Walmart Inc. knows brick-and-mortar retail, but its mounting challenges in digital commerce are becoming glaringly evident as another dot-com executive is slated to leave the company early next year.
Bonobos founder Andy Dunn joined Walmart as senior vice president of digital consumer brands in 2017 when the Fortune 1 company acquired the men’s wear startup for $310 million. On Thursday, Dunn announced his departure on LinkedIn in a post titled “A Love Letter to Walmart” that praised the retailer’s singular focus on the customer and its obsession with “delivering a better life” for its core constituency.
“That motto is everywhere, written in four simple words: save money, live better. That mandate has expanded to saving the customer time,” Dunn wrote, noting the retailer’s unique opportunity in an omni-playing field where supercenters are the asset helping Walmart gain momentum with online grocery pickup.
“In our digital brands group, that led to development of a strategy built on omni, as we married our talent with the power of Walmart distribution to build brands like Allswell,” Dunn wrote. “With my departure, that incubator will now be plugged directly into the Walmart mothership.”
Dunn’s planned exit is the latest in a series of dot-com departures this year, all said to be connected to rumblings from this past summer that Walmart’s e-commerce operation could see a $1 billion loss in 2019.
In October, Jenny Fleiss left her post as CEO of JetBlack to take an advisory role to Janey Whiteside, Walmart’s chief customer officer. Fleiss joined the discounter from Rent the Runway, the apparel rental service that she co-founded. Launched in 2018, JetBlack provides a concierge service to upper-income customers that includes same-day delivery in urban centers. She was recruited by Marc Lore, Walmart’s e-commerce chief and the co-founder of Jet.com, which the discounter acquired in 2016 for $3.3 billion.
JetBlack is said to be losing money, and is believed to be having a hard time building out its client base. There were plans to expand quickly to Brooklyn following its Manhattan launch last year, but that never materialized. Now it appears that a sale of the unit might be on the table, bankers said, noting there’s nothing currently in the works. It wouldn’t be the first time that Walmart has re-thought its dot-com businesses, given the projected $1 billion loss. Earlier this year, it considered selling Bonobos, but then elected to hold onto the business. In October, Walmart offloaded the online vintage-themed millennial women’s apparel retailer Modcloth to Go Global Retail.
It isn’t immediately clear what Walmart’s plans are for other digitally native brands it has acquired in recent years: Moosejaw, Hayneedle, Bare Necessities and women’s plus-size apparel brand Eloquii.
Lore has had his own share of challenges at Jet.com. Jet president Simon Belsham stepped down in August, after startup’s operations and staff moved under the Walmart.com umbrella. But troubles for Jet.com actually began in 2018, when the relaunched website mostly targeting affluent urban millennials apparently failed to catch on with the targeted customer base.
Lore has been pushing Walmart to make more digital investments in the U.S. operation in the discounter’s quest to beat Amazon but the money-losing operations at Jet, JetBlack and the stable of digitally native brands have made his mission a tough sell.
Lore is also to have championed growing Walmart’s base of fulfillment centers, which at 20 considerably trails Amazon’s network of 100-plus locations. Whether Lore ultimately gets that wish remains to be seen. Former Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran opposed the idea, preferring instead the use of Walmart’s existing store base. But Foran left in October, succeeded by John Furner, who had headed up Walmart’s warehouse membership business Sam’s Club.