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This week, Walmart offloads another digitally native brand, ABG is adding a new retailer and Hershey is bringing on a pair of popcorn manufacturing facilities. Plus, there’s new funding for composable checkout and an American super app.
Check out the latest deals:
Walmart sells plus-size brand Eloquii to FullBeauty
For the second time in as many weeks, Walmart is selling a digitally native brand it acquired in the last decade to boost ecommerce.
On Friday, the retailer announced that FullBeauty Brands will acquire the plus-size brand Eloquii.
With the deal, Eloquii will become an anchor tenant in a new digital mall from FullBeauty Brands, which has a universal cart that allows shoppers to check out from any of the retailers in the mall. The brand will help FullBeauty expand its presence in the $81 billion U.S. women's plus-sized sector.
Walmart acquired Eloquii for $100 million in 2018, as it sought to grow a stable of digital brands under then-ecommerce chief Marc Lore. The sale of Bonobos, Moosejaw and now Eloquii this year underscores that Walmart is now pursuing a different ecommerce strategy centered on a marketplace, as opposed to owning a series of retailers. As we wrote after a similar deal to sell Bonobos was announced last week:
Like Amazon before it, Walmart found that the key to ecommerce growth was not owning a portfolio of omnichannel labels like Bonobos, but building out services that could power new and high-growth digital businesses.
The brands, each with their own sites and stores, were not the engine of growth; rather, it was the infrastructure that merchandised and delivered items from Walmart's digital shelf.
While terms of the deal that would indicate whether Walmart sold off the retailer at a price below acquisition, the world’s largest retailer seems to clearly be in sale mode. The Eloquii deal is one more piece of evidence indicating that Walmart doesn’t want to be a house of brands. Don’t expect it to be the last.
Authentic Brands Group enters a deal with Vince
Authentic Brands Group is adding a new name to its portfolio.
The parent of Aéropostale and Nautica, entered into a deal that will see it acquire 75% of a holding company that oversees the retailer Vince. Under the deal, Vince will contribute intellectual property to a new holding company called ABG Vince for $76.5 million in cash and a 25% membership interest in the new company. Vince will also enter into a long-term licensing agreement with Vince.
“We are pleased to enter into this transformative partnership with Authentic which will provide us the necessary capital to strengthen our balance sheet allowing for opportunities to enhance our focus on driving margin expansion, and focusing on our strategic growth initiatives including leveraging our enhanced e-commerce capabilities and CDP platform, expanding our international presence, growing our Men’s business and selectively opening new retail doors in the U.S.,” said Jack Schwefel, CEO of VNCE, in a statement. “Through this strategic partnership we will also benefit from leveraging Authentic’s expertise and Lifestyle and Entertainment platforms, which provide opportunities to grow the Vince brand into adjacent categories and territories.”
Hershey acquires popcorn manufacturing plants
The Hershey Company has a deal in place to acquire two facilities from Weaver Popcorn Manufacturing.
The plants, located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Whitestown, Indiana, will help to bolster production capabilities for SkinnyPop, which Hershey acquired for $1.6 billion in 2017 to expand in the salty snacks category. Adding the new locations plants will create more “flexibility, agility and resiliency” for brands across Hershey’s salty snacks portfolio, which has grown rapidly through SkinnyPop and additional acquisitions like Pretzels Inc.
Ninety-year-old, family-owned Weaver is already a co-manufacturer for SkinnyPop. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Rally raises $12M for checkout platform
Rally, a composable checkout platform for ecommerce merchants, raised $12 million in a Series A funding round.
The financing was led by March Capital, with participation from Felix Capital, Commerce Ventures, Afore Capital, Alumni Ventures and Kraken Ventures. With the deal, March Capital Partner Hyun Koo will join Rally’s board.
Launched in 2020 by Carthook founders Jordan Gal and Rok Knez, Rally said its platform allows merchants to offer one-click checkout that is “bespoke,” so merchants can choose what works best for their teams.
Super.com raise $85M for savings super app
Super.com, a super app built around providing savings to customers, closed a Series C funding round at $85 million.
The financing was led by Inovia Capital. New investors include Shopify President Harley Finkelstein, Ancestry.com CEO Deb Liu, former Slack CFO Allen Shim, former CFO of Slack, Golden State Warriors CFO Josh Proctor, Substack CEO Chris Best, Confluent CTO Neha Narkhede, CTO MyFitnessPal cofounder Mike Lee, co-founder of MyFitnessPal, Hyphen Capital, EDC and Plaza Ventures. Along with Inovia, existing investors include Telstra Ventures, Acrew, Lion Capital, Full In Partners and NBA superstar Steph Curry.
The new round comes months after Super.com rebranded from Snapcommerce and launched SuperCash, a cashback card that offers savings across shopping and travel, as well as opportunities to build credit. Drawing inspiration from super apps used internationally, the company calls it “an all-in-one savings super app for everyday Americans.”
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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.