Walmart today doubled down on its efforts to continue building out a online retail fashion business. Today it announced that it would acquire Bonobos for $310 million in cash.
The deal follows several other acquisitions that the retail giant has made in the area of online fashion. They include Modcloth in March 2017, outdoor retailer Moosejaw for $51 million in February 2017, Hayneedle in March 2016, and Zappos-style shoe retailer ShoeBuy for $70 million from IAC. Many of these have been fuelled by its acquisition of Jet.com, which it acquired in 2016 for $3 billion.
Rumors had been circulating of the deal between Bonobos and Walmart for a while, and as predicted, this in part is a way to bring Andy Dunn, who had founded and was leading Bonobos, into a wider leadership role at Walmart running all of its fashion and related lifestyle operations, reporting to Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce (who joined with the Jet.com acquisition).
“We began Bonobos ten years ago to give men a completely different product and shopping experience: better fitting, higher quality clothing, in new and imaginative ways. That will always remain our mission,” Dunn, who will oversee Walmart’s collection of “digitally-native vertical brands,” said in a statement. “We are excited about applying all that we have learned to help shepherd in the next era of retail.”
Walmart, the world’s biggest physical retailer, has been looking for more ways to grow its e-commerce business in competition with Amazon, and it sees fashion and targeting younger users as a key part of that strategy.
Walmart said that in the last quarter its e-commerce sales were up 63 percent, with “the majority coming from organic growth in Walmart.com” — meaning it has yet to prove that its big acquisition play to buy into “digitally native” brands has or will pay off.
“We’re seeing momentum in the business as we expand our value proposition with customers and it’s incredible to see how fast we’re moving,” said Lore in a statement. “Adding innovators like Andy will continue to help us shape the future of Walmart, and the future of retail. I’m thrilled to welcome Andy and the entire Bonobos team. They’ve created an amazing product and customer experience, and that will not change. In fact, Andy will be a great influence on the company, especially in leading our collection of exclusive brands offered online.”
Bonobos had raised just under $128 million and had always said it had its sights set on an IPO. The fact that this deal happened, and that Bonobos hadn’t raised any more money in the last three years, speaks to how those plans may not have been materialising as it had hoped.
One of the big issues is that to win in e-commerce, you need economies of scale, and in that regard it may have proven to be too much of a challenge for the company. What’s interesting is that one of Bonobos’ specialties has been building a connection between online and offline shopping, which is something that Walmart may be interested in tapping.