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Foundering Marketplace Spring Could Get New Life with ShopRunner Takeover

Is another acquisition brewing in fashion?

Recode first reported that Spring, the New York City startup with an app and website that have been likened to an online department store for millennials, could be acquired by ShopRunner, the membership company that gives e-commerce customers complimentary two-day shipping and no-charge returns, on top of other benefits.

ShopRunner is all about brands and retailers; the more in its stable, the more attractive its service is to anyone shopping online. It works with dozens of prominent retailers, from Cole Haan and Giorgio Armani to Kate Spade and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Featuring labels both high and low, including designers making their name alongside established fashion icons, Spring—founded in 2013 and named for Manhattan’s iconic shopping thoroughfare—counts more than 1,500 apparel, accessories, kids and home goods brands on its platform, which make it an attractive takeover target for 9-year-old ShopRunner. The Conshohocken, Pa.-based company has leveraged relationships with American Express and PayPal to encourage people to sign up for its delivery service.

Over three funding rounds, Spring raised more than $100 million from investors such as Thrive Capital and Groupe Arnault—the investment firm run by LVMH chief Bernard Arnault—though there’s little evidence to show it’s used those dollars to meaningfully disrupt e-commerce. Under co-founder and CEO Alan Tisch, who previously ran operations for Fab prior to its multi-million-dollar implosion around 2014, Spring’s model has shapeshifted considerably. It experimented with an Instagram-like layout and took a cue from “swipe right” fever to let customers purchase with a swipe rather than adding items to the standard online shopping cart. That decision to go cart-less, Money Inc. reported in 2016, was based on Tisch’s customer research around cart abandonment’s astonishingly high numbers. If you don’t have a cart, then how can you abandon it, the thinking likely went.

Today Spring’s app, only available for iOS, looks much like any typical shopping storefront, cart and all. A number of Glassdoor reviews paint a troubling picture of a startup in turmoil, noting Spring’s struggle to find a product market fit, uninspiring executive team, dearth of fashion savvy at the management level and challenges with retention and attrition. “Not sure where the product is heading, but recent focus on web seems to be contrary to the original idea of disrupting e-commerce via mobile,” a one-star reviewer wrote on Glassdoor.

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It’s entirely possible that this rumored acquisition, if it comes to fruition, could be a prime example of stronger together. Combining Spring’s brand partnerships with ShopRunner’s service-oriented membership offering could give fashion brands an experience more akin to what shoppers love about Amazon. What’s more, the alleged deal indicates the continuing power of the marketplace model, especially for fashion, as online bazaars like Asos and Farfetch stand out as success stories in digital retail.

Spring declined to comment for this story. ShopRunner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.