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Two ecommerce agencies are merging to provide brands with services “from click to ship."
Omnichannel digital commerce agency Blue Wheel is merging with ecommerce marketplace agency Retail Bloom to create a joint venture with $1 billion in ecommerce revenue under management across all clients.
The combined company will be known as Blue Wheel, with Blue Wheel’s Eitan Reshef serving as CEO, and former Retail Bloom CEO Tom Sesti serving as president.
The merger is being conducted with financial backing from Longshore Capital Partners, which is a Chicago-based private equity group. Terms were not disclosed.
The leaders said the merger brings together two companies with complementary expertise.
Founded in 2011, Blue Wheel focused on the front-end marketing and demand generation, including organic social media, SEO, content creation, email and SMS. It also has a paid media practice, and a tech platform built in-house for Amazon reporting and analytics called Companion.
Retail Bloom was founded in 2015, with a focus on helping medium-sized and enterprise brands on marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart and eBay. It provides services such as content optimization, advertising account support, brand strategy and operations such as logistics and inventory replenishment.
Together, the company will seek to serve emerging and established brands. While taking an industry agnostic approach, the agencies have a strong existing practice in beauty, health and wellness, as well as a sizable customer base in apparel.
The companies have gotten to know each other well over the years, and believe they can come together to create a new kind of offering that is built for the current market.
Following the growth of ecommerce over the last three years, the agency leaders see an opportunity to offer a holistic set of services under one banner. At the onset of the pandemic, brands that grew up with in-person retail had to quickly build ecommerce capabilities when online shopping spiked, and it left them working with a wide variety of vendors for various types of services, ranging from email and SMS marketing agencies to third-party logistics services. Agencies can also vary by channel. Amazon has one set of agencies, while DTC has another. Blue Wheel and Retail Bloom saw an opportunity to introduce an offering that ensures these services are not siloed, and connects them with one strategy.
“We've felt that there has been a gap in the industry when it comes to agencies who can truly strategize and execute across a brand's entire ecommerce journey,” Reshef said. “This would include both what we've historically done on the front-end marketing and advertising side, and the back-end management and operational side, which is traditionally Retail Bloom’s skillset...We felt that by centralizing our strategy, and ultimately being able to advise and execute across the entire landscape, we could build a unique service offering and platform that would help our customers succeed.”
Familiarity was another factor. The companies have long known each other, and Reshef and Sesti worked together in a past venture. They also both have Detroit roots, with about two-thirds of the team currently based in that metro area. Going forward, they will continue to hire in the Detroit area, as well as maintain a creative studio and satellite outpost in New York and a team across 15 states.
Discussions about combining progressed over the last two years, and the agencies felt the timing was right given where the market is heading, and the ability to stand out in the competitive landscape.
Entering 2023, the macroeconomic environment is different than it was in 2020. High inflation and rising interest rates are colliding to create more pullback among consumers. As a result, brands will be looking to create cost efficiencies, Reshef said. They’re already seeing signals in the market that brands are seeking more a unified approach from new business that was generated together.
“If we can serve as that single point of contact, and we can advise and execute across all of these different channels, that's essentially a defensible moat that we've created around our business,” Reshef said. “They get the best of both worlds. They get all of the expertise in the world that they need to execute, and all under one roof.”
Trending in Operations
Dealboard has the latest funding and M&A news from Campbell Soup, FTD and Asos.
This week, Ariana Grande’s beauty brand gets new investment, while Campbell Soup and Qurate Retail are divesting well-known brands. On the software front, there’s new investment for CPG competitive intelligence and automated savings.
Here are the latest deals:
Ariana Grande’s r.e.m. beauty announces new investment
r.e.m. beauty, the viral brand founded by singer Ariana Grande, raised new funds through a strategic investment deal.
The financing was led by Sandbridge Capital, with participation from Strand Equity, HYBE America, Live Nation Entertainment and Universal Music Group.
Founded in 2021, r.e.m. beauty recently appointed Michelle Shigemasa as CEO. The deal comes after Grande took the brand independent following the bankruptcy of previous licensee Forma Brands.
"r.e.m. beauty has earned the trust of the beauty community and consumers alike by creating an impressive best-in-class line of products inspired by Ariana's compelling mission driven brand vision," said Ken Suslow, Sandbridge Capital founder and managing partner, in a statement. "We are thrilled to come together with Ariana and her stellar r.e.m. team in support of the brand's strong growth trajectory through our global industry network and brand building expertise."
Checkmate raises $15M from a slate of celebrity investors
Checkmate, a mobile app providing automated savings for ecommerce, raised $15 million in a Series A round.
The financing was led by GV (Google Ventures), with new support from Mantis VC (The Chainsmokers), Common Metal, BDuck Capital, Black Angels Group and continued support from Wischoff Ventures, Fuel Capital, Blackbird Ventures, F7 Ventures, Night Capital & Scribble Ventures.
Angels supporting the round include Paris Hilton, Carter Reum of M13 Ventures, DST Global Partner Saurabh Gupta, Tim Kendall of Meta and Pinterest, Grindr and Yahoo vet Jeff Bonforte James & Geraldine Chin Moody of Sendle, Alex & Anthony Zaccaria of LinkTree, Trevor Neff of Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, and Arthur Levy & Michael Tannenbaum of Brex.
Checkmate said its app can find savings at over 40,000 stores. It does this by finding codes online, extracting codes from email and partnering with brands to create new codes.
Going forward, Checkmate wants to personalize the end-to-end shopping experience through new tools including package tracking and centralizing order updates.
Laced raises $12M for sneaker marketplace
Laced, a U.K.-based ecommerce platform for sneakers, raised $12 million in new funding, according to Footwear News.
Talis Capital led the Series A round, with participation from H&M Group Ventures, which is the investment arm of H&M Group. Participants also included BY Venture Partners and Truesight Ventures, as well as angel investors.
Founded in 2018 by Chris Gibbons, Laced provides a marketplace for buying and selling sought-after sneakers and luxury goods.
“We are thrilled to back Chris and the dedicated team behind Laced as they embark on the next stage of their journey,” said Nanna Andersen, head of new growth & ventures at H&M Group, in a statement. “In building an impressive online marketplace, they are not only providing consumers with a specially curated selection of in-demand sneakers, but also an important platform to extend the lifecycle of products. This investment is exactly the type of company and entrepreneur that we are delighted to support.”
Asos raises £75 million in equity
Fast fashion retailer Asos raised £75 million (or $93 million) as it pursues a turnaround effort, Bloomberg reported. The raise included participation from Danish fashion outfit Bestseller and US-based Camelot Capital Partners.
The move comes after Asos revealed losses of £290m for the six months ended in February. The new funds will help the company change its approach to buying and merchandising.
Prime Roots raises $30M for plant-based deli meats
Prime Roots, a maker of plant-based deli-style meats made from koji mycelium, raised $30 million in a Series B funding round.
The financing was led by True Ventures, Pangaea Ventures, Prosus Ventures, Top Tier Capital, Diamond Edge Ventures, SOSV/IndieBio, Solasta Ventures, Monde Nissin, Alumni Ventures, Gaingels, Meach Cove Capital, The House Fund, and Hyphen Capital.
Founded in 2017, Prime Roots applies fermentation and food science techniques to create a product that has the “identical microscopic texture of meat,” and adds an umami flavor from plants. The company will use the funding to scale to more deli counters and restaurants.
"People are asking for sustainable meat options that taste good, make them feel good and do good with less planet impact. Prime Roots delivers on all three: taste, nutrition, and sustainability," said Kimberlie Le, founder and CEO of Prime Roots, in a statement. "This new funding is a testament to the market opportunity for the next generation of plant-based meats that meet consumer expectations while forging into old world categories like deli with disruptive innovation."
Datasembly closes on $16M in Series B funding
Datasembly, a software company that provides competitive intelligence tools for CPG brands and retailers, secured $16 million in a Series B funding round.
The financing was led by Noro-Moseley Partners, with participation from Grotech Ventures, Topmark Partners and Staley Capital.
Datasembly provides real-time product pricing, promotions and assortment data for brands and retailers. The company recently launched a product matching service that aims to help brands and retailers keep product matches up to date.
“Even through more complicated economic times, Datasembly has continued to grow and scale, underscoring the demand for our data and tools,” said cofounder and CEO Ben Reich, in a statement. “While the broader funding environment has cooled, Datasembly has still been attractive to new investors because of the value and differentiated offerings we bring to the marketplace that are unavailable elsewhere.”
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
Flagstone Foods acquires Emerald Nuts from Campbell Soup
Flagstone Foods, a manufacturer of private label snack nuts and trail mixes, announced that it acquired snack nut brand Emerald Nuts from the Campbell Soup Company.
Emerald Nuts makes grab-and-go packs of 100-calorie nuts and assorted glazed nut products.
It is set to join Flagstone, which has plants in Robersonville, North Carolina; El Paso, Texas; and Dothan, Alabama. Flagstone was acquired by Atlas Holdings in 2019, hired CEO Harry Overly late last year as it moved toward expansion.
QVC parent sells mom-focused ecommerce platform Zulily
Qurate Retail Group has reached a deal to sell ecommerce platform Zulily to Regent, a Los Angeles-based investment firm with expertise in retail and apparel.
Zulily focuses on moms, with products including toys, clothes, shoes, home décor, baby, maternity, beauty and more. Qurate Retail is divesting the company as part of a wider strategy aimed at optimizing its brand portfolio.
Now, Zulily will join an investment group that has also backed Club Monaco, DIM Paris, La Senza, Escada and DiamondBack.
“We are confident Regent is the right partner for Zulily to continue serving its customers, while benefiting from Regent’s depth of operational and strategic expertise in the retail and apparel sectors,” said David Rawlinson, president and CEO of Qurate Retail, in a statement. “We are in the midst of a turnaround at Qurate Retail. This divestiture will allow our management team to better focus on our core video commerce assets, QVC and HSN, and the Cornerstone Brands, while preserving liquidity to further strengthen our balance sheet.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
From You Flowers merges with FTD
M&A news from the flower world: Ecommerce platform From You Flowers and florist network FTD are merging with the goal of creating a new global platform in floral and gifting.
With the deal, From You Flowers CEO Michael Chapin will become CEO of the combined companies.
"We are bringing together two businesses with a shared vision to deliver exceptional service to our florist members and consumers," said Chapin. "The merger will enable From You Flowers' best-in-class ecommerce operation to accelerate the growth of FTD's already impressive floral distribution network," said Chapin.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.