Solo Brands acquires Terra Flame, Shein raises $2B
Dealboard has the latest M&A and funding news from eBay, Emotive.io and more.
Photo by Reed Naliboff on Unsplash
Dealboard has the latest M&A and funding news from eBay, Emotive.io and more.
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, the owner of Solo Stove is adding more indoor warmth, and eBay acquired a digital authentication platform. Plus, investors provided new funding for fast fashion marketplace Shein and a MultiVersal AI startup.
Check out the latest deals:
Solo Brands acquired Terra Flame, which aims to “create warm, inviting and ambient spaces around clean burning flame.”
Terra Flame makes indoor fire products that include eco-friendly fireplace fuels and offers fire features to showcase flames. This will join a company that includes the popular Solo Stove and other products.
With the deal, Terra Flame’s team will join Solo, and CEO Lenny Vainberg will become the general manager of Terra Flame.
“We are pleased to welcome TerraFlame to the Solo Brands family and thankful to Gerald Berger, Oleg Berger and Lenny Vainberg for choosing us as the right long-term partner for them,” said John Merris, CEO of Solo Brands, in a statement. “This strategic acquisition complements our brands, and, alongside Solo Stove, allows us to offer our customers the fire burning experience outdoors, and with the addition of TerraFlame, we’re thrilled to bring the fire inside. We hope to leverage our direct-to-consumer and wholesale expertise to support TerraFlame’s growth while also leaning into TerraFlame’s shared passion for product innovation and incredible products to elevate the Solo Brands customer experience.”
Solo Brands is adding to a growing roster that also includes Chubbies, Oru Kayak and ISLE.
Terms of the latest deal were not disclosed.
Shein, the fashion marketplace, raised $2 billion in a new round, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The financing was co-led by Sequoia Capital, General Atlantic and the U.A.E. sovereign-wealth fund Mubadala.
With this round, Shein’s valuation was cut to $66 billion, which was about one-third lower than its previous valuation, WSJ reported. However, it could leave room for the company to raise its valuation in an IPO, though no such offering is planned at this time.
eBay will acquire Centrilogo, a provider of digital IDs and authentication for apparel and fashion. Centrilogo’s platform allows brands to offer consumers a way to confirm authenticity, access reliable information about products, and activate circular services.
"For many years, consumers have turned to eBay as a trusted destination for buying and selling pre-loved apparel and fashion goods, not only because of the unmatched selection, but because of our commitment to utilizing the latest technology to empower our sellers and buyers," said Charis Marquez, VP, eBay, in a statement. "Certilogo's technology and talented team allows eBay to build on this commitment, establishing eBay as a leader in pre-loved fashion, and offering new ways for consumers to connect and engage with brands."
Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter, were not disclosed.
Emotive.io, a growth platform for ecommerce brands, acquired Bloom Digital, a marketing agency specializing in SMS marketing, email marketing and paid advertising.
With the deal, Emotive.io will launch Emotive Attribution, a product that helps brands optimize marketing spend through use of a first-party pixel. It is also introducing Emotive Services to extend expertise in SMS, email, and advertising revenue growth for ecommerce brands.
"We are thrilled to welcome Bloom Digital to Emotive and launch Emotive Attribution as part of our all-in-one growth platform for eCommerce brands," said Brian Zatulove, CEO of Emotive.io. "This strategic acquisition and product expansion will enable us to provide even more comprehensive and effective solutions for eCommerce merchants, helping them grow throughout the entire funnel."
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Ecommerce tech startup PRE secured $1 million in seed funding for a MultiVersal training system that’s designed for testing AI experiences.
The system is designed to create a “bias” toward particular groups of people in order to help brands and retailers determine optimal performance for their sites.
“A key request from our partnered brands has been for the ability to focus our AI on a particular demographic. With MultiVersal training, we can do precisely that,” said PRE Founder Parham Aarabi, in a statement. “We are creating bias to analyze the demographic variability of AI systems, enabling partners with an unprecedented capability for optimizing their e-commerce sites and apps.”
The retailer's marketplace is expanding quickly.
When it comes to ecommerce growth, was the pandemic a blip or a new trendsetter?
As we move further from the height of COVID-related closures, it’s a question that will start to be answered through the lens of history.
So far, the narrative of ecommerce growth in the U.S. from 2019-2022 has gone like this: Ecommerce’s share of overall retail saw a huge spike at the height of the pandemic in 2020-21, when goods in general were in demand and online shopping was necessary to preserve health and safety. Experts looked out and saw a permanent exponential change in the penetration of ecommerce as a share of retail that would last beyond the pandemic. Then, in 2022, everyone went back to stores and the trendline came back to 2019 levels. Growth was no longer exponential. There was still growth, but it was not happening as fast as during the pandemic period.
With this in mind, it’s worth pointing out that 2023 is the first year that there likely won’t be a pandemic-influenced swing to influence ecommerce growth. It is also a year where demand has suffered challenges amid inflation and interest rate hikes.
So as we seek to determine the importance of ecommerce to overall retail, it’s worth it to continue taking a close look at what growth trends retailers are seeing now, whether ecommerce is remaining resilient amid consumer pullback and how retailers are preparing for the future.
The latest example arrived this week from Macy’s. It’s a fitting one for the times. Overall, Macy’s is seeing a slowdown as consumers pull back on discretionary purchases, with sales declining 7% in the first quarter versus the same quarter of 2022. Digital sales were down 8%.
Macy’s is particularly susceptible to the macroeconomic headwinds that many brands and retailers are facing, as spending among the middle-income consumers it counts as a primary customer base is particularly softening, said GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders.
But while ecommerce is slowing overall, the importance it gained to Macy’s business during the pandemic is remaining in place.
In 2019, ecommerce made up 25% of Macy’s revenue, CEO Jeff Gennette told analysts on the company’s earnings call. That jumped to a high of 44% in 2020. By 2022, digital reached 33% of sales after the pandemic boom. In the first quarter of 2023, it remained at 33%. So, while the trend line dipped after shoppers returned to stores, ecommerce share still settled in at a higher post-lockdown point than it was before the pandemic.
This came in a quarter in which traffic was “relatively good” across both online and in-store, Gennette said. It was “flattish” online, and slightly up in stores.
“We do expect that this is the reset year with the penetration between them,” Gennette said. “But we do expect more aggressive growth in digital in the future versus stores as we think about '24 and beyond. And that's going to be foisted by a lot of ideas and strategies.
Over the last year, the retailer has made investments in boosting ecommerce, even as shoppers returned to stores. In a bid to boost the assortment of goods available online, Macy’s launched a marketplace in September 2022 that welcomes goods from third-party sellers.
The marketplace had an “outstanding” first quarter, said Macy’s President Tony Spring, who is poised to succeed Gennette as CEO next year. Gross merchandise value increased over 50% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2022, while the average order value and units per order for marketplace customers was 50% above those not shopping at the marketplace.
Macy’s is continuing to build the marketplace even as it racks up sales. The retailer added 450 brands, ending the quarter with 950 brands.
This is helping to draw in new customers, as well as younger existing customers who are buying more items, resulting in increased basket size.
“We're very excited as to how marketplace is really attracting the Gen Z customer, particularly in categories where it was not economically feasible for us to carry in the past,” Gennette said.
In the end, Gennette said a strong digital and social presence is key to attracting younger consumers. That's a different type of shopper than other age groups.
“We know the younger customer starts first online,” Gennette said. That behavior will still be in place as the generation gets older, and gains more buying power in the process.
Going forward, Macy’s is seeking to expand the model to other retail banners in its portfolio. Bloomingdale’s will open a marketplace in the early fall.
The Macy’s ecommerce trajectory isn’t that different from the wider U.S. ecommerce narrative detailed above. With one quarter of 2023 data, there is evidence that ecommerce share settled out at a higher point after the pandemic than where it started before COVID arrived. There is flattening now, but the retailer is taking it not as a sign of a slowdown, or a signal to change course. Rather, it sees changing consumer behavior as a reason to build for the future.