The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Retail real estate
Leap, a platform built to help digitally native brands expand into physical spaces, is expanding its store network into five new markets: Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Greenwich, Conn.; Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
It currently has stores in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Southern Florida, Dallas and Austin in Texas, Scottsdale, Ariz., and San Francisco.
The company used its own analysis based on millions of data points across brands, products and omnichannel shopper insights, alongside local real estate, to select the locations, according to Leap co-founder and co-CEO Amish Tolia.
Today, Leap has more than 20 million shoppers in its database and operates 55 retail stores for dozens of brands, including Goodlife, Mack Weldon, Naadam, Something Navy and ThirdLove, with new stores launching for Frankies Bikinis, Globe-Trotter and more in the coming weeks.
By deploying stores near one another, often on the same block as it has on Bleecker St. in New York City and Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, Calif., Leap wants to create local and national economies of scale by enabling brands to connect with shoppers more quickly and improve sales performance. Additionally, by signing leases directly with landlords, Leap aims to mitigate risk to brands and landlords alike.
“We’re eager to build upon our success in retail this year and enter some of these new markets with Leap,” said Heidi Zak, co-founder and CEO of ThirdLove. “By leveraging the Leap Platform we’re able to acquire more customers and grow our brand across the country, with built-in efficiency from day one.”
In addition to working with modern brands, Leap works with retail landlords, brokers and developers to lease store locations at neighborhood storefronts, high-performing malls and lifestyle shopping centers. It recently raised $50 million to build out its store network.
In 2021, Leap said it quadrupled its store fleet and total system sales, with more than 30 brands using its platform. Brand clients construct customized stores with a sales team provided by Leap. Ideal store locations, operations and merchandising are determined by leveraging Leap’s millions of data points and proprietary algorithms.
Retail task management
Francesca’s is deploying digital workplace solution Yoobic One to streamline operations, improve employee experience, and unlock new efficiencies across its network of 470 stores.
The platform aims to give Francesca’s 3,000 frontline employees new two-way communication, learning, and productivity optimization tools, while providing local, district, and regional managers with AI-powered business intelligence and visibility into all aspects of the company’s store performance.
The move builds on Francesca’s post-pandemic pivot into omnichannel sales, with an increased DTC presence and a mobile app launch. In using Yoobic One’s mobile-first solution, the retailer seeks to better engage, support and motivate frontline employees to maximize efficiency and create more value, using automation to handle simple or repetitive tasks, and enabling real-time learning, collaboration and communication to find creative, on-brand solutions to more complex problems.
“At Francesca’s, we strive every day to celebrate and connect with guests authentically, and to use fashion to build meaningful local relationships—and with Yoobic One, we’re giving our frontline teams the tools to do just that,” said Chris Kaighn, Francesca’s senior vice president of boutiques, real estate and strategic partnerships. “We all know how complex it is to run a brick-and-mortar store. Investing in frontline teams is the key to delivering amazing experiences—and that starts with giving employees the resources they need to work smarter, share their ideas, and win over the hearts of our valued guests.”
Francesca’s managers can use Yoobic One to generate and share content, motivating teams by giving all employees access to up-to-date policies regarding everything from safety procedures to new products and in-store promotions. Managers also can benefit from Yoobic One’s business insights, with automated and real-time AI-powered intelligence into network-wide operational performance, and visibility into both big-picture trends and ground-level details.
As Francesca’s expands its network in coming months, Yoobic One will help the specialty apparel retailer scale its workforce and onboard talent, while seeking to maintain quality of service. The platform will also help managers bolster experiences in the company’s existing network of boutiques, in future partnerships with women- and minority-run small businesses, and with cruise ships and luxury hotels.
Lands’ End/Centric Software
Lands’ End has selected Centric Software’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution including 3D Enablement and Centric’s Visual Planning Board for product assortment optimization. The move was announced just three days after Allbirds chose Centric’s PLM platform.
In deploying Centric Software, the lifestyle brand is seeking to improve its end-to-end business processes across the enterprise, with the goal of improving transparency, communication, integration and the elimination of manually re-entering data into disparate systems.
Chieh Tsai, chief product officer of Lands’ End said, “Centric was the clear choice for all selection process participants, from both a process and a functional coverage aspect. We were also convinced by their innovations in the area of 3D enablement and the Visual Planning Board, which go well beyond traditional PLM solutions. Rounding out our decision for Centric were their references and reputation in the industry, as well as the experience of their consulting team.”
Tsai went on to say, “we anticipate seamless integration between PLM and connecting systems, automated and consistent data flows, standardized cross-team processes, clear communication and fully enabled process and system functionality across business models.” He also said the platform would help support the company’s sustainability goals.
Stratasys Ltd., a developer of polymer 3D printing solutions, released a 3D printer designed specifically for printing direct-to-textile. The Stratasys J850 TechStyle 3D printer, the company’s newest PolyJet printer, addresses the needs of design and fashion manufacturers, which include 3D printing for high-end, premium textiles and clothing, bags and accessories and footwear.
The 3D printing solutions provider is enabling designers and fashion brands to differentiate their manufacturing practices through the Stratasys 3DFashion solution which includes the J850 TechStyle 3D printer, workflow software and materials that support the individual needs of fashion manufacturers.
This solution enables fashion manufacturers to personalize and customize 3D-printed fabric pieces including limited editions and digital automation, while reducing time-to-market.
Lidewij Edelkoort, a fashion specialist and trend forecaster, said, “From decorative craft to creative engineering comes this hybrid machine from Stratasys, as an answer to a million prayers, allowing the ascension of embellishment for an inclusive following.”
To further extend the reach of the J850 TechStyle 3D printer, Stratasys has collaborated with a series of partners, including Italian design studio Dyloan and the D-house design lab in Milan.
The J850 TechStyle 3D printer is designed to print directly on a variety of fabrics and garments, including denim, cotton, polyester, linen and leather at volumes ranging from single pieces to the tens of thousands.
“I gravitate toward new technologies that afford me an opportunity to create something original,” said Karim Rashid, fashion designer and SSYS 2Y22 Reflection collection contributor. “With Stratasys 3D fashion printing technology, the possibilities are endless. Honestly, it provides a chance to experiment, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what is possible.”
A variety of materials are available for the J850 TechStyle 3D printer including Agilus30 CMY color materials for full-color, flexible printing and the Vero ContactFlex, a transparent coating that can be used to create a soft, silky feel. Stratasys VeroVivid resin material allows fashion houses and designers to print on textiles in over 600,000 unique colors, with multiple shore values, simulating different textures and finishes.
The upcoming SSYS 2Y22 collection reflects the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and the innovation and influences of this time on fashion and design. The collection will include new works by seven top design teams, such as high-end dresses and suits, daywear, lighting, luxury packaging, handbags, accessories and shoes. The J850 TechStyle 3D printer and the SSYS 2Y22 collection will be on display at Milan Design Week from June 6-12, 2022.
DoDo Group, a Czech B2B logistics technology platform provider, raised 60 million euros ($63.1 million) in Series B funding. The round was led by EC Investments and J&T Capital, alongside participation from Rockaway Capital.
The firm intends to use the funds to further develop its data-driven logistics platform and expand into new markets in Western and Southern Europe. The company provides logistics services across e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retail and fast food.
The company’s GAIA logistics platform is designed to provide advanced route planning, optimized use of vehicles in the fleet, and improved communication with end customers. The platform includes better demand forecasting and is designed to implement new logistics models that can make delivery even more sustainable, for example by concentrating shipments across individual business streams to micro-zones within cities.
Led by CEO Michal Menšík, DoDo’s logistics technology platform currently operates with approximately 2,000 couriers and 1,250 vehicles in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria. The company estimates that it delivers more than 5 million orders per year.
The funds comes as the company nearly doubled its annual revenue to close to 40 million euros ($42.1 million) with plans to double its sales again to more than 80 million euros ($84.2 million) in 2022.
Paccurate, a shipping and fulfillment optimization platform, has closed a $2.2 million seed round that is designed to support the company’s mission to reduce the costs and carbon impact of the e-commerce supply chain. The company’s platform is designed to optimize parcel packing and pallet stacking for shippers of all sizes.
This funding round will enable Paccurate to onboard major retailers and third-party logistics providers faster, and expand their suite of fulfillment optimization tools. The round was co-led by SpringTime Ventures and FirstMile Ventures, with Grand Ventures as the other major participant.
To help shippers reduce labor, material, and transportation costs, Paccurate provides a operation system with a lightweight API. As a replacement for legacy cartonization functionality, Paccurate incorporates dynamic transportation costs in its real-time packing decisions, with clients saving an average of 15 percent on shipping and reducing SCOPE-3 emissions 14 percent.
As parcel carriers have been struggling with capacity constraints since the pandemic began, forcing rate hikes and even halting shipment pickups from major retailers during peak season. Retailers have further seen margins erode as shipping rates skyrocketed since the end of 2020.
The funding comes after a series of milestones for Paccurate, including a record 2.7 million shipments optimized in March, and successful implementations at Hunter Douglas, Crate & Barrel and Dillard’s.
Oware, a Pakistan-based B2B warehousing and distribution startup, has raised $3.3 million in pre-seed funding. Co-founded in June 2021 by Maersk and Careem alumni Raza Kazmi and Adil Nisar, respectively, Oware is built to offer businesses scalable and tech-driven warehousing and distribution for B2B and retail through its connected fulfillment centers and third-party logistics providers.
Businesses can work with Oware to start operations from more locations to reach more customers, in an effort to bypass the operationally intense and complex logistics planning and capital investment processes that often restrict business growth.
As Oware scales operations to more geographies, its recent funding will further fuel product development and talent acquisition to innovate and simplify supply chains across Pakistan and beyond.
The round is backed by Silicon Valley investors including Flexport Fund and Ratio Ventures, along with global investors Seedstars International Ventures, The Osiris Group, Swiss Founders Fund, Reflect Ventures, +92 Ventures, Walled City Co. and other strategic angel investors.
A lack of warehouse flexibility and insights leads to overspending on warehousing and inventory, which results in expensive and late deliveries with poor visibility into operations, Kazmi said. Further, the shift in customer expectations and service requirements has caused immense pressure on the fulfillment and distribution industry, which Oware aims to tackle.
Oware continues to build momentum and is growing its customer base working with a mix of startups, manufacturers, traders, and retailers. The company says the clients are using Oware to affordably store inventory close to their customers, along with picking, packing, and shipping to give them a one-platform solution. These customers also get real-time visibility on stock levels and order statuses with visibility into the entire network.
Rapyuta Robotics, a developer of collaborative pick-assist robots such as the Rapyuta PA-AMR, or warehouse robots, and pioneers of Cloud Robotics, secured $51 million in Series C funding round led by Goldman Sachs to accelerate the expansion of robotics solutions and artificial intelligence technologies.
The company has raised $81 million in total and the new round will further the company’s growth. Rapyuta Robotics is focused on making robotics useful for all logistics applications, and providing support for the development, implementation and operation of robotics solutions.
Funds raised will help expand the development of the Rapyuta PA-AMR picking assist robot, as well as invest in partner training, research and development, and increased awareness of autonomous mobile robots and their usage in the logistics industry.
Logistics companies that have introduced Rapyuta’s collaborative pick-assist solution have seen a doubling of productivity in their operations within five months. In Japan, where Rapyuta Robotics has the largest market share, automation solutions in logistics address the pervasive problems of an aging population, low birth rate and chronic labor shortage. Rapyuta’s next-generation cloud robotics platform, rapyuta.io, utilizes the world’s most advanced control and artificial intelligence technologies to improve the efficiency and safety of warehouse operations, enable multiple robots to work harmoniously together, and create a seamless, and remote-controlled, robot ecosystem.
Rapyuta Robotics also plans to hire more talent.