want that to happen again.

“Under the circumstances, one doesn’t think logically, I guess,” Mr. Jinadasa says. “You do things that don’t make sense.”

The married father of two got down the stairs quickly. When he saw a cloud of dust and flying debris coming toward him in the concourse, he thought he was going to die.

“I’m still here,” he recalls thinking with surprise after the wave of dust stopped.

He made his way outside, stopping to rinse out his eyes at an ambulance that was distributing water. Dazed and dirty, Mr. Jinadasa, a colleague and another man walked on as Mr. Penman, the photographer who also captured Ms. Capestro, snapped a photo.

Mr. Jinadasa trekked several miles uptown to Penn Station and caught a train home to New Jersey. “For the next few days I was uneasy, and I had to kind of pace up and down,” he says. “I could not sit in one place.”

He returned to his job at the Port Authority—in a different office—helping to restore the train service that the attacks had disrupted. “I was just thankful to still be around,” he says.

He retired in 2012 and now lives in Jacksonville, Fla. He says 9/11 is never far from his thoughts, although he is uneasy with “the many things that have happened on the back of that event,” including the war in Afghanistan that the U.S. launched in response to the attacks and ended little more than a week ago.

The photo hangs in Mr. Jinadasa’s home. He says it elicits in him a combination of feelings: the reality that he came close to dying on 9/11, and the reality that time marches on.

Dominic Guadagnoli was at his desk when a loud bang reverberated through the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.

Mr. Guadagnoli was a deputy U.S. Marshal at the U.S. Marshals Service office, several blocks from the World Trade Center. He ran out to the street in time to see a woman run by, yelling, “Someone flew a plane into the Trade Towers!”

Mr. Guadagnoli and a co-worker soon rushed to the scene. “Everyone who had a badge was out there doing something,” he says.

Where to be of most use? Mr. Guadagnoli stood between the two towers, and saw some people jumping or falling from them. “I can’t do anything here,” he told himself.

So he and a co-worker turned their attention to directing and helping the waves of people coming out of the towers. Some were just shaken while others had gashes and wounds. He would escort them to a nearby triage area and then go back to help other survivors.

At one point, Mr. Guadagnoli spotted two men, themselves weary-looking evacuees, holding up a woman who was almost collapsing. Mr. Guadagnoli stepped in and scooped her up. Ms. Samoilova, the photographer who also photographed Jonathan Markowitz that day, captured the image.

The woman, Mr. Guadagnoli would learn later, was Donna Spera. She had been waiting for an elevator on the 78th floor of the South Tower, right in the line of impact from the second plane strike. People around her had died. She’d been thrown and had walked downstairs in pain, Mr. Guadagnoli says.

“Don’t let go of me, don’t let go of me,” Mr. Guadagnoli recalls her saying.

He told her she would be OK and would see her family soon. “I was trying to make conversation in the middle of hell,” he recalls. He carried her 50 or 60 yards and then helped an EMT put her in an ambulance. He watched it pull away and then went back to assisting other people.

Shortly afterward, he heard a huge crack and saw the South Tower come roaring down.

Falling debris cut his head and his cornea, and he wound up at the hospital, where doctors put a patch on his eye. That night at home, he couldn’t sleep and sat in the dark listening to the fire engines still heading to Ground Zero.

“All I could think about was her,” he recalls. Had the ambulance carrying Ms. Spera made it?

Through contacts, he was able to learn that she had survived. He later met her and her husband for lunch.

“For a long time I had three triggers: airplanes, fire-engine sirens and any loud bang or noise,” Mr. Guadagnoli says. “It would startle the hell out of me. I would just shake.”

He’s now 52 and living in Pensacola, Fla. He has retired from the U.S. Marshals Service and is doing court security work. Therapy has helped him process his experience, he says, but he feels on edge around the anniversary of the attacks.

Every 9/11, he sends flowers to the woman he carried to safety.

Shannon Stapleton was a freelance photographer when he got a call he would never forget. A Reuters editor calmly requested he head to the World Trade Center. A plane had struck.

“Sure,” Mr. Stapleton, then in his early 30s, replied, envisioning a sightseeing plane.

He happened to be at another job, in Times Square, and started to wrap up. He saw people outside staring up at the jumbotron and footage of the top of the first-hit tower burning. He realized he needed to move fast.

By the time he got to lower Manhattan by subway, another plane had struck. “I’m about to cover probably the biggest story of my lifetime, right in my backyard,” Mr. Stapleton recalls thinking.

He took pictures of people fleeing and the South Tower collapsing. He ducked into a stairwell to shield himself from the dust and shards coming at him, and then continued shooting.

That’s when he saw somber-faced emergency responders walking toward him, carrying someone from the rubble. Mr. Stapleton could tell the man was dead, but he didn’t know the victim was Father Mychal Judge, the longtime chaplain of the New York Fire Department.

“I had a feeling right away that he was important,” he recalls, adding that he noticed how “a lot of different agencies were all trying to carry this man amongst the tragedy.”

His digital camera, which he had recently purchased to make himself more marketable, allowed him to view his photos quickly. He thinks that the camera may have saved his life: Had he not known for certain that he already had solid shots, he might have tried to go deeper into the building.

He started thinking about his wife, who was pregnant, and it occurred to him that the other tower could collapse. He was about two blocks away when it did.

“Are you all right?” Mr. Stapleton recalls his editor asking when he got back to the Reuters office. “I was covered in soot and dust. I said, ‘Define what all right means.’ ”

Mr. Stapleton returned to Ground Zero that day and worked nonstop covering the aftermath. He still didn’t know who was in his photo until several days later. By then, the image and stories of the chaplain were circulating.

“I started to learn who he was, what an incredible man he was and his legacy,” Mr. Stapleton says.

Soon afterward, he says, he received a letter at the Reuters office from Father Judge’s twin sister and his niece.

“It made me cry,” Mr. Stapleton recalls. “They were thanking me for risking my life and taking this photograph for the world to see what an incredible person he was.”

Many have called the photo a modern-day Pietà. “It was heavenly,” he says of the image. “He looks like what I could presume an angel would look like. It was surreal.”

Now 52 and a Reuters photographer, Mr. Stapleton is still covering “a lot of death and destruction and heartache and tragedy,” he says. He still thinks about Father Judge.

“Every now and again, I think something happens to me that will lift me out of that despair or funk that I’m in—the darkness,” he adds. “Sometimes I think that it’s him.”


Retail’s need for speed: Unlocking value in omnichannel delivery

The race to provide ever-faster omnichannel order fulfillment is on. Where should retailers keep up—and what are the value-creation opportunities in doing so?

By guest authors John Barbee, Jai Jayakumar, Sarah Touse, and Kumar Venkataraman. John Barbee is a partner in McKinsey’s Atlanta office; Jai Jayakumar is a consultant in the Chicago office, where Kumar Venkataraman is a partner; and Sarah Touse is an associate partner in the Boston office.

Retail has experienced more change over the past five years than in the prior 50. Indeed, the pace of change accelerated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as retailers adapted to changes in consumption, channel shifts,¹ and rising customer expectations around speed and convenience.

In fact, the race to shorten click-to-customer cycle time is arguably the single greatest influence on the shape of future omnichannel supply chains.

Needless to say, the bar continues to rise for retail and direct-to-consumer brands.

How much does speed matter? Our research shows that when delivery times are too long, almost half

of omnichannel consumers will shop elsewhere. As for how long is too long, we’ve found that more than 90 percent of US online shoppers expect free two- to three-day shipping.² As retail supply chains accelerate, US consumers largely remain unwilling to pay for speed. McKinsey research shows approximately one in five US consumers will accept a marginal increase in shipping fees for faster shipping than standard free-delivery options.³ Given the high and rising costs of omnichannel order fulfillment, roughly 10 to 20 % of sales in omnichannel retail, retailers are faced with tough decisions as they work toward improving delivery speeds profitably. Should they continue to build, should they partner, or can technology help unlock value in the speed equation where infrastructure and operations fall short?

The challenges of accelerated delivery

Retailers know speed matters: we estimate that Amazon’s free-delivery offering has accelerated more than 75 percent since the early 2000s, from more than eight days to two-day shipping by 2015—with select markets offering one-day delivery by 2019. Amazon continues to be a catalyst across retail, setting a high bar for direct-to-consumer delivery. In our experience, other retailers have closely followed this path. McKinsey’s recent survey of chief supply-chain officers found the pace will continue to accelerate over the next two years. We found roughly 75 percent of apparel, hard goods, and specialty retailers intend to build out network capabilities that offer two-day or faster delivery, and 42 % are aiming for one-day click-to-customer lead times by 2022.⁴

Notes: 1   Jessica Young, “US ecommerce sales climb 39% in Q1 2021,” Digital Commerce 360, May 18, 2021, digitalcommerce360.com.

2 Retail speaks: Seven imperatives for the industry, a joint report from the Retail Industry Leaders Association and McKinsey, March 2021, McKinsey.com.

3 Tim Ecker, Malte Hans, Florian Neuhaus, and Julia Spielvogel, “Same-day delivery: Ready for takeoff,” January 31, 2020, McKinsey.com.

4 Retail speaks: Seven imperatives, March 2021, McKinsey.com.

As delivery times compress, the detailed physics of the supply chain becomes increasingly important. Simply put, seconds count. Most fulfillment operations need time to pick and pack deliveries— by itself, that process takes an average of four to eight hours, though best-in-class omnichannel operations can fulfill orders within two hours of customer purchase. Once picked, parcel carriers then must pick up shipments from the distribution center, which often influences order cutoff times— the latest time a retailer can accept an order to meet the promised delivery time. Once a package is in the parcel network, traveling the final mile to the customer can take an additional day or more. Bringing it all together, one- or even two- day shipping requires tight cycle times and great execution across multiple parties in the supply chain.

To combat these challenges at least partially, most omnichannel retailers already use their stores for fulfillment or pickup. There are clear benefits to using stores, for example, enabling greater overall inventory productivity, quickening speed to customer, and avoiding markdowns. While these benefits can be meaningful, challenges still must be overcome:

  • Inventory accuracy. Stores generally have lower inventory-accuracy rates (70 to 90 %) than distribution centers typically enjoy (more than 99.5%).

As customers expect faster delivery speeds, retailers can create greater impact from a segmented approach in shaping their delivery-speed promise.

  • SKU complexity. When the online assortment includes channel exclusives, endless aisles, and even third-party products, minimizing margin-eroding split shipments across the network becomes challenging.
  • Demand forecasting. Positioning inventory across distribution centers, various store types, and market fulfillment centers remains a struggle for most retailers; in fact, of all the levers to help retailers solve for speed to customer, accurate demand forecasting and distributed-inventory placement may have the greatest impact outside of network changes.
  • Picking costs. While there are exceptions, for a majority of retailers the cost of in-store picking is much higher—typically 1.5 to 2 times higher on a cost-per-pick basis—than picking at distribution and fulfillment centres.
  • Execution quality. Stores weren’t designed with fulfillment in mind, nor are they necessarily staffed or equipped with the technology to do so at scale. Particularly during peak times, it’s hard for most stores to manage exceptions, ensure accurate picks, and tightly control cycle times to customers—all of which are important to a great customer-delivery experience.

So what’s the next move for retailers? How do they overcome these challenges and provide faster fulfillment and better overall customer experience? Answers will vary, and it’s important to remember that beyond speed, other omnichannel conveniences such as curbside, returns, and  buy online, pickup in store all play a significant  role in differentiating the omnichannel fulfillment  value proposition.

Solving the speed dilemma

Despite the many challenges of providing ever-faster omnichannel order fulfillment, we see four key characteristics that define fast and efficient fulfillment models.

Understand where speed matters

As customers expect faster delivery speeds, retailers can create greater impact from a segmented approach in shaping their delivery-speed promise. Retailers’ fulfillment engines can deliver to different segments at different speeds.In our research, we have found same-day delivery does not create value uniformly across the country. For instance, in working with one specialty retailer, we found roughly 20 US cities have densities that would typically justify the investments to enable same-day or next-day fulfillment. Consumers living in major cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco are likely to expect faster delivery than consumers in a smaller market. Indeed, consumers’ age, location, and economic disposition affect their expectations and willingness to pay for convenience and speed. And consumer expectations can further vary by retail segment:

a) food and grocery less than one day —

b) beauty—less than one day

c) apparel—less than two days —

d) home décor—less than two days

e) electronics—less than two days

f) general merchandise—two days or less.

Grocery and convenience retailers, for example, are solving for different customer needs than most other segments. In the next three to five years,  we believe table-stakes delivery times will generally  be fewer than two days across all major  categories—and it would be hard to go back.

For retailers still navigating segmented speed capabilities, A/B testing is one way to glean these insights. For instance, one large US home-goods retailer took a two-pronged approach to solving the targeted speed problem. First, it set out to determine which items customers most wanted to receive quickly so it could deploy that inventory in advance closer to customers. Second, the retailer knew speed mattered but didn’t want costs to balloon from offering superfast shipping to customers who didn’t demand or expect it. Next, the retailer ran speed tests similar to an A/B test in that it showed different delivery-speed promises made to customers on the same product pages. It then tracked conversion as well as customer satisfaction, loyalty scores, and repurchase behavior. Over the course of about three months the retailer ran these tests and made two key changes: it started optimising inventory placement across the network to enable faster delivery for specific products, and it started offering different, targeted speed promises for the same item to different customer groups based on geography, past behavior, and demographics. By adopting these changes, the retailer was able to achieve a nearly 10 % improvement in its online conversion rate.

Invest selectively in network expansion

We estimate that retailers can provide two-day delivery to 80 % of the US population by using approximately three distribution centers across their network. However, offering next-day delivery to  80 % of the United States would require more than eight distribution centers—even more if retailers want to solve for lower parcel expense and density. Indeed, next- or same-day parcel delivery can cost retailers more than USD 15 per package,  which is not tenable for the majority of retailers. At the same time, opening at-scale distribution centers—which often requires more than USD 100 million in capital for each distribution center—is likewise not feasible for many retailers. And for  most retailers that are interested in growth, keeping up with the scale of Amazon and Walmart distribution networks is likely not the most prudent way to allocate resources. Indeed, if Amazon’s logistics unit were a separate company, we  estimate it would be the fifth-largest third-party logistics company in the world; few, if any, retailers have the resources to compete at that scale.

Urban- or market-fulfillment-center strategies, such as dark stores and dedicated fulfillment locations, have emerged across retail networks. These are typically smaller-format operations—often less than 50000 square feet, but sometimes smaller than 10000 square feet. The capital costs are generally USD 5 million to USD 15 million, a fraction of the cost of standing up a new distribution center. Despite higher rent and labor costs for these locations, these costs are often  offset by reduced costs of last-mile delivery, which can be substantial at up to 20 %. Such approaches are already already being explored across segments  including grocery, home improvement, apparel, and consumer electronics. Faster and lower-cost shipments aren’t the only ways retailers can create value—in our experience, providing rapid  in-market replenishment for nearby stores has allowed reductions in inventory of up to 20 % by consolidating the forward supply of stock spread across stores.

Increase productivity with analytics and automation

Inventory analytics (to better position inventory in key omnichannel markets) and robotics and automation in the supply chain are two key levers  to reducing time and cost to customer. 

Refining inventory analytics. Retailers are expanding their fulfillment networks to include more complex distribution nodes, such as large multimarket distribution centers, urban fulfillment centers, stores, and dark stores. As they expand their networks, the choices and tradeoffs around distributed inventory—for example, balancing the forward weeks of inventory in a store versus allocating inventory to a local market fulfillment center—have become more complex. Traditional systems for allocating and replenishing inventory  fall short in identifying the tradeoffs between breadth and depth of inventory across a cluster of  in-market nodes. Indeed, many retailers see the  shortfall of their current systems as a technical liability. Bespoke analytics and tools can help  solve these issues as retailers test, learn, and adapt more sophisticated omnichannel inventory strategies. This is a critical area of focus for  retailers pushing the boundaries of fast and profitable delivery to customers.

Adopting automation technology and robotics

Robotics and automated systems in distribution centers and stores can improve the speed and accuracy of omnichannel order fulfillment processes.⁵ The rapid growth of sophisticated solution integrators and “co-botic” solutions (robots that collaborate with humans) continues to accelerate, with numerous at-scale implementations emerging in the market. Moreover, many robotic and fulfillment solution providers have innovated different economic models, such as robotics as a service (RaaS), that reduce the upfront capital burden and allow more scalable, variable cost models to grow with the business. This can be equally attractive for companies with limited automation budgets and larger enterprises needing solutions that seasonally scale.
Solve last-mile challenges
Even the fastest fulfillment operation is still at the mercy of the speed and quality of final-mile delivery. For most, this means national parcel carriers remain critical partners in enabling advantages around speed. But the parcel market continues to pose headwinds, such as escalating surcharges (which are likely to remain standard practice) and strict, enforced capacity agreements. These pressures have created headlines and headaches for retailers of all sizes. In response, retailers must develop strategies that allow them to meet peak demand but do so at a reasonable cost. There are viable alternatives to traditional, national contracts:

Regional carriers. Including regional carriers is becoming an imperative to a fast, resilient, and cost-effective last mile. It takes real effort for retailers to find, set up, and work day to day with a set of regional carriers to consistently meet high quality standards and transparency for customers; however, the recent market conditions have created opportunity for selectively “fragmenting” the parcel carrier base that serves across a retailer’s network.

New delivery services. Using gig and platform services allows quick and scalable last-mile delivery options for retailers without taking on the burden of navigating new processes and fixed costs. The costs for these options can be high, though the benefits of greater conversion can offset the incremental expense. For example, Sephora and Best Buy have partnered with Instacart (traditionally viewed as a grocery-first business) to enable same-day fulfillment. Likewise, American Eagle Outfitters has used its partnership with ShopRunner to offer its customers free same-day fulfillment.

While autonomous vehicles and drones are the center of media attention, and do have long-term potential in select segments of the value chain, we see the maturity and capability of these solutions as longer term and therefore less relevant for most retailers’ last mile in the near future.

How operations can support a customer value proposition beyond speedFor most retail supply-chain leaders, creating a faster fulfillment network is rightfully top of mind. A recent McKinsey survey of consumers shows that five of the top nine factors driving customer value in omnichannel retail are related to logistics (Exhibit 1). But it is important to remember fulfillment-network improvement is but one among several capabilities a retailer must build to remain competitive in omnichannel retail. Indeed, the  North Star of a great omnichannel strategy is removing friction from the parts of the fulfillment process that matter most to customers. Below are  a few of the avenues retailers can explore with  operations support.

Ease of returns

Return rates continue to increase in omnichannel, with an average online return rate of 20 to 30 % in the United States. Returns have  become an important part of the omnichannel journey for customers. A majority of customers  will not buy online if they don’t find the return  policy satisfactory—that is, free returns with adequate time to evaluate their purchase, typically 30 days or longer. But returns are expensive for retailers. In addition to forward and reverse logistics and processing cost, retailers face low net-recovery rates—particularly in fashion or high-damage categories, where older returned products must be marked down and therefore sell for less the second time than their original price. It is important for retailers to consider returns as part of their omnichannel value proposition and optimize cost drivers relative to their customer value proposition.⁶

Scheduled delivery and consistency

Some categories lend themselves better to scheduled delivery than speed. For example, customers may prefer to select a specific window to receive bulky products such as furniture, appliances, large electronics, and certain home-improvement products rather than to receive them as quickly as possible. High-value products and fresh items in grocery that aren’t necessarily bulky may also lend themselves to these capabilities. Clear communication, predictability, and narrow delivery windows are essential to get this right.Retailers can also consider dedicating themselves to ensuring deliveries are made within the promised time period—regardless of the speed of the delivery. While occasional disruptions are inevitable, some retailers are beginning to test and correlate the impact of a delivery-consistency promise on conversion, and the impact of a missed delivery window on net promoter scores and repeat purchases.
Buy online, pick up in store and curbside pickup

Store-based pickup options have experienced tremendous tailwinds and innovations throughout the pandemic (Exhibit 2). A July 2020 poll of 50 retail executives indicates that store-based pickup offerings grew about threefold from mid-2019 to mid-2020. Some retailers report year-over-year growth of more than 200 percent in their own store-based pickup offerings. Moreover, McKinsey’s consumer insight research shows that about 60 percent of consumers plan to continue to use this option after the pandemic.⁷ These relatively high adoption rates are in part due to the convenient, free, and fast offering on this capability, as best-in-class retailers have orders ready for pickup in under two hours. This can be a compelling alternative to fast ship-to-home delivery.

Lockers and pickup and drop-off points

Lockers and pickup and drop-off points have somewhat limited penetration at less than 5 %, but momentum is growing thanks to retailers such as Amazon and Walmart and parcel companies such as FedEx and UPS. Generally, this is a convenience that will likely be concentrated in food and grocery, and in urban areas where people lack a convenient or safe place to leave a package.

Notes:  6 For more on improving returns management, see Jacob Ader, Praveen Adhi, Joyce Chai, Marc Singer, Sarah Touse, and Hannah Yankelevich, “Returning to order: Improving returns management for apparel companies,” May 25, 2021, McKinsey.com.

7 Tamara Charm, Janette Hwang, Andrea Leon, Nancy Lu, Anirvan Maiti, Jonathan Medalsy, Jason Rico Saavedra, Kelsey Robinson, Daniela Sancho Mazzara, and Tom Skiles, “US consumer sentiment and behaviors during the coronavirus crisis,” August 11, 2021, www.McKinsey.com  

Lockers have further benefits in that they reduce redelivery rates, which frees up already constrained capacity in parcel-delivery networks.While these capabilities are not yet mainstream, US retailers can learn from higher-penetrated markets such as Europe, where a variety of nongrocers are using them. For instance, a farm-supply store uses lockers to provide 24/7 availability of critical parts outside of stores.

More and more, customers expect their retailers to share their values and be committed to improving the planet. Retailers can appeal to such customers in a number of ways. For instance, many retailers are going public with their sustainability commitments through 2050, often with the aim to be carbon neutral. Retailers can engage customers in these goals through fulfillment strategies such as allowing customers to opt in on the sustainable choice—whether it be choosing fewer packages or slower shipping. And retailers can provide incentives for doing so—for instance, by offering discounts on those orders or future purchase incentives.

The evidence is clear: customers expect faster delivery, and there’s limited willingness to pay  for it. While there are real costs associated with enabling faster delivery, the cost curve can be shifted with a combination of strategies  involving network expansion, technological capabilities, and partnerships. And a host of  options beyond merely quick fulfillment can  further help meet customer expectations.  For information on meeting customer expectations during the upcoming holiday season, see sidebar, “Navigating the upcoming holiday season.”Pursuing such strategies will require both a mindset and operating-model shift among retailers. But by making these changes, and making them well, retailers can profitably provide customers the assortment, availability, and convenience they crave.