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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, eBay invests in a fashion rental marketplace, Tempur Sealy makes a vertical move with the acquisition of Mattress Firm and the assets of Birchbox are scooped up by a subscription specialist. Plus, there’s new funding for an ecommerce finance platform and sustainable fibers.
Check out the latest deals:
8fig raises $140M Series B for ecommerce finance
8fig, which provides AI-powered CFO technology to ecommerce sellers, raised $140 million in a Series B round.
The financing was led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), with participation from existing investors Battery Ventures, Localglobe, Hetz Ventures, the Jesselson family, and Silicon Valley Bank, now operating as a division of First Citizens Bank.
In a blog post, 8fig said it will use the funding to invest in small and medium-sized ecommerce businesses, and add new features to its platform. The company’s technology provides funding, as well as financial tools for supply chain management, financial planning and logistics.
“The global macroeconomic challenges we are experiencing make it difficult for ecommerce business owners to access the resources they need to succeed,” said Yaron Shapira, CEO of 8fig, in a statement. “8fig is providing these online sellers with the financial support and tools necessary to thrive in any economic climate.”
To date, 8fig has provided ecommerce sellers with over $500 million, and increased annual revenue in 2022 by 800%.
eBay invests in dress sharing platform
Australia-based dress sharing platform The Volte closed a Series A financing round led by eBay Ventures, the VC arm of ecommerce marketplace eBay. The round closed at approximately $4 million AUD, according to the companies.
The Volte offers a designer fashion marketplace that allows users to rent items from their own wardrobes. It now has 70,000 dresses listed, and 300,000 monthly active users. Through an integration introduced last year, The Volte offers users a way to instantly list newly-purchased items for rental. In turn, designers can earn royalties when their items are rented.
Alongside the investment, eBay is entering a commercial partnership with The Volte that will make the items available through the marketplace.
Werewool raises $3.7M
Werewool, a brand that makes sustainable performance fibers, raised $3.7 million in seed funding.
The round was led by Material Impact and Sofinnova Partners.
The company will use the funding to develop its first product, which are protein fibers that can be spun into yarns.
Taking aim at microplastic pollution in the textile industry, Werewool is setting out to create fibers that can replace the need for petroleum-based raw materials, synthetic dyes and toxic finishing processes. The technology is co-patented between the Fashion Institute of Technology and Columbia University.
Werewool will also be expanding manufacturing capabilities, and growing the team.
Birchbox assets acquired by Retention Brands
Birchbox was acquired by FemTec Health in 2021 for about $45 million. At the time, FemTec signaled that it wanted to shift the business toward personalized health and wellness.
But earlier this year, FemTec said it engaged a consulting firm as it sought to sell “some of its non-core and underperforming assets.” Retention Brands, which acquires and invests in ecommerce businesses including subscription services, emerged as the winner of an open bidding process for the Birchbox assets.
This came after the Birchbox website was disabled, and customers complained of unfilled orders, Retail Dive reported in March.
Remaining assets of FemTec Health were acquired by Awesome Health. These include Mira AI, Liquid Grids, Nutrimedy, Awesome Woman and AvaScience-FMTC GmbH.
Tempur Sealy acquires Mattress Firm
The vertical deal will give Tempur Sealy a network that now includes 3,000 retail stores, 30 ecommerce platforms, about 70 manufacturing facilities and four R&D facilities. Mattress Firm has 2,300 brick-and-mortar locations, as well as 6,200 retail sales associates.
Along with growing customer touchpoints, the deal will also expand Tempur Sealy’s U.S. omnichannel strategy, and bring more efficiency to both the customer purchase journey and supply chain.
The acquisition comes at a time when direct-to-consumer mattress brands such as Purple and Casper are making moves to expand in brick-and-mortar retail, both through wholesale and owned stores. Meanwhile, the home market is seeing more competition from specialty ecommerce marketplaces such as Wayfair, and category growth from mass retailers like Walmart, Target and Costco.
“Consistent with our M&A strategy, this acquisition will make Tempur Sealy more competitive by bringing us closer to consumers and facilitating continued innovation,” said Tempur Sealy CEO Scott Thompson, in a statement.
Lolë acquires womenswear brand
Apparel brand Lolë acquired époque évolution, a female-founded womenswear brand specializing in everyday essentials.
With the deal, époque évolution will join the Lolë family of products, which also includes athleisure, activewear and outerwear. The brands share a commitment to sustainability, as well as creating chic-yet-versatile designs.
Going forward, époque évolution products will be available at Lolë retail locations. The brands have plans to expand across North America and Europe through ecommerce and boutique retailers.
Trending in Retail Channels
Labor disputes on the West Coast could cause further disruption heading into peak season.
When the first half of 2023 is complete, imports are expected to dip 22% below last year.
That’s according to new data from the Global Port Tracker, which is compiled monthly by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
The decline has been building over the entire year, as imports dipped in the winter. With the spring, volume started to rebound. In April, the major ports handled 1.78 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units. That was an increase of 9.6% from March. Still it was a decline of 21.3% year over year – reflecting the record cargo hauled in over the spike in consumer demand of 2021 and the inventory glut 2022.
In 2023, consumer spending is remaining resilient with in a strong job market, despite the collision of inflation and interest rates. The economy remains different from pre-pandemic days, but shipping volumes are beginning to once again resemble the time before COVID-19.
“Economists and shipping lines increasingly wonder why the decline in container import demand is so much at odds with continuous growth in consumer demand,” said Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett, in a statement. “Import container shipments have returned the pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019 and appear likely to stay there for a while.”
Retailers and logistics professionals alike are looking to the second half of the year for a potential upswing. Peak shipping season occurs in the summer, which is in preparation for peak shopping season over the holidays.
Yet disruption could occur on the West Coast if labor issues can’t be settled. This week, ports from Los Angeles to Seattle reported closures and slowdowns as ongoing union disputes boil over, CNBC reported. NRF called on the Biden administration to intervene.
“Cargo volume is lower than last year but retailers are entering the busiest shipping season of the year bringing in holiday merchandise. The last thing retailers and other shippers need is ongoing disruption at the ports,” aid NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “If labor and management can’t reach agreement and operate smoothly and efficiently, retailers will have no choice but to continue to take their cargo to East Coast and Gulf Coast gateways. We continue to urge the administration to step in and help the parties reach an agreement and end the disruptions so operations can return to normal. We’ve had enough unavoidable supply chain issues the past two years. This is not the time for one that can be avoided.”