QSR, Fast-Casual Gift Card Sales Outpace Upscale

With fine dining having taken a hit amid the pandemic, quick service and fast-casual restaurant gift cards are holding steady and even seeing a bit of growth, a new study by Paytronix finds.

Sales of restaurant gift cards plunged by more than 30 percent over the Black Friday shopping weekend compared to the same period last year, according to Paytronix, which operates a digital guest experience platform used by restaurant chains for loyalty programs.

But quick-service chains saw a much more modest decline in gift card sales, which, after falling 3.6 percent on Black Friday, bounced back to post a .7 percent increase in the number of cards sold over the remainder of the weekend.

And even as overall sales numbers dipped a bit on Black Friday, customers who bought gift cards loaded more money onto them, with the total amount rising 4.6 percent.

Fast-casual gift card sales were “mixed,” with some chains seeing big declines while others “tripled sales thanks to rich bonus offers,” Paytronix said.

Overall, Paytronix looked at gift card sales by 175 different brands over the three-day period between Black Friday on Nov. 27 and Sunday, Nov. 29.

“The more upscale the restaurant, the greater the decline we saw in gift card sales during the Black Friday shopping weekend,” said Lee Barnes, head of data insights at Paytronix. “This likely means that fewer people will be giving restaurant gift cards as a gift, almost certainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, shoppers seem to be focusing on those cards that have bonus cash promotions, possibly as a gift to themselves.”

The numbers are particularly significant because of what they say about gift card sales in December, which typically amount to upwards of 50 percent of annual restaurant gift card sales, according to Paytronix.

The Black Friday shopping season “traditionally acts as a barometer of upcoming trends throughout the holiday season,” the firm noted in a press release on its study.

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NEW PYMNTS STUDY: ACCELERATING THE REAL-TIME PAYMENTS DEMAND CURVE – NOVEMBER 2020

About: Accelerating The Real-Time Payments Demand Curve:What Banks Need To Know About What Consumers Want And Need, PYMNTS  examines consumers’ understanding of real-time payments and the methods they use for different types of payments. The report explores consumers’ interest in real-time payments and their willingness to switch to financial institutions that offer such capabilities.

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Ciara, Russell Wilson and ex-Lululemon CEO launch fashion brand

Grammy Award-winning artist Ciara has launched a new fashion company alongside her husband, NFL star Russell Wilson, and former Lululemon CEO Christine Day. But the brand, called the House of LR&C, has a mission beyond just the clothes it sells, Ciara and Day told CNBC on Wednesday.

“We’re not only doing the fashion part. We’re also combining the passion for fashion but also the passion for impact. That was really important to both Russell and I and also Christine in creating our company. There has to be more to it than fashion,” Ciara said on “Closing Bell.”

In addition to an emphasis on environmental sustainability, 3% of each purchase goes to the Why Not You Foundation, which Wilson founded in 2014. It supports efforts on education access, poverty reduction and children’s health.

Day, who left Lululemon in late 2013 after more than five years at the athletic apparel company, said the launch of the brand during the coronavirus pandemic comes at an “inflection point” for the retail industry. “I think some of the things the consumers are looking for are really that sustainability, versatility, longevity in their garments,” said Day, also a former executive at Starbucks.

She said the House of LR&C is looking to fill a gap in the market with younger shoppers who are socially minded. “They want to see companies building business models that matter, that have inclusion and unity and sustainability and love, and there’s not enough of that in this world,” Day said.

The company’s two clothing lines for now are Good Man Brand, which Wilson founded in 2016, and the newly launched Human Nation, which sells casual, gender-neutral items. A women’s brand also is in the works, Day said.

The official launch of the House of LR&C this week comes during the holiday shopping season, which has been altered by the pandemic. Monday was the largest U.S. internet shopping day ever, according to Adobe Analytics data.

Clothes are for sale directly through its website, but Day said going beyond the direct-to-consumer route by inking partnerships with Kohl’s and Nordstrom also is critical. Ciara said the House of LR&C’s mission was aligned with the retailers that are known for their brick-and-mortar presence.

“If you look at the landscape and just how the world is changing, especially with … companies like Kohl’s, they’re also evolving with the times,” Ciara said. “I’ve been fortunate to do some really cool things with Kohl’s already. We just like where they were going with things. We sat down and talked about our vision for what we were doing, we really connected, and we felt that the plan they had really made sense for what we were trying to do and vice versa.”

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Watch a Sneak Peek at Stylish With Jenna Lyons, Your New Favorite Fashion Reality TV Show

Are you a sucker for early aughts and 2010s reality shows like Kell on Earth, The Rachel Zoe Project and House of DVF? If so, get ready for another quite glamorous ride.

Watch a Sneak Peek at Stylish With Jenna Lyons, Your New Favorite Fashion Reality TV Show

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It’s been a while since a fashion-inspired series really captivated our attention the way some of these formative ones did. And that’s a hard thing to do in 2020, when the fashion industry itself has been forced to reckon with its historic lack of inclusivity. How do you premiere a show about designer shoes and luxurious, expensive goods without seeming, well, completely out of touch?

That’s certainly a big challenge, but one new series does a pretty good job of engaging us in a way that doesn’t feel trite. Set to premiere Thursday, Dec. 3 on HBO Max, Stylish With Jenna Lyons follows the titular former J. Crew executive, who The New York Times once credited as “the woman who dresses America,” as she reimagines her career years after making pops of color and monochromatic dressing mainstream.

The Canceled Reality Shows Viewers Still Love

In a documentary- and competition-style format, she’s joined by her (very loveable) chief of staff Kyle DeFord and (ultra fashionable) stylist Sarah Clary to interview potential associates tasked with pleasing her throughout a series of challenges. And in an exclusive sneak peek at episode two, Lyons meets with the contestants (a.k.a. potential new hires) after they’ve been asked to present a look that successfully interprets what it means to dress in a “high-low” format.

With her signature wide-rim glasses and preppy style, she meets with each aspiring worker bee as Sarah models the outfits they put together. The preview finds Lyons giving her tips and tricks to contestant Kye, who impressed Lyons with the way she used proportions, but failed to make the expensive clothing item (that cable-knit sweater) stand out.



John Lydon et al. in a room: Squire Fox / HBO Max


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Squire Fox / HBO Max

Elsewhere in the series, Lyons encourages the cast to select the right items for a pop-up shop she’s working on. And in another episode, Lyons and her team welcome celebrities like Charlize Theron and Patricia Arquette to a red carpet photo booth they built at the SAG Awards.

Ready to revisit those days spent watching America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway? Then give this a shot.

Stylish With Jenna Lyons premieres Dec. 3 on HBO Max.

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20 Gift Ideas For Bookworms (That Aren’t More Books)

Let’s be real: gifting a bookworm a new novel is like buying a sweater for a fashion lover — they probably own an overabundance of each already. Not to mention, their wishlists for such items are presumably very specific. Just asking a book lover about their latest reads will likely prompt references so particular that they’re bound to fly over anyone’s head who isn’t nose-deep in novel-land. Despite these specifics, you do have an advantage in the gift-giving department.

It’s guaranteed that every Bibliophile will enjoy accessories that enhance the reading experience. For example, playful bookends to hold that honorable favorite or fountain pens to take quickfire notes. Perhaps, you could even interest them in a chocolate library or a bathtub caddy for evenings spent thumbing through whilst surrounded by bubbles? Ahead, 20 niche, sometimes cliche, and all-around superb holiday gift ideas for every story enthusiast on your list.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

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11 Of The Best Blowdryers, According To R29 Beauty Editors

The humble blowdryer is the unsung hero of your winter hair routine. Sure, smoothing shampoo, hydrating conditioner, and a good curl mousse can help in styling. But if your dryer is heavy and wheezing and you lost the diffuser attachment, a blowout can feel like a painful bicep workout — and you might be tempted to just skip it and risk pneumonia by stepping out with dripping-wet hair.

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But that whole narrative changes when you invest in a nice blowdryer; one that’s lightweight, speedy, and leaves your hair so soft and shiny that you actually semi-enjoy the process of heat-styling your hair. Ahead, a few of Refinery29‘s resident editors break down the hair dryers they can’t live without — all of which are a worth-it splurge this winter if you like smooth strands, faster blowouts, and, if nothing else, bone-dry hair during a cold and flu season that comes to us in the midst of a pandemic.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

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From Fashion Buyer To Luxury Womenswear Fashion Designer, London Based Designer Laboni Saha Talks Her Journey And Sustainability

Laboni Saha founded her own fashion brand L Saha, in 2014 in England’s capital city. The brand is a true-luxury womenswear label, creating timeless collections that follow holistic, eco-friendly, and pro-people principles. While Laboni has had much success in dressing her notable clients, which include royal families, she is not driven by who wears her designs as much as she is driven by showcasing the value of her collections.

With a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design and a master’s in Fashion Business Management, she had a successful career in fashion buying first, which gave her an understanding of the fast paced and ephemeral nature of trend driven fashion. “I was aware of the importance of business knowledge, in order to launch a brand,” she notes. “The pathway for my MA degree and my career in buying were all planned as they were to equip me with the right knowledge and skillset required for the launch of L Saha, which was my ultimate goal while starting out my career.”

“Following the path of sustainability should not be an exception but the norm.”

When she took the plunge to dive into creating her own brand, Laboni knew she wanted to create a brand that was sustainable, ethical, and transparent to create timeless pieces, done under exceptional craftsmanship with fair policies. The fashion industry is known as the second most unsustainable industry and Laboni knew she didn’t want to be a part of this statistic. “We believe in taking the path that ensures a safe and secure future of the planet and the generations to come. It is a win-win in multiple ways. When we do things right, everyone wins, from the farmers who grow the crops for our textiles, to the customer and the shops that finished garments. I believe we cannot burn our home (planet Earth) in the quest to make profits but sadly, that has been the case for many decades.”

Launching L Saha

“I have always wanted to start my own label since my early student years in 2007,” says Laboni. “I worked as a buyer to build a commercial acumen that is necessary for all creatives, especially if launching their own business. I saw a prominent gap in the market when it came to brands offering ‘Sustainable Luxury’ products (back in 2014), and I felt there would be no better time to launch L Saha as the market had a latent demand for ‘desirable’ sustainable products.”

We all know the craftsmanship and couture designs that have come out of India. From the rich deep colors, it’s a fashion connoisseur’s ultimate paradise, and this is where Laboni originally comes from. Without a doubt her homeland has inspired her as a designer. “My Indian heritage definitely influences my approach in life and

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Women in ‘Birth Tourism’ Ring Had 119 Babies on Long Island, Officials Say

The Facebook post advertised a tantalizing offer for pregnant women in Turkey. “If you believe your baby should be born in the USA and become an American citizen,” the ad said in Turkish, “then you are at the right place.”

In exchange for payments between $7,500 and $10,000 each, the women received transportation, medical care and lodging at a so-called birth house on Long Island, federal prosecutors said — allowing them to travel to New York on tourist visas and return to Turkey with babies who were American citizens.

On Wednesday, prosecutors charged six people with running the “birth tourism” operation on Long Island, which facilitated the births of an estimated 119 babies to Turkish women since at least 2017.

The costs of the births were fraudulently billed to the state, causing New York’s Medicaid program to lose more than $2.1 million, prosecutors said.

“The defendants cashed in on the desire for birthright citizenship, and the American taxpayer ultimately got stuck with the $2.1 million bill,” said Seth DuCharme, the acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn. “The indictment unsealed today reinforces the principle that American citizenship is not for sale, and that our benefits programs are not piggy banks for criminals to plunder.”

In total, the defendants received about $750,000 in payments from pregnant women, prosecutors said.

Birth tourism is a longstanding phenomenon. In recent years, it has drawn mostly well-off mothers from China, Korea, Russia, Turkey, Egypt and Nigeria to the U.S. for birthright citizenship. A 2018 case involving the stabbing of three babies at a maternity center in Queens exposed the risks of the unregulated practice.

Earlier this year, the State Department gave visa officers more power to stop pregnant women from visiting the United States if the women were suspected of traveling to give birth. The new rule described giving birth as “an impermissible basis” for visiting the United States.

After children who are U.S. citizens turn 21, they can sponsor a parent for a green card.

The State Department has estimated that thousands of babies are born to tourists from abroad every year, but there are no official numbers. In 2018, there were about 3.8 million total births in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The defendants on Wednesday were charged with fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Four of them are Turkish nationals accused of advertising the scheme and of facilitating the women’s lodging and transportation. The other two are U.S. citizens who are suspected of helping to file the fraudulent Medicaid applications.

The mothers were not criminally charged and are not targets of the investigation. Prosecutors said it would be unlikely for the children to lose their U.S. citizenship.

The federal investigation on Long Island, which took more than a year, involved surveillance photographs, wiretapped conversations, search warrants for iCloud accounts and even an undercover agent.

Ibrahim Aksakal — an accused leader of the scheme — said in a recorded conversation in May 2019 that the women needed to apply

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Creating ‘Light in a Dark Year’ With New Christmas Album & Special

The Christmas tiding of “peace on earth” can’t ring loudly enough in 2020. From the deadly COVID-19 pandemic to Black Lives Matter protests calling for racial justice, peace has been in short supply. Carrie Underwood is hoping to “create light in a dark year” through her holiday album and TV special. 

Not even the acclaimed Queen of Christmas Mariah Carey lets her Lambs sing her No. 1 holiday staple “All I Want for Christmas Is You” until Nov. 1. But on Sept. 25, Underwood delivered a special early present: her first full-length Christmas album, My Gift, which  contained 11 traditional and original jingles. My Giftdebuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart (dated Oct. 1), bestowing the country singer her eighth consecutive No. 1 album on the tally.

Not only did My Gift kickstart Christmas early, but it spawned two of the top five new streaming holiday songs of the year, through Nov. 26, according to MRC Data/Nielsen Music, with “Silent Night” at No. 3 (6.3 million on-demand streams) and “Hallelujah,” featuring John Legend, at No. 5 (4.1 million). “Favorite Time of Year,” which is streaming exclusively on Amazon and appears as an extra on the album, comes in at No. 4 (5.9 million).

Fans can see her perform “Hallelujah” with Legend, as well as other holiday treats on her HBO Max special My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood, premiering Thursday. She’ll also reveal behind-the-scenes moments during the recording process of “Little Drummer Boy” with her 5-year-old son Isaiah to spread much-needed holiday cheer from her family to others.

“I really hope people watch it and just feel at peace. It’s the kind of thing that you can watch with your family. Hopefully, people sing along with me on their couches and just get a sense of hope and peace and love and joy and all of the good things that are about Christmas,” Underwood tells Billboard via a phone interview.

“Silent Night” and “Hallelujah” from your album are among the top five most-streamed holiday songs this year. Why do you think your fans have particularly gravitated to those songs from your Christmas album?

You never know how people are going to react when you record something or write something or whatever it is. You just kind of throw it all out there and just see. But I think with “Hallelujah,” it’s just a beautiful song. It covers a lot of ground in Christmas song land. It’s got some spiritual aspects to it, it’s got kind of this love story thing to it, it’s got all of the tactile [elements] … winter’s chill, candles. It paints the scene really well, so it kind of puts you into that time of year. And I’m glad to see people are digging what we’re doing.

Your HBO Max specialis officially being unwrapped this week. What’s the most heartfelt moment you’re looking forward to fans seeing as you perform

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Gorham’s Holmes starts college season in perfect fashion

Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes made all 13 of her shot attempts in a season-opening win over Eastern Kentucky last week for a career-high 26 points. Holmes also had eight rebounds, seven blocked shots and two steals in just 21 minutes. Missy Minear photo/Indiana University athletics

As a freshman last year at Indiana University, Mackenzie Holmes set a school record by hitting 63.4 percent of her shots for the women’s basketball team.

She apparently wants to break that record again.

Mackenzie Holmes

Holmes, the former Gorham High star, made all 13 of her shot attempts in Indiana’s season-opening 100-51 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 25. The 6-foot-3 forward finished with a career-high 26 points in her third career start. She also had eight rebounds, seven blocked shots and two steals.

It was a command performance that may just be a preview of what’s to come.

Holmes spent the offseason working on her skills and remaking her body – she’s lost about 20 pounds since the start of her freshman year – to the point where she can now take a larger role for the 13th-ranked Hoosiers.

Indiana Coach Teri Moren is certainly high on Holmes, especially her work ethic.

“Mac has always been about the extra and that’s one of the things that we appreciate about her,” she said. “She’s going to continue to get better and you’re going to see her game grow into being one of the best, if not the best, low block post players in the Big Ten.”

Holmes takes such accolades in stride. She’s just happy to be playing, especially during a coronavirus pandemic that has made everything more challenging.

“We know every day together as team, especially in these times, is a great day” she said in a Zoom conference with reporters on Wednesday. “When we played last Wednesday, we all had a lot of fun being on the court together.”

Holmes has always had talent – she was the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Gorham and last year was named to the Big Ten all-freshman team after averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds – and a strong work ethic. And while at home in Maine during the spring, she decided to change her body.

“I feel like I had so much time in quarantine to think about everything and reflect over the past year and I decided it was something I needed to do for myself,” she said. “It wasn’t something that was super difficult … I watched what I was eating, put the right things in my body, and was working out. I gradually just lost weight.”

When she returned to Bloomington, Indiana, to resume classes and practices, Holmes contacted the team’s strength coach (Kevin Konopasek) and nutritionist (Isaac Hicks) and set up a plan to continue becoming more fit. Konapasek gave her exercises designed to help her basketball skills; Hicks set up a meal plan.

Holmes no longer eats processed foods and limits her intake of pasta

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L&C holiday decor goes up thanks to Godfrey Women’s Club

GODFREY — Lewis and Clark Community College staff this week decorated the Harriet Newell Haskell Memorial Entrance and campus wall along Godfrey Road with evergreen garlands, bows and special lighting, thanks to the generosity of the Godfrey Women’s Club.

The L&C Horticulture staff led the decorating effort. The decorations were funded by a donation from the Godfrey Women’s Club.

“For decades the Godfrey Women’s Club, whose president is Kathy Steinmann, has brought the spirit of the season alive through holiday decorations on L&C’s campus,” said Lewis and Clark Community College Foundation Director of Development Debby Edelman, who helps plan the project with the club. “At the heart of the club’s mission is beautification, and they achieve that in spades through the pine roping on the campus wall. It’s an honor to be part of this meaningful gift to the community.”

The 50-plus member Women’s Club also maintains an L&C scholarship fund. The group raises money throughout the year with various campaigns, including the popular Christmas Carousel arts and crafts fair. That event was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about the Godfrey Women’s Club, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Godfrey-Womens-Club-101730551293734.


The college and foundation also celebrated Giving Tuesday on Dec. 1, kicking off a fundraising campaign to start the holiday season. To learn more about the L&C Foundation, or to give a gift in support of the college, visit www.lc.edu/foundation.

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Caption: L&C Gardener/Landscaper Katie Piper and L&C Horticulture Manager Ethan Braasch (background) hang evergreen holiday décor along the campus wall on Godfrey Road, Tuesday, Dec. 1. The Godfrey Women’s Club donated money to purchase the decorations. The display provides a warming scene to those passing by. Photo by Nathan Woodside, L&C Media Services

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