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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 ecommerce, CPG and retail.
This week, GoFundMe’s former CEO makes a splash in the ecommerce ecosystem, Tropic Skincare’s founder returns to the sole owner’s chair and Sleep Country acquires Casper’s Canadian business. Plus, Nestlé invests in a nutrition brand, and Smalls closes new funding to keep innovating for cats.
Kite raises $200M to build commerce ecosystem
Kite was founded by Rob Solomon, the former CEO of GoFundMe and president of Groupon. The company plans to harness AI and APIs to build a technology stack in areas of commerce including manufacturing, supply chain, design and customer acquisition. A statement said the company will invest in and acquire "high-quality brands that help people invest in personal growth, nurture the people, pets, and places they cherish, and equip themselves for life's everyday adventures."
"Creating extreme efficiencies across a product's commerce journey is the path to unlocking its greatest potential. At Kite, we are reimagining how products are made, moved, stored, shipped, and sold—at scale," said Solomon, in a statement. "As we build upon the platform's suite of companies and products, the more insights we will glean on consumer preferences, buying behavior, and brand-customer engagement."
Staytuned raises $34M for DTC software tools
Staytuned, a software company that acquires and builds ecommerce apps with a focus on serving Shopify brands, raised $34 million in a round of equity financing.
Investors included TenOneTen, Rembrandt VC, Hawke Ventures, DragonX, FJ Labs, Interlace, Riverpark Ventures, Comma Capital, Kotti Capital, Alumni Ventures Group, Jason Finger and angel investors. The company also raised debt funding, led by Tacora Capital. To date, the company has raised $46.5 million.
Founded by Serge Kassardjian and Randy Jimenez, the company provides brands and merchants with a suite of software tools. In particular, it is aiming to help brands reduce time sifting through the Shopify app store as they seek the right fit for their needs.
“We hope to become the Salesforce suite for ecommerce stores—an end-to-end suite to scale a fast-growing brand seamlessly within the Shopify ecosystem and beyond, where brands want to grow their presence and revenue,” said Kassardjian, in a statement.
Smalls raises $19M to invest in cats
The financing was led by Companion Fund, with participation from Left Lane Capital, Valor Capital, General Mills venture arm 301 INC and Ohio State University’s endowment fund. Existing investor Founder Collective also joined.
Founded in 2017, Smalls said it makes “ultra-high protein, human-grade fresh food” for cats that aims to increase health and energy levels. With eight-figures in sales, the brand plans to invest only in new products for cats going forward. Felines are in 25% of U.S. households, yet have been underserved by a pet market that is expected to surpass $277 billion by 2030, according to Smalls.
“What set Smalls apart is their unwavering dedication to improving feline health and well-being,” said Cindy Cole, DVM and technical partner at Companion Fund, in a statement. “Cats are notoriously picky customers, but Smalls has cracked the code on creating fresh, minimally processed meal food plans that cats love, and we are excited to be part of their growth story.”
YFood receives investment from Nestlé
Founded in 2017 by Ben Kremer and Noël Bollmann, Germany-based YFood is seeking to expand internationally and open up new sales channels following the deal, but that won’t include the U.S. market in the immediate term.
Tropic Skincare founder Susie Ma is now sole owner
Tropic Skincare is once again a founder-owned company.
Susie Ma announced the buyout of a 50% stake owned by Lord Alan Sugar, allowing the businesswoman to retain sole ownership of the company.
Ma founded the company at the age of 15 in 2004, and Lord Sugar purchased the stake 12 years ago. Now, the brand has 400 products, employs 300 people and backs 20,000 brand ambassadors who sell the products on commission via their own businesses.
"Susie is a shining example of what it is to be a business owner today,” said Lord Sugar, in a statement. “Following the company's fantastic trajectory over the last few years, it's now the right time to part ways and allow Susie the space to take the company to new heights."
Fanatics acquires ecommerce partner to Italian football giants
Digital sports platform Fanatics acquired EPI, a Milan-based ecommerce partner to top Italian football clubs such as AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan. Fanatics will also acquire The Pitch Football Store, an omnichannel retailer focused on football.
The deal included agreement from a digital transformation-focused private equity fund of the Quadrivio Group. Terms were not disclosed.
Following the deal, EPI will be rebranded as Fanatics Italy. EPI provides ecommerce and physical store retail operations, as well as third-party logistics operations. The company will retail its 150-member team, led by CEO Lorenzo Forte.
“We share an entrepreneurial mindset, a passion for delighting sports fans and a love for innovating for sports teams and leagues, which makes for an exciting future together,” said Doug Mack, Fanatics Commerce CEO, in a statement. “By combining EPI’s local expertise and relationships in Italy with Fanatic’s leading-edge capabilities and global reach – we are excited to accelerate business for EPI’s current partners while further advancing our unrivaled offering for new global partners ahead.”
Casper’s Canada operations acquired for $20.6M
Omnichannel retailer Sleep Country will acquire the Canadian operations of digitally native mattress brand Casper.
Under the deal, Sleep Country will pay $20.6 million at close, and subsequently pay a $4.5 million marketing transition fee over the next four years. Sleep Country also invested $20 million in five-year convertible notes, which will have the option of converting into about 5% of Casper shares. It also received three-year warrants that convert into a stake of about 1%.
Canada was a scene of expansion in both ecommerce and physical retail over the last decade for Casper. The brand initially partnered with Sleep Country in 2021 to offer mattresses exclusively across 287 locations and online. Now, Sleep Country will take up the task of growing the brand in the country.
"We are thrilled to expand upon our retail journey by partnering up with one of North America's top sleep retailers," said Emilie Arel, CEO of Casper, in a statement. "Sleep Country has been a retail mattress legacy for almost 3 decades, and sharing best practices with this leading retailer only helps accelerate our expertise and rapid growth in the retail omnichannel space."
Shoe City files for bankruptcy after acquisition falls through
Shoe City, an apparel and sneaker retailer, filed for bankruptcy, As a result, the 74-year-old company will shut down 39 stores in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, as well as the online platform YCMC.
After facing financial struggles since 2020, Baltimore-based Shoe City had a deal in place last year to be acquired by the Arklyz Group, which is the parent company of The Athlete’s Foot. However, that deal never closed and the company was unable to regain profitability, according to a bankruptcy filing.
Bed Bath & Beyond launches vendor consignment program
Bed Bath & Beyond has a new agreement in place that will allow third-parties to purchase its merchandise from suppliers.
Under the deal, ReStore Capital will purchase up to $120 million of Bed Bath & Beyond merchandise from key suppliers on a revolving basis. This will supplement inventory already sold at Bed Bath & Beyond and buybuy BABY.
The agreement comes as Bed Bath & Beyond is in financial turmoil. In January, the retailer warned of a potential bankruptcy filing as a result of being low on cash to pay leases and suppliers. The company cited obtaining enough inventory to sell as a chief concern.
"We remain relentless in executing plans that can help us overcome near-term operational and financial challenges,” said CEO Sue Gove, in a statement. “Our new vendor consignment program enables us to increase our inventory position in top items that customers are buying and improve the customer experience. This capital-light solution can allow us to strengthen merchandise availability and better fulfill demand."
Trending in Retail Channels
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.