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Welcome to Dealboard. In this weekly feature, The Current is providing a look at the mergers, acquisitions and venture capital deals making waves in the ecommerce and consumer goods landscape.
Before we get to this week’s funding and M&A news, we’ve got one update that doesn’t appear to involve investment or change of ownership, but is nonetheless intriguing.
Shopify is partnering with alcohol ecommerce company DRINKS to provide the wine industry with tools to make online selling easier. The companies are rolling out a regulatory system that will have real-time tax and compliance embedded within Shopify native checkout. Available to Shopify Plus merchants at launch, it’s designed to help wineries and retailers expand in DTC.
Count wine among the industries that is working to remove barriers to digital adoption.
Now, here’s all of this week’s dealflow in ecommerce. Drink up:
FedEx is growing its partnership with Berkshire Grey. (Courtesy photo)
- Customer experience startupGorgias raised $30 million in a Series C funding round. The financing was led by ed by Alex Bangash of Transpose Platform and Bram Sugarman of Shopify, with participation from Jason Lemkin of SaaStr, Rajeev Dham of Sapphire Ventures, CRV and Alven. With a focus on helping DTC businesses drive revenue with existing customers through, the company is serving 10,000 merchants, including Princess Polly, Steve Madden, Olipop and Marine Layer.
- Robots are going deeper into the supply chain at FedEx. The carrier has agreed to buy $200 million worth of supply chain robotics-focused goods and services from Berkshire Grey in exchange for 25 million shares of Berkshire Grey stock. The companies did not disclose the value of the stock, which vests incrementally as FedEx buys services before the end of 2025. Extending a partnership that began in 2021, Berkshire Grey will help FedEx "improve the safety and efficiency of FedEx package handling operations globally," the companies said.
- Clevertap, a Mountain View, California-based SaaS platform providing customer engagement and retention tools for digital consumer brands, raised $105 million in a Series D round. Global investment group CDPQcommitted $75 million and led the round. Participants included new investor IIFL Asset Management's tech fund and existing investors Tiger Global and Sequoia India. The deal comes after Clevertap acquired customer engagement platform Leanplum in June.
- Social platform companyMeta made an investment in Take App, a startup that helps businesses set up an ecommerce website, and tools to sell directly within WhatsApp. Based in Singapore, Take App was founded by former Facebook engineering manager Youmin Kim, according to Techcrunch. YCombinator and angels joined Meta in the $1 million round.
- Tech-enabled furniture company Oliver Space raised $36 million in new funding. The round was led by Union Grove Venture Partners, with participation from Mayfield Fund, USVP, Expa Capital, Abstract Ventures, LG Technology Ventures and Avenue Capital Group. Oliver Space boasts a “fully circular shopping experience,” which offers new and refurbished furniture, trade-ins and pickup.
- Smart grocery cart startup Shopic announced a $35 million Series B investment. The round was led by Qualcomm Ventures, and included participation from Vintage Investment Partners and Clal Insurance, alongside existing investors Tal Ventures, IBI Tech Fund, Claridge Israel, and Shufersal. Founded in 2014, New York-based Shopic makes an AI clip-on for grocery carts that identifies items when they are placed in a cart, and displays information about promotions and discounts.
- ReturnLogic, a Philadelphia-based SaaS platform offering returns management, raised $8.5 million in a Series A round that will help the company expand to additional markets beyond Shopify. The round was led by Mercury, with participation from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund, White Rose Ventures and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Mergers and acquisitions
A Blue Nile showroom. (Courtesy photo)
- Zales' owner put a ring on it. Signet Jewelers acquired Blue Nile, an ecommerce retailer specializing in engagement rings and other jewelry. The all-cash deal was valued at $360 million. Blue Nile, which had earlier this year announced plans to return to the public markets, reported $500 million in revenue in 2021.
- Planet conscious clothing manufacturer ecologyst Outfittersacquired Frankie Collective, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based womens streetwear collective that upcycles vintage and unsold garments. The deal allows ecologyst to enter the resale market, which is expected to be valued at $53 billion by 2023.
- Shift Technologies, a platform for buying and selling used cars with a strong West Coast presence, plans to merge with CarLotz, a consignment-to-retail used vehicle marketplace with a Mid-Atlantic base. The stock-for-stock merger will create a combined company trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol SFT.
- Vera Bradley sold goodMRKT, a retail startup that offers a community-driven model for socially-conscious brands, to cofounder Harry Cunningham, WWD reported. goodMRKT’s assets include an ecommerce site and single retail location in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Going forward, Cunningham indicated he is working to expand the retail footprint.
- Private label manufacturer Treehouse Foods is selling a “significant” portion of its meal preparation business to European investment group Investindustrial in a deal valued at $950 million. In a bid to simplify its business, Treehouse is divesting the following categories: pasta, pourable and spoonable dressing, preserves, red sauces, syrup, dry blends and baking, dry dinners, pie filling, pita chips and other sauces.
Trending in Operations
Campbell Soup Company CEO Mark Clouse offered thoughts on messaging amid inflationary shifts in consumer behavior.
After months of elevated inflation and interest rate hikes that have the potential to cool demand, consumers are showing more signs of shifting behavior.
It’s showing up in retail sales data, but there’s also evidence in the observations of the brands responsible for grocery store staples.
The latest example came this week from Campbell Soup Company. CEO Mark Clouse told analysts that the consumer continues to be “resilient” despite continued price increases on food, but found that “consumers are beginning to feel that pressure” as time goes on.
This shows up in the categories they are buying. Overall, Clouse said Campbell sees a shift toward shelf-stable items, and away from more expensive prepared foods.
There is also change in when they make purchases. People are buying more at the beginning of the month. That’s because they are stretching paychecks as long as possible.
These shifts change how the company is communicating with consumers.
Clouse said the changes in behavior are an opportunity to “focus on value within our messaging without necessarily having to chase pricing all the way down.”
“No question that it's important that we protect affordability and that we make that relevant in the categories that we're in," Clouse said. "But I also think there's a lot of ways to frame value in different ways, right?”
A meal cooked with condensed soup may be cheaper than picking up a frozen item or ordering out. Consumers just need a reminder. Even within Campbell’s own portfolio, the company can elevate brands that have more value now, even if they may not always get the limelight.
The open question is whether the shift in behavior will begin to show up in the results of the companies that have raised prices. Campbell’s overall net sales grew 5% for the quarter ended April 30, while gross profit margins held steady around 30%. But the category-level results were more uneven. U.S. soup sales declined 11%, though the company said that was owed to comparisons with the quarter when supply chains reopened a year ago and expressed confidence that the category is seeing a longer-term resurgence as more people cook at home following the pandemic. Snacks, which includes Goldfish and Pepperidge Farm, were up 12% And while net sales increased overall, the amount of products people are buying is declining. Volumes were down 7%.
These are trends happening across the grocery store. Campbell is continuing to compete. It is leading with iconic brands, and a host of different ways to consume them. It is following that up with innovation that makes the products stand out. Then, it is driving home messaging that shows consumers how to fit the products into their lives, and even their tightening spending plans.
Campbell Soup is more than 150 years old, and has seen plenty of difficult economic environments. It is also a different business today, and will continue to evolve. At the end of the day, continued execution is what’s required.
“If it's good food, people are going to buy it, especially if it's a great value,” Clouse said.