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Niu Technologies Announces Second Quarter 2020 Financial Results

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Niu Technologies Announces Second Quarter 2020 Financial Results

— Second Quarter Total volume of e-scooter sales up 61.2% year over year

–Second Quarter Revenues of RMB 644.9 million, up 21.6% year over year

— Second Quarter Net income of RMB 56.8 million, compared with RMB 51.0 million in the second quarter of last year

BEIJING, Aug. 17, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Niu Technologies (“NIU”, or “the Company”) (NASDAQ: NIU), the world’s leading provider of smart urban mobility solutions, today announced its financial results for the second quarter 2020.

Second Quarter 2020 Financial Highlights

  • Revenues were RMB 644.9 million, an increase of 21.6% year over year
  • Gross margin was 23.0%, compared with 23.7% in the second quarter of last year
  • Net income was RMB 56.8 million, compared with RMB 51.0 million in the second quarter of last year
  • Adjusted net income (non-GAAP)1 was RMB 67.8 million, compared with RMB 54.1 million in the second quarter of last year

Second Quarter 2020 Operating Highlights

  • The number of e-scooters sold reached 160,138, up 61.2% year over year
  • The number of e-scooters sold in China reached 154,959, up 81.0% year over year
  • The number of e-scooters sold in the international markets reached 5,179, down 62.3% year over year
  • The number of franchised stores in China was 1,084, an increase of 51 since March 31, 2020
  • International sales network expanded to 35 distributors covering 45 countries

Dr. Yan Li, Chief Executive Officer of the Company, commented: “We are very pleased to see the strong recovery in China.  Our China sales volume increased by 81% year over year driven by retail network expansion and new product launches.  Our international sales decreased in the second quarter due to the continued impact from COVID-19.  Since May, our overseas dealer shops gradually reopened and we expect to see recovery in the coming quarters.  In light of the prospective volume growth, the Company made prepayment in May to acquire land use right of a new piece of land for future capacity expansion.  Despite lower international sales and price discounts offered during new product launches, our gross margin reached 23% as a result of our continued cost optimization initiatives.”

Dr. Li continued, “In May and June, we launched two new models under Gova series, the G0 and G2.  The Gova series is targeted at the mid-end e-scooter market, representing good value for money and high quality.  The design language is differentiated in comparison to our main e-scooter lines.  Both products were well received by the customers and we sold more than 26,000 units of these two products during the second quarter.  In July, we launched MQiS, another new model under the MQi series.  The MQiS inherits the design language of MQi series of being classic and fashionable.  This model complies with the new national standard of electric bicycle in China.  We are very excited about the enriched product portfolio and look forward to the continued growth of our business.”  

Second Quarter 2020 Financial Results

Revenues were RMB 644.9 million, an increase of 21.6% year over year, due to higher sales volume of 61.2%, partially offset by decreased revenues per e-scooter of 24.6%.

Revenues
(in RMB million)
  2020
Q2
  2019
Q2
  % change
YoY
E-scooter sales from China market   522.7   329.7   +58.5%
E-scooter sales from international markets   56.9   121.7   -53.2%
E-scooter sales, sub-total   579.6   451.4   +28.4%
Accessories, spare parts and services   65.3   79.1   -17.4%
Total   644.9   530.5   +21.6%
Revenues per e-scooter
(in RMB)
  2020
Q2
  2019
Q2
  % change
YoY
E-scooter sales from China market2   3,373   3,851   -12.4%
E-scooter sales from international markets2   10,995   8,850   +24.2%
E-scooter sales   3,619   4,543   -20.3%
Accessories, spare parts and services3   408   796   -48.8%
Revenues per e-scooter   4,027   5,339   -24.6%
  • E-scooter sales revenues from China market were RMB 522.7 million, an increase of 58.5%, and represented 90.2% of total e-scooter revenues.  The increase was mainly driven by retail network expansion and new product launches in China.
  • E-scooter sales revenues from international markets were RMB 56.9 million, a decrease of 53.2%, and represented 9.8% of total e-scooter revenues.  The decrease was mainly driven by lower sales volumes in the international markets due to the adverse impact from COVID-19.
  • Accessories, spare parts sales and service revenues were RMB 65.3 million, a decrease of 17.4% and represented 10.1% of total revenues.  The decrease was mainly due to lower spare parts sales from international markets.
  • Decreased revenues per e-scooter was mainly driven by lower proportion of revenues from international markets, the launch of new product G0 which has a lower sales price compared with other models, and price discounts offered during new product launches.

Cost of revenues was RMB 496.9 million, an increase of 22.7% year over year, mainly due to higher e-scooter sales volume.  The cost per e-scooter, defined as cost of revenues divided by the number of e-scooters sold in a specified period, was RMB 3,103, down 23.9% from RMB 4,076 in the second quarter 2019 mainly due to change in product mix and lower raw materials cost.

Gross margin was 23.0%, compared with 23.7% in the same period of 2019.  The decrease was mainly due to a lower proportion of e-scooter revenues from international markets and a lower proportion of revenues from accessories, spare parts and services, but partially offset by cost savings on raw materials and components.

Operating expenses were RMB 92.6 million, an increase of 13.9% from the same period of 2019.  Operating expenses as a percentage of revenues was 14.4%, compared with 15.3% in the second quarter of 2019.

  • Selling and marketing expenses were RMB 45.6 million (including RMB 2.9 million of share-based compensation), a decrease of 3.1% from RMB 47.0 million in the second quarter of 2019.  The decrease was mainly due to the decrease in advertising and promotion expense of RMB 3.9 million, staff cost of RMB 1.1 million and travelling and office expense of RMB 0.6 million.  The lower expenses were partially offset by the increase of depreciation and amortization expense of RMB 2.4 million which was due to opening of new franchised stores, and by the increase in share-based compensation expenses of RMB 1.9 million.  Selling and marketing expenses as a percentage of revenues was 7.1% compared with 8.9% in the second quarter of 2019.
  • Research and development expenses were RMB 24.0 million (including RMB 3.1 million of share-based compensation), an increase of 43.5% from RMB 16.7 million in the second quarter of 2019, mainly due to the increase in staff cost of RMB 3.0 million, the increase in share-based compensation expense of RMB 2.7 million and the increase in design expense of RMB 1.1 million due to increased new products development efforts.  Research and development expenses as a percentage of revenues was 3.7%, compared with 3.1% in the second quarter of 2019.
  • General and administrative expenses were RMB 23.0 million (including RMB 4.7 million of share-based compensation), an increase of 31.0% from RMB 17.6 million in the second quarter of 2019, mainly due to the increase in share-based compensation expense of RMB 3.1 million and taxes and surcharges of RMB 2.4 million.  General and administrative expenses as a percentage of revenues was 3.6%, compared with 3.3% in the second quarter of 2019.

Operating expenses excluding share-based compensation were RMB 81.9 million, increased by 4.6% year over year, and represented 12.7% of revenues, compared with 14.8% in the second quarter of 2019.

  • Selling and marketing expenses excluding share-based compensation were RMB 42.7 million, a decrease of 7.2% year over year, and represented 6.6% of revenues, compared with 8.7% in the second quarter of 2019.
  • Research and development expenses excluding share-based compensation were RMB 20.9 million, an increase of 28.4% year over year, and represented 3.2% of revenues, compared with 3.1% in the second quarter of 2019.
  • General and administrative expenses excluding share-based compensation were RMB 18.3 million, an increase of 14.6% year over year, and represented 2.8% of revenues, compared with 3.0% in the second quarter of 2019.

Government grants were RMB 0.8 million, decreased by RMB 1.7 million from the same period of 2019.

Share-based compensation was RMB 10.9 million, an increase of RMB 7.8 million from the same period of 2019.  

Net income was RMB 56.8 million, compared with RMB 51.0 million in the second quarter of 2019.  The net income margin was 8.8%, compared with 9.6% in the same period of 2019.

Adjusted net income (non-GAAP) was RMB 67.8 million, compared with RMB 54.1 million in the second quarter of 2019.  The adjusted net income margin4 was 10.5%, compared with 10.2% in the same period of 2019.

Basic and diluted net income per ADS were RMB 0.76 (US$ 0.11) and RMB 0.73 (US$ 0.10) respectively.

Balance Sheet
As of June 30, 2020, the Company had cash and cash equivalents, term deposits and short-term investments of RMB 1,018.2 million in aggregate.  The Company had restricted cash of RMB 176.8 million and short-term bank borrowings of RMB 180.0 million.

Recent Development
In July 2020, NIU sold 70,685 e-scooters, representing a 63.7% year-over-year growth.  The number of e-scooters sold in China market reached 67,883, representing a 64.1% year-over-year growth, despite adverse weather conditions in certain parts of China.  The number of e-scooters sold in the international markets reached 2,802, representing a 56.1% year-over-year growth. 

Business Outlook
NIU expects revenues of the third quarter 2020 to be in the range of RMB 850 million to RMB 950 million, representing a year-over-year increase of 30% to 45%.

The above outlook is based on information available as of the date of this press release and reflects the Company’s current and preliminary expectation, which is subject to change in light of uncertainties and situations related to how COVID-19 develops.

Conference Call

The Company will host an earnings conference call on Monday, August 17, 2020 at 8:00 AM U.S. Eastern Time (8:00 PM Beijing/Hong Kong Time) to discuss its second quarter 2020 financial and business results and provide a corporate update.

To join via phone, participants need to register in advance of the conference call using the link provided below.  Upon registration, participants will receive dial-in numbers, an event passcode, and a unique registrant ID, which will be used to join the conference call.

Event: Niu Technologies Second Quarter 2020 Earnings Conference Call
Registration Link: http://apac.directeventreg.com/registration/event/8748747
Conference ID: 8748747

A live and archived webcast of the conference call will be available on the investor relations website at https://ir.niu.com/news-and-events/webcasts-and-presentations.

A replay of the conference call can be accessed by phone two hours later at the following numbers until August 25, 2020.

United States +1-855-452-5696
International +61-281-990-299
Hong Kong 800-963-117
Mainland China 400-602-2065
Conference ID 8748747

About NIU

As the world’s leading provider of smart urban mobility solutions, NIU designs, manufactures and sells high-performance electric bicycles and motorcycles.  NIU has a product portfolio consisting of seven series, four e-scooter series, including NQi, MQi and UQi with smart functions and Gova, two urban commuter electric motorcycles series RQi and TQi, and a performance bicycle series, NIU Aero.  Different series of products address the needs of different segments of modern urban residents and resolve the demands of different scenarios of urban travel, while being united through a common design language that emphasizes style, freedom and technology.  NIU has adopted an omnichannel retail model, integrating the offline and online channels, to offer the products and services.  For more information, please visit www.niu.com.

Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures

To supplement NIU’s consolidated financial results presented in accordance with the accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”), NIU uses the following non-GAAP financial measures: adjusted net income and adjusted net income margin.  The presentation of these non-GAAP financial measures is not intended to be considered in isolation or as a substitute for the financial information prepared and presented in accordance with GAAP.

NIU believes that these non-GAAP financial measures provide meaningful supplemental information regarding its performance and liquidity by excluding certain items that may not be indicative of its operating results.  The Company believes that both management and investors benefit from referring to these non-GAAP financial measures in assessing its performance and when planning and forecasting future periods.  These non-GAAP financial measures also facilitate management’s internal comparisons to NIU’s historical performance.  The Company believes these non-GAAP financial measures are useful to investors in allowing for greater transparency with respect to supplemental information used by management in its financial and operational decision making.  A limitation of using these non-GAAP financial measures is that these non-GAAP measures exclude certain items that have been and will continue to be for the foreseeable future a significant component in the Company’s results of operations.  These non-GAAP financial measures presented here may not be comparable to similarly titled measures presented by other companies.  Other companies may calculate similarly titled measures differently, limiting their usefulness as comparative measures to the Company’s data.

Adjusted net income is defined as net income excluding share-based compensation expenses.  Adjusted net income margin is defined as adjusted net income as a percentage of the revenues.

For more information on non-GAAP financial measures, please see the tables captioned “Reconciliation of GAAP and Non-GAAP Results.”

Exchange Rate

This announcement contains translations of certain RMB amounts into U.S. dollars (“US$”) at specified rates solely for the convenience of the readers.  Unless otherwise stated, all translations from RMB to US$ were made at the rate of RMB 7.0651 to US$ 1.00, the exchange rate in effect as of June 30, 2020, as set forth in the H.10 Statistical release of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.  The Company makes no representation that the RMB or US$ amounts referred could be converted into US$ or RMB, as the case may be, at any particular rate or at all.

Safe Harbor Statement

This press release contains forward-looking statements. These statements are made under the “safe harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  These forward-looking statements can be identified by terminology such as “will,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “aims,” “future,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimates,” “likely to” and similar statements.  Among other things, the business outlook and quotations from management in this announcement, as well as NIU’s strategic and operational plans, contain forward-looking statements.  NIU may also make written or oral forward-looking statements in its periodic reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in its annual report to shareholders, in press releases and other written materials and in oral statements made by its officers, directors or employees to third parties.  Statements that are not historical facts, including statements about NIU’s beliefs, plans and expectations, are forward-looking statements.  Forward-looking statements involve inherent risks and uncertainties.  A number of factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statement, including but not limited to the following: NIU’s strategies; NIU’s future business development, financial condition and results of operations; NIU’s ability to maintain and enhance its “NIU” brand; its ability to innovate and successfully launch new products and services; its ability to maintain and expand its offline distribution network; its ability to satisfy the mandated safety standards relating to e-scooters; its ability to secure supply of components and raw materials used in e-scooters; its ability to manufacture, launch and sell smart e-scooters meeting customer expectations; its ability to grow collaboration with operation partners; its ability to control costs associated with its operations; general economic and business conditions in China and globally; and assumptions underlying or related to any of the foregoing.  Further information regarding these and other risks is included in NIU’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  All information provided in this press release is as of the date of this press release, and NIU does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statement, except as required under applicable law.

Investor Relations Contact:

Niu Technologies
Jason Yang
Investor Relations Manager
E-mail: ir@niu.com

NIU TECHNOLOGIES
UNAUDITED CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS
           
  As of
  December 31,   June 30,   June 30,
  2019    2020    2020 
   RMB    RMB   US$
ASSETS          
Current assets          
Cash and cash equivalents 279,945,942     378,127,199     53,520,431  
Term deposits 174,404,554     202,036,836     28,596,458  
Restricted cash 221,656,071     176,788,936     25,022,850  
Short-term investments 310,439,321     437,993,549     61,993,963  
Accounts receivable, net 115,228,700     53,941,334     7,634,900  
Inventories 178,633,299     160,754,011     22,753,253  
Prepayments and other current assets 30,982,131     25,771,874     3,647,772  
Total current assets   1,311,290,018       1,435,413,739       203,169,627  
           
Non-current assets          
Property and equipment, net 150,891,344     161,417,580     22,847,176  
Intangible assets, net 7,779,749     6,857,864     970,668  
Land use right, net 34,355,936     34,008,321     4,813,565  
Deferred income tax assets     5,771,569     816,913  
Other non-current assets 6,522,561     44,390,771     6,283,106  
Total non-current assets   199,549,590       252,446,105       35,731,428  
           
Total assets   1,510,839,608       1,687,859,844       238,901,055  
           
LIABILITIES          
Current liabilities          
Short-term bank borrowings 217,394,132     180,000,000     25,477,346  
Accounts payable 258,988,264     376,597,654     53,303,938  
Income taxes payable 3,013,805     14,184,776     2,007,725  
Advance from customers 7,478,309     35,899,780     5,081,284  
Deferred revenue-current 31,105,700     23,411,691     3,313,710  
Accrued expenses and other current liabilities 175,533,397     181,933,914     25,751,074  
Total current liabilities   693,513,607       812,027,815       114,935,077  
           
Deferred revenue-non-current 2,171,033     2,956,485     418,463  
Deferred income tax liability 1,265,780          
Other non-current liabilities 22,358,968     23,037,487     3,260,746  
Total non-current liabilities   25,795,781       25,993,972       3,679,209  
           
Total liabilities   719,309,388       838,021,787       118,614,286  
           
SHAREHOLDERS’ EQUITY:          
Class A ordinary shares 84,494     85,397     12,087  
Class B ordinary shares 11,977     11,977     1,695  
Additional paid-in capital 1,738,102,741     1,758,246,174     248,863,593  
Accumulated other comprehensive loss (12,368,224 )   (4,655,646 )   (658,964 )
Accumulated deficit (934,300,768 )   (903,849,845 )   (127,931,642 )
Total shareholders’ equity   791,530,220       849,838,057       120,286,769  
           
Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity   1,510,839,608       1,687,859,844       238,901,055  
           
NIU TECHNOLOGIES
UNAUDITED CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME
                   
  Three months ended June 30,   Six months ended June 30,
  2019   2020
  2019   2020
  RMB   RMB US$   RMB   RMB US$
Revenues 530,505,579     644,934,410   91,284,541     885,725,279     877,874,918   124,255,130  
Cost of revenues(a) (405,017,981 )   (496,852,342 ) (70,324,885 )   (684,565,875 )   (674,875,349 ) (95,522,406 )
Gross profit   125,487,598       148,082,068     20,959,656       201,159,404       202,999,569     28,732,724  
                   
Operating expenses:                  
Selling and marketing expenses(a) (47,040,468 )   (45,603,755 ) (6,454,793 )   (76,862,661 )   (89,776,365 ) (12,707,020 )
Research and development expenses(a) (16,703,606 )   (23,976,687 ) (3,393,680 )   (31,036,186 )   (46,712,272 ) (6,611,693 )
General and administrative expenses(a) (17,571,121 )   (23,010,638 ) (3,256,944 )   (40,595,457 )   (47,259,880 ) (6,689,202 )
Total operating expenses   (81,315,195 )     (92,591,080 )   (13,105,417 )    (148,494,304 )    (183,748,517 )   (26,007,915 )
Government grants 2,530,930     826,367   116,965     3,777,930     8,092,250   1,145,384  
Operating income   46,703,333       56,317,355     7,971,204       56,443,030       27,343,302     3,870,193  
                   
Interest expense (2,596,692 )   (1,576,485 ) (223,137 )   (5,004,325 )   (3,748,959 ) (530,631 )
Interest income 5,682,101     2,378,442   336,647     9,807,450     5,367,879   759,774  
Investment income 1,209,269     2,303,195   325,996     1,727,105     3,896,250   551,478  
Income before income taxes   50,998,011       59,422,507     8,410,710       62,973,260       32,858,472     4,650,814  
Income tax expense (16,616 )   (2,595,658 ) (367,392 )   (9,655 )   (2,407,549 ) (340,766 )
Net income   50,981,395       56,826,849     8,043,318       62,963,605       30,450,923     4,310,048  
                   
Other comprehensive income                  
Foreign currency translation adjustment 11,761,823     59,950   8,485     174,921     6,546,907   926,655  
Unrealized gain on available for sale securities, net 83,079     641,975   90,866     48,274     1,165,671   164,990  
Comprehensive income 62,826,297     57,528,774   8,142,669     63,186,800     38,163,501   5,401,693  
Net income per ordinary share                  
—Basic 0.34     0.38   0.05     0.42     0.20   0.03  
—Diluted 0.33     0.37   0.05     0.41     0.20   0.03  
Net income per ADS                  
—Basic 0.69     0.76   0.11     0.85     0.41   0.06  
—Diluted 0.67     0.73   0.10     0.82     0.40   0.06  
                   
Weighted average number of ordinary shares and ordinary shares equivalents outstanding used in co                  
—Basic 148,823,076     150,301,999   150,301,999     148,748,978     150,001,842   150,001,842  
—Diluted 153,302,652     155,175,644   155,175,644     153,016,518     154,098,590   154,098,590  
Weighted average number of ADS outstanding used in computing net income per ADS                  
—Basic 74,411,538     75,151,000   75,151,000     74,374,489     75,000,921   75,000,921  
—Diluted 76,651,326     77,587,822   77,587,822     76,508,259     77,049,295   77,049,295  
                   
Note:                  
(a) Includes share-based compensation expense as follows:                  
  Three months ended June 30,   Six months ended June 30,
  2019   2020

  2019   2020

  RMB   RMB US$   RMB   RMB US$
Cost of revenues 75,045     210,882   29,848     137,769     287,504   40,694  
Selling and marketing expenses 1,010,420     2,888,358   408,821     1,709,163     4,491,000   635,660  
Research and development expenses 447,013     3,109,286   440,091     871,928     5,081,977   719,307  
General and administrative expenses 1,605,466     4,717,555   667,727     3,057,794     8,801,777   1,245,811  
Total share-based compensation expense 3,137,944     10,926,081   1,546,487     5,776,654     18,662,258   2,641,472  
                   
NIU TECHNOLOGIES
RECONCILIATION OF GAAP AND NON-GAAP RESULTS
                   
  Three months ended June 30,   Six months ended June 30,
  2019   2020   2019   2020
  RMB    RMB US$   RMB    RMB US$
Net income 50,981,395   56,826,849 8,043,318   62,963,605   30,450,923 4,310,048
Add:                  
Share-based compensation expense 3,137,944   10,926,081 1,546,487   5,776,654   18,662,258 2,641,472
Adjusted net income 54,119,339   67,752,930 9,589,805   68,740,259   49,113,181 6,951,520
                   

_________________________

1 Adjusted net income (non-GAAP) is defined as net income excluding share-based compensation expense.
2 Revenues per e-scooter on e-scooter sales from China or international markets is defined as e-scooter sales revenues from China or international markets divided by the number of e-scooters sold in China or international market in a specific period
3 Revenues per e-scooter on accessories, spare parts and services is defined as accessories, spare parts and services revenues divided by the total number of e-scooters sold in a specific period
4 Adjusted net income margin is defined as adjusted net income (non-GAAP) as a percentage of the revenues.

Fashion

Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

Fashion’s OG Instagrammers are building empires and, at the same time, growing their influence beyond the industry.

After being schooled for years on the workings of the fashion industry, mega-influencers including Danielle Bernstein (2.7 million Instagram followers) and Rocky Barnes (2.5 million Instagram followers) are graduating to careers less reliant on brands. To take it to the next level, they’re leveraging their prowess and communities, driving deals with effective business partners, and evolving their focus, based on the industry’s direction and their own passions. The emerging results, for both Bernstein and Barnes, are personally-backed brands and investment portfolios set to expand based on early successes.

“The plan is to grow, in a big way,” said Bernstein. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll always want to introduce new businesses and categories to my brand. And I’m angel investing and joining the board of advisors for so many companies. That’s the future of the creator economy: harnessing and creating community around your existing followers and then figuring out how to monetize that.”

In 2019, upon inking a licensing deal with New York-based clothing company Onia, Bernstein launched the Shop We Wore What e-commerce site, populated with her expanding We Wore What fashion collection. The collection has been at the center of much recent controversy, due to allegedly including copycat designs. According to Bernstein, she turns to vintage pieces, editorials and travel for inspiration. Bernstein’s also become an investor and advisor for hair supplement company Wellbel and CBD brand Highline Wellness. In May, she became active on Patreon, offering exclusive video content to paying members of her community.

In addition, Bernstein heads up We Gave What, a charitable arm of her company. In 2019, she launched tech company Moe Assist with a project management tool for influencers, though its social accounts have been inactive for two-plus months. When asked for comment, a spokesperson said Moe Assist is in a new fundraising stage and “should have news to share shortly.”

Barnes, meanwhile, partnered with Reunited Clothing to come out with her apparel company, The Bright Side, in December. And she recently became a first-time investor-advisor, for 6-month-old SMS shopping platform Qatch. She announced the partnership in an Instagram post on Monday.

“I feel like a grown-up,” she told me, before confirming that she’s interested in investing in more companies. “Diversifying my business has been a really big [focus] for me. I interact with so many different brands and companies on a daily basis. Using my market knowledge in ways that can help other people is fulfilling and exciting for me. And I especially love when I can be involved with a company from the beginning.”

Building on their content creator role in fashion is a natural progression, both said. And it plays into many industry shifts: On its way out is fashion’s DTC era, largely fueled by Harvard Business School and Wharton graduates using a plug-and-play, marketing-heavy business model to launch brands. More consumers are prioritizing quality, differentiated products, making industry experience and style expertise greater virtues among insiders. At the same time, consumers are increasingly taking shopping cues from relatable, platform-native celebrities, moving on from authoritative editors and more closed-off celebrities.

The school of collaborations
The collaborator-to-founder shift isn’t the newest thing. Other longtime influencers that have made the pivot include Arielle Charnas, with Something Navy; Aimee Song, with Song of Style; Rumi Neely, with Are You Am I; the list goes on. Most often, the names behind these brands don’t have formal design and business training — for her part, Bernstein said she “went to FIT for two years, but didn’t study design and production.” But, for years, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with companies to bring their visions to life. And along the way, they’ve come to know what resonates best with their vast communities, from marketing to merchandising to product.

“My most successful collaborations have led to the largest share of my business,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein’s partnership with Onia came out of her swimwear collaboration with its Onia brand, in May 2019. On the collab’s launch day, it drove $2 million in sales, and an included style was the brand’s best-selling swimsuit of the summer. Also in 2019, Bernstein collaborated with Joe’s Jeans on multiple denim collections. The launch day of the first, in March 2019, marked Joe Jeans’ best sales day to date, said Jennifer Hawkins, the brand’s svp of marketing and innovation on a Glossy Podcast in October.

Both served as learning opportunities for Bernstein, who said — as with all of her collaborations — she took full advantage: “It was never just [uploading] a post, and then I went away,” she said. “I always wanted to know how the performance was, in terms of sales, and asked questions: ‘Can you share the analytics?’ ‘What did you see on your end?’ ‘What worked and what didn’t work?’”

She added, “They provided a ton of data, in terms of what I could sell and what the market was missing.”

Likewise, she said, she always followed and shared with partner brands the Instagram Insights and Google Analytics numbers around her corresponding posts. Doing so gave all parties a 360-degree view of a collaboration’s success.

“I’ve learned what works for brands so they get the largest return on their investment,” she said.

For example, she’s learned to lean on her audience’s tastes, versus rely on her own, by allowing them to offer feedback throughout the design process through Instagram. That’s included the selection of fabrics and colors and the fit sessions with models. She only spotlights her favorite styles and what she wears in her own social posts, as a play for authenticity.

According to Bernstein, the collaborations with brands allowing her to play an advisor role — by guiding them on influencer partnerships, marketing and messaging — are always more successful. And they often turn into longer-term investment or advising partnerships.

Bernstein chose to work with Onia on the We Wore What collection based on its prioritization of quality and fit, and ability to keep to affordable retail prices. Currently, prices on the We Wore What site range from $20, for a scrunchie, to $228, for a vegan leather jumpsuit.

Barnes was also ready to go out on her own after finding the right partners. Her Reunited Clothing partnership came after working with the company to create her Express product collaboration, in early 2019. On its first-quarter 2019 earnings call, interim CEO Matthew C. Moullering said the company had seen “a strong start to [the] collection both in-stores and online and [believed] it [was] helping to introduce the brand to a new audience.”

“Having your own brand is terrifying,” Barnes said. “But I like that I’m in control and not so dependent on doing the day-to-day posts promoting other companies.”

But, she added, “One of the huge benefits of working with all these different brands on all these different projects is that we’re constantly getting introduced to new people and seeing who we like working with.”

Barnes’ internal team consists of her husband, who’s the “business brains” of the company, she said, and an assistant.

Like Bernstein, Barnes stressed the need for outside support in the production process: “I love such quirky, crazy things, but I also understand what is realistic for a buyer and a normal girl buying clothes,” she said. “The experience of taking ideas and making them work for a bigger group of people was my learning curve going into a business. It’s important to have a good, diverse team around you who can make your idea something that’s marketable.”

For its part, We Wore What has seen “200x growth in the last year,” as it’s expanded to new categories, Bernstein said. Its ready-to-wear, swimwear, resort wear, and activewear are now sold in “dozens and dozens of retailers around the world,” many of which offer style exclusives; they include Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix.

“Launching my own brand was putting the proof in the pudding for the power of influencers, when it comes to selling product,” she said.

As with her Joe’s and Onia collaborations, Bernstein sees a rush-to-buy with We Wore What product drops. “The first 10 minutes is when we see the biggest portion of our sales for the entire collection,” she said.

To build buzz, Shop We Wore What’s Instagram account (213,000 followers) features in its Stories the line sheets of the soon-to-launch styles, allowing customers to thoughtfully plan their buy. Doing so has led to lower return rates, Bernstein said. The company’s marketing mix also includes text messages and emails, VIP discounts and user-generated content.

Bernstein has a staff of four people, which include a chief operating officer and a brand coordinator. She said she prioritizes establishing partners with skills and expertise she doesn’t have, so she can learn from them along the way. Ideally, she’d have learned about tech packs, fittings and production logistics in school, but she’s training as she goes.

Moving forward, Bernstein said she plans to extend the size range of We What What styles, which are currently available in sizes XS-XXL, and launch collections with collaborators to sell exclusively on her brand’s DTC site. In addition, she aims to eventually open “experimental” physical retail, starting with pop-ups.

As for her investment-advisor portfolio, she’s currently in talks with companies centered on the concepts of “being able to sell your closet and even rent your closet.”

As for Barnes’ Bright Side, she said it will hit “a bunch of new retailers this year.”

Moving beyond fashion
Up next for Shop We Wore What is a new product category that will hit before the holiday season. Considering her passion for home furnishings and decor — based on her @homeworewhat Instagram account (7,500 followers) and recent press coverage of her new SoHo loft — it’s a safe bet that a home-related category is in the cards.

Likewise, Barnes hinted at a future Bright Side home collection, following her recent, two-year home remodel, which she’s getting set to debut on social media.

Lifestyle brands are the clear goal.

“I would love to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart, just having my hands in everything and creating this really beautiful lifestyle where you can entertain and be fashionable,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

She added, “Fashion is where my heart has always been, but I’m growing as a person and there’s so much more in my life right now: my family, my home — and I’m getting older, so beauty [and skin care] makes sense now. Sharing all of that with everyone seems so natural; it would be weird if I only did fashion.”

As for future investments, though Quatch fits perfectly into Barnes’ world, with its fashion-tech focus, she said she’s open to investing in any company where she sees opportunity.

What’s more, she has no plans to retire from social media, though she has yet to tackle TikTok.

“People’s need for content has only increased, so I’m posting and creating content more than ever,” Barnes said. “But I’ve learned to become more of a hard-ass with brands. The companies that are willing to work with me and [facilitate] the most like authentic relationship possible are the ones I move forward with.” Reunited can attest.

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South African bowler Tabraiz Shamsi: Amateur magician; professional tweaker-trickster

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Harry Potter fans would know this as the Room of Requirement; muggle cricketers dub it backend operations. Tabraiz Shamsi is an amateur magician. He is also a professional worrier of why some googlies don’t turn as much as he’d want, in cricket.

For the Proteas chinaman bowler, the room of requirement from where he could pull out any game data, used to be the dependable ‘P Dawgg’, former South Africa analyst Prasanna Agoram combining his ken and nous and fast processing laptop. Prasanna enviably would be privy to the trial (and error) runs of Magician Shamsi’s classical Tourniquet coin-drops with the cricket ball. Which was the unglamorous, quirk-in-progress of his left-arm leg spin.

At the stroke of 1 a.m, oftener than not, Shamsi would come looking for what he called ‘shit balls’, in what Prasanna reckoned were otherwise impressive, less-than-run-a-ball bowling spells. This was that one specific delivery that went for a six to sully Shamsi’s 4-0-22-3 T20 match figures. It was the bugs, not the features, that the 29-year-old would cussedly fixate on.

“I’d never point out that he’s missing his length or the back foot was collapsing, at 12.30 in the night. Because Shamo, you see, would then take me to the nets at 1 a.m! He’s capable of calling the manager and telling him at that hour that I have to practice NOW. You had to be careful about what you told him at 1 a.m,” Prasanna laughs, underlining ungrudging admiration for the Proteas spinner’s dedication.

A series of self-recriminations in staccato would follow the ‘Bhai, can you please put on the shit-ball that went for a six.’ “He’d curse himself watching replays: ‘no good, not international class, garbage ball.’ If you try telling him it is ‘well-played’ from Jos Butler and not exactly a poor ball, he’d be hard on himself and say, ‘This is nonsense from Shamo’,” Prasanna recalls of his exacting standards.

For, the South African World No 1 spinner – who lends mystery to the Saffer bowling attack if not entirely upstaging their thunderbolt battery of pacers – knows that all sleights of hand, can come with uncontrollable twists of fate. Both in magic, and cricket.

A young boy of 15 at Paarl who tried to bowl quick like Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas, had wound up as a left arm leg spin all-sorts, after years of compulsive fine-tuning. And taken failures and omissions into his run-up’s five-strides.

***
Born in Johannesburg, Shamsi wanted to be a super quick in the land of bolting pacers. His progress though didn’t follow the regular route of being identified early for First teams at schools and playing age-groups. Also, he was told he wasn’t quick enough.

Speaking to the podcast ‘Pavilion conversations with C.S’ recently, Shamsi recalls his earliest break at age 15, bowling alone in the school nets, with the cricket coach’s office nearby. The coach would stop by and ask him what he was upto. “I said, ‘Sir, the U15 trials are coming up. I want to make the Paarl team wanna progress’. He told me – you are not gonna make it. But even there I thought he realised the type of character I am. That was just his way to push me even harder. He said ‘Don’t waste your time practicing coz you won’t get selected. And i was even more driven,” he told the host Mr. Chiwanza.

Shamsi would end up with most wickets that tournament, make the B team (“Still not A”), followed by U17 and U19s for the local side. “I didn’t get selected for SA U19s or invited to camps. My past was little different. In fact I got my opportunity at semi-pro cricket because one player got selected for U19s and went to the World Cup. A spot opened up because of him. I just knew that was my chance I had to make it work. And fortunately I performed. When he came back from the World Cup, he couldn’t get into the team,” Shamsi recalled.

It was around 2015-6 after he had zeroed in on Chinaman as his chosen bag of assorted tricks in franchise, provincial cricket, that he first sought out Prasanna, while closely following senior leggie and his ‘bruv’ Imran Tahir. Prasanna promised to compile a list of outstanding T20 spinners of that year for comparison, when Shamsi asked him: ‘Why just T20? I want to play all formats.’

Prasanna promised to revert after two days on Friday, and on Monday, he had a message from the hotel lobby at 10.30 am that Shamsi was waiting. “Normally, cricketers will turn up at 11.30, if the analyst time is 10.30. This guy made me abandon my breakfast and was ready with a list of questions. I’d prepared a presentation earlier on bowlers like Warne, Ajmal and Herath and how they bowled on unhelpful tracks, what lengths to bowl at what stage, and offered to email it to him. He tells me: “No. I’ll write it down in my own words. I don’t want shortcuts.”

Shamsi would sit and plan for every batsman – his notes diary in tow, even on matchdays when he wasn’t in Playing XI. And once he would spill the beans on why brainwaves struck him at 1 a.m – his preferred time to brainstorm with the analyst. “He once told me he eats my brain at that hour, so that he gets dreams of how to get a Kohli or Sharma out, so he can wake up next day he can execute the training plans.”

Once he came angsty about his googlies not spinning as much as Kuldeep Yadav or Brad Hogg. “When he said it’s not spinning, I told him Shamo’ you didn’t bowl any googly. That’s it. He hit the nets and bowled 1000 googlies non-stop and then said, he’s now hitting the groove.”

But nothing had prepared Prasanna for Shamsi’s mic-drop in the pink ball Test against Australia where the Chinaman was fancied as it’s tougher to spot the wrist in the Adelaidian twilight. Shamsi was instructed to block for 20 balls and support Faf as Proteas were hanging on at 210-9. Shamsi would announce he would score a 50 – against Pat Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc. Finally he was unbeaten on 18. “He came back and blustered ‘If someone had suported me, I’d have hit that 50’.”

***

This constant state of ‘upbeat’ – talking up his own abilities to score a 50 coming at No 11 against Cummins & Starc – might well be the sort of swag and sizzle that the staid South African teams need at ICC tournaments. For a large part of the last 30 years, the Proteas have entered tournaments with burdensome tags of ‘talented’ and ‘favourites’ and come up short. The tasteless mocking glee of choke-jokes has run its course, and being light-weights might well prove liberating.

For all their botched run chases in 50 overs, South Africa can stake claim to the historic highest run-rally to 438. And the innings-interval remark of Jacques Kallis, the most expensive bowler in Australia’s 434, who had quipped “Guys, I think we’ve done a good job. They’re 15 runs short.”

Shamsi likes his boisterous one-liners too. And his showboating and noisy over-the-top pantomime aggression.

After starring in a T20 win against Ireland earlier, he would tell South African journalist Telford Vice, “In my young age, I started as a seamer but was told I’m not quick enough to be a fast bowler so became a spinner. Grew up watching Andre Nel, Dayle Steyn, Allan Donald, that’s where aggression comes from.”

He knows it’s a double-edged sword and a bowler can be packed off, but it can disrupt batters too. “Whatever it takes to win. I’m in charge of making our presence felt on the ground and ensure the team never backs down from opponents,” he added.

Shamsi recently responded to Darren Sammy’s tweet on who would win the T20 World: “Come on skipper, you know the answer to this already…. South Africa of course.” Scroll down the thread, and some mocker mangles his grammar: “are you comedy me”. A good laugh was had by all. Pressure punctured.

“He’ll say things like ‘I’ll single-handedly win this,” Prasanna says, “Whether it happens or not, it gives confidence to people close to you – your team.”

***

Shamsi’s made it to the top of rankings, taking 49 wickets from 42 T20Is, at a strike-rate of 14.8 and averaging 6.6. There’s been a bucketful of wickets in franchise cricket and The Hundred. He’s 31 and has bidden his time to make it to the national team, and another 4 years into the Playing XI. The Wicket then, is an ocassion to celebrate, he reckons.

“I’m a human being and not a robot and want to make long-lasting happy memories that will live with me forever long after my career is done and that is the reason behind my celebrations,” he wrote in a social media post once. “My celebrations mean no disrespect to the opponents. They help me enjoy myself, switch on and off during the game to release some pressure, and put some smiles on people’s faces too.”

There’s the “Shoe” that got going in the West Indies, where within seconds of a wicket, he’d shrug his ankle open from the left shoe and pretend to speak on a landline receiver. Then there’s the bus driver-celebration with Carlos Braithwaite and something about a birdie’s chirp. A flying kiss to the wife and a mock punch to a fielder like a streets hip hopper. Though the untold back-stories raise anticipation of what he’ll whip up next.

Prasanna says there can be new hairdos before every game, sometimes “thrice a week”, and that magic tricks and celebrations are practiced as diligently as the googlies and top-spinners. “Not only will he say, ‘Tomorrow I’ll get Ben Stokes out.’ He’ll also ask you to watch the celebration.”

Amongst his most famous on-field triumph-trumpetings after snaring a batter is pulling a wand out of a hankey – a magician’s staple. But never in cricket, where magic’s glossary is slathered on the slow bowlers and their guiles.

T20 commentators love his name, lending it a South American football match caller’s vroom: “Shaaa-mzzziii”. But it’s the celebrations that can befuddle the most trained of raconteurs. When Shamsi got Wihan Lubbe in the Mzansi Super League, the commentator would build up to the expected celebration. “Is the shoe coming off? No. Look at that…it’s magic,” he would chortle. Cricket was momentarily put to the side, before he resumed confused: “That was a legspinner…… Beg your pardon… Offspinner… That did the trick..” Shamsi’s delivery had jagged away from the leftie and the post-celebration left the commentator’s mind in knots.

Appearing on the Dan Nicholl Show in SA, Shamsi had pulled one of those ‘I can guess the card pulled out of the deck after being shuffled’ tricks. It was ace of spades.

Magic had been his fallback option till age 16, he’d say. “So if cricket doesn’t work out… I ll practice magic for 10 years… But naa… It’s gonna work out.. I’ll bamboozle you all,” he would say, charming the audience.

At the start of the magic gig, Shamsi had handed a sealed envelope to the host. “Sealed with Proteas saliva” Nicholl had joked with whispered reverence. The distracting envelope had briefly become the centrepiece, and Shamsi would explain later:
“You satisfied you made me stop shuffling when u wanted me to? Funny thing is…You thought you were in charge of the trick… Telling me when to stop. Even though it’s your show, I’m running this party… I was controlling you and I actually made you stop at a specific point. …And to prove that I had written down something in this envelope before starting the trick..” It read Ace of Spades.

Shamsi’s assortment of Chinaman, is a bit like that: planned spontaneity. Allan Donald in a video while introducing him to RCB few seasons ago, said: “Left arm, tweaks it this way, tweaks it that way, then tweaks it the other way.” Offering attacking options in the middle overs, with his ability to turn ball both ways, and variations of top spinner, the side spinner and googly, makes him effective against both lefties and righties. The constant explosion of activity – before, right after when appealing (he once did a spot of bhangra jumps, then sat down altogether while pleading a decision) and when celebrating, is in fact the sealed envelope distraction.

Yet, bad days are not unfamiliar to Shamsi, and his role can be flexible like the magician’s wand, like in the West Indies, to keep things quiet, contain against the big power hitters. “There’s two ways to skin a cat… Not really fussed about not getting wickets in WI. That was a different role,” he told the media later.

Sometimes the magic is in not believing the flimflam and sleight. Like rankings. “I don’t lose sleep over being No 1. Obviously it’s a nice feeling to be on top. But I’ve said it before and I truly mean it. I don’t even think I’m the best bowler in our team. We have some great bowlers in the unit. Rankings don’t mean anything if a batsman gets hold of you. I don’t even know how those rankings work honestly.”

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Five great Twenty20 World Cup upsets

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Five great Twenty20 World Cup upsets | SuperSport – Africa’s source of sports video, fixtures, results and news






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