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Retail Tech: Leap Raises $50M, Anta Deploys Robotics, Brookfield Puts Klarna in 150 Malls, Hatco Taps Infor

The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.

Real estate

Leap

Leap raised a $50 million Series B after the platform helping modern brands expand into physical retail says it quadruped its store fleet and system sales last year.

“Modern brands require omnichannel solutions to connect with customers meaningfully and consistently across channels. Our platform enables brands to activate retail locations with speed and data-driven decisions which minimizes risk, upfront costs and lease liabilities,” Leap co-founding co-CEO Amish Tolia said. “It’s such an exciting time for retail. More than 500 brands have registered with us, and we have barely scratched the surface. This new capital will enable us to make significant investments into our technology for enabling omnichannel and to scale even more rapidly.”

In 2021 Leap helped brands such as Naadam, Something Navy, ThirdLove, Mack Weldon, Lunya, Birdies, Ring Concierge and more deploy stores in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Scottsdale, Florida, and Texas. It also expanded its category capabilities into from apparel and footwear to accessories, jewelry, intimates, and home goods.

“Our customers are our greatest asset,” said Heidi Zak, co-founder and CEO of ThirdLove. “By scaling our physical retail channel on Leap, we’re able to maintain our focus on designing and creating the best fitting under garments and activewear for our customers while Leap delivers a premier in-store experience that seamlessly connects with our website and shopping channels. We’re really excited to continue to grow our brand and better connect with our customers with the opening of our first four stores in California over the next few months and look forward to opening many more with Leap.”

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The round was led by BAM Elevate with participation from new and existing investors including Harbor Spring Capital, Northern Trust, Simon, Costanoa Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners and Equal Ventures. The new capital will be used to accelerate growth through investments in the company’s platform and store location network.

“Brands can now leverage Leap’s proprietary data, systems and scale to rapidly create or grow an omnichannel physical retail presence, which has never been more important. We’re excited to see so many world class brands choosing to deploy and scale on the LeapPlatform,” said JP Van Arsdale, BAM Elevate General Partner who has joined Leap’s Board of Directors. Ben O’Connor, Partner at BAM Elevate, added, “As brands look to overcome increasing costs in their supply chain and digital marketing channels, we believe Leap is uniquely positioned to transform the retail landscape.”

Brian Berger, founder and CEO of Mack Weldon, said, “Leap allows us to showcase the range of Mack Weldon products in a way that complements our digital experience. The in-store experience results in greater customer loyalty and insights.”

The Leap Platform enables brands to more rapidly deploy stores that work in concert with e-commerce and at significantly reduced cost and risk. Stores powered by Leap bring modern brands to life with immersive customer experiences and data-driven operations. Utilizing Leap’s platform, brands can deploy stores equipped with expert sales teams and omnichannel technology in a fraction of the time versus the conventional approach–doing it all in house. Ideal store locations, operations and merchandising are determined by leveraging Leap’s millions of data points and proprietary algorithms.

In addition to brands, Leap works with retail landlords, developers, and brokers to build high-performing retail markets, from local neighborhoods to shopping centers. By deploying stores in clusters Leap creates cost efficiencies and sales synergies, and mitigates risk for its brand customers and landlord partners.

Traceability

Orma

Online B2B fashion sourcing platform MakersValley has launched Orma, an online traceability and transparency marketing suite for B2C fashion brands. Orma is designed to allow apparel, footwear and accessories firms to use the stories of how and where their products were designed, sourced, made and modeled to market and sell products.

The launch comes amid the rise in demand for corporate transparency within fashion, with McKinsey & Co.’s 2022 State of Fashion Report noting that more than 40 percent of Gen Z customers seek out brands that have a solid reputation on sustainability.

MakersValley also quoted Remake’s 2021 Fashion Accountability Report, which revealed that while 60 percent of brands surveyed publicly disclosed their Tier 1 suppliers, only 5 percent revealed their full supply chains. The same report notes that despite having less market share, the small-to-medium sized companies scored an average of 28 points higher on transparency markers than their larger counterparts.

As a digitally based tool suite with on and off-screen capabilities, Orma can help fashion brands that prioritize transparency demonstrate their commitment in a way that’s both engaging and shoppable.

Orma can provide brands a tool suite to create and launch visual, dynamic, shoppable and shareable online fashion product stories, known as Product Experience pages. These pages can be used to communicate stories of how the garment and accessories products came to life using design sketches, factory insights, behind the scenes footage, and photos and videos that end customers can share on social media.

These pages are accented by a selection of plug-and-play features to illustrate product development-to-market timelines and interactive global supply chain maps, which can give customers a deep, yet still shoppable, look at their favorite fashion goods. These features can be helpful to small-to-medium sized fashion brands with little to no technology expertise.

Orma co-founder and CEO Alessio Iadicicco said users can click a link or scan a QR code to view extensive product information.

Robotics

Anta/Hai Robotics

Chinese sportswear giant Anta is teaming with Hai Robotics to collaborate on and launch a third warehouse automation endeavor following the success of two earlier projects.

The project launching in April in Anta’s new Foshan warehouse in China’s Guangdong province will be the third joint-project between the two companies. Hai Robotics’ warehouse automation expertise largely focuses on the footwear and apparel sectors.

Using Hai Robotics’ Autonomous Case-handling Robotic (ACR) system, the retailer’s nine-meter-high warehouse is expected to reach a much higher storage density, with daily throughput expected to reach 128,000 units.

As an official sponsor of the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Anta has seen an increase in merchandise sales, putting its warehouse logistics capabilities under increased pressure.

“Anta sees Hai Robotics as an important long-term partner, as we have shared ambition in smart warehousing,” Chen Jiancong, general manager of logistics of Anta Group, said at the group’s logistics partnership conference, held in its headquarters in Jinjiang, southeast China’s Fujian province, on Tuesday.

Richie Chen, founder and CEO of Hai Robotics, considers Anta as one of its top 10 global clients.

Hai Robotics, which was named a global AI unicorn by Hurun Research Institute and raised $200 million to close 2021, has dozens of ongoing projects for top footwear and apparel brands. At the conference, Anta awarded the firm as its best strategic supplier due to the efficiency of the ACR system.

The ACR system was first deployed in Anta’s warehouse in southwestern China’s Chengdu, Sichuan province, in April.

With 25 customized HaiPick robots picking and retrieving cases from shelves to continuously feed goods-to-person picking stations, storage density of the 5.7-meter-high warehouse increased significantly to offer up to 27,600 locations. It can handle up to 80,000 units in outbound orders per day, the company says.

The warehouse, which previously handled “tens of thousands” of SKUs at low picking accuracy, is now feeding the needs of 1,200 brick-and-mortar stores with a weekly outbound volume of 60,000 pieces.

RightHand Robotics

RightHand Robotics, a provider of data-driven, autonomous robotic picking solutions for order fulfillment, has secured $66 million in a Series C financing.

The round was led by top growth investors including technology venture fund Safar Partners, private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners L.P. and SoftBank Vision Fund 2.

RightHand Robotics intends to use the funds to accelerate product and business development, while scaling its global presence and partner network. The company will also expand its offices and invest in talent acquisition to support overall growth plans.

The firm offers a piece-picking solution, RightPick 3, with the aid of integration partners such as Element Logic, an AutoStore partner and European intra-logistics company; and Okamura, a Japanese provider of products and services for offices, education, commercial facilities and distribution centers.

The RightPick platform streamlines the supply chain processes of warehouses with its piece-picking robotic solution, which leverages AI software with intelligent grippers and machine vision.

The RightHand Robotics RightPick platform is designed to streamline the supply chain processes of warehouses with the piece-picking robotic solution, which leverages AI software with intelligent grippers and machine vision. The result is an integrator-ready solution built to empower operating teams and meet the evolving needs of today’s fulfillment industry.

Zebra Technologies, Epson and Global Brain also join this round, along with previous investors GV, F-Prime Capital, Menlo Ventures, Matrix Partners and Tony Fadell’s Future Shape. Previous rounds were led by Menlo Ventures and Playground Global.

Buy now, pay later

Brookfield/Klarna

Global real estate developer and operator Brookfield Properties has entered a multiyear partnership with Swedish fintech giant Klarna.

The collaboration will exclusively offer Klarna’s in-store alternative payment solutions and bring experiential marketing to Brookfield Properties’ nationwide portfolio of more than 150 U.S. shopping centers. The shopping center operator is planning activations, including out-of-home media, livestream shopping, augmented reality and more to support the launch.

“The way our customers shop changes constantly and it is our job to evolve with them. This is something Brookfield Properties does really well,” said Katie Kurtz, senior vice president of business development at Brookfield Properties. “This is a natural match for us and we look forward to offering Klarna’s services to our shopping center communities.”

Traffic patterns across Brookfield Properties’ portfolio of properties have returned to historical norms, the real estate investment trust said. The 2021 holiday season generated nearly 95 percent of 2019 traffic at Brookfield Properties shopping centers, compared to the national average of 78 percent of pre-pandemic traffic.

Klarna’s in-store services are accelerating rapidly, with nearly 80,000 physical retail stores globally, and live in-store with Klarna at participating Brookfield Properties tenants such as H&M, Ralph Lauren, Sephora and Abercrombie & Fitch.

With more than 100 million global active users and 2 million transactions per day on the platform, Klarna is active in 20 markets and has a valuation of $45.6 billion after raising $639 million in June 2021.

Order management

Deck Commerce

Deck Commerce, an order management system (OMS) for direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailers, is aiming to help footwear brands optimize their e-commerce operations in an era when many are deprioritizing wholesale.

The cloud-based platform is built to power omnichannel shopping experiences through inventory management, robust order orchestration and transaction processing. In particular, the solution can help footwear brands know what products are available from which channel and aid them in selecting efficient and cost-effective fulfillment options, all while providing the optimal customer experience.

With the platform’s expertise in footwear, retailers can bridge front-end and back-end system agnostics with 50+ pre-built integrations. This enables brands to swap, add or remove any tech as they grow.

Additionally, brands can use pre-built workflows for buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS), buy online, return to the store (BORIS) or ship-to-store; automate workflows for preorders and backorders; leverage smart routing workflows to improve drop shipping processes.

Potential benefits of the platform also include increased order sizes and customer lifetime value, as well as reduced friction in reverse logistics processes.

Secondhand fashion

Vinted

Vinted, a European secondhand consumer-to-consumer (C2C) fashion marketplace, has released an updated mobile app and online platform for U.S. consumers.

While the platform brings additional options to further enable consumers to trade pre-owned fashion and lifestyle items with each other, Vinted keeps its core features designed for members who seek to save money and make extra cash. Vinted facilitates access for buyers to lower priced and unique secondhand clothing, but also allows sellers to entirely keep what they earn from their pre-loved clothes, with no fee to list and sell.

As sellers, Vinted members can upload their pre-loved fashion items, define the price of their pre-owned clothes and keep what they earn from it. The new version of the app also introduces a new category: home décor items, as well as the Bump feature, which gives sellers the option to temporarily increase the visibility of their items for a small fee.

Members buying on Vinted via the Buy Now button are also provided with a buyer protection service for a fixed fee of  70 cents, plus 5 percent of the item’s price. They can then benefit from Vinted’s refund policy and customer support, along with an integrated encrypted payment system with secured payment methods and transactions.

“We’re thrilled to be taking our business to the next level in the U.S., enabling financially savvy people to benefit from secondhand fashion, either as buyers or sellers,” said Vinted’s CEO Thomas Plantenga in a statement. “After great success in Europe, we’re committed to empowering more people to shift their habits towards circular fashion. Releasing this new updated version of the app is another step forward in our mission to make second hand the first choice worldwide.”

Market research conducted on behalf of Vinted in collaboration with Dynata also found that almost half (49 percent) of the 566 U.S. women surveyed, say that they sell their pre-loved clothes to earn extra money. A similar proportion (50 percent) of the respondents, aged between 18-45 years old, say they can save money and spend less on clothing by buying second hand. One-third (34 percent) of those same consumers believe they can find unique items in a second-hand shopping experience.

Metaverse

Onlife

Onlife Inc., an experience platform that is designed to merge virtual worlds and physical goods, unveiled a Series A round of financing led by Galaxy Interactive and Amazon’s Alexa Fund. Terms of the round were not disclosed.

The funding is being used to support and expand the company’s first game, Aglet, a location-based gamified commerce experience in which sneaker aficionados can purchase and collect both virtual and real sneakers in-game by traversing cities around the globe. Initially launched in April 2019, Aglet is built to connect these sneakerheads with creators and brands through the virtual sneakers.

Aglet’s tentpole experience is geared to move users beyond simply collecting and wearing the latest gear. Onlife says Aglet’s marketplace will unveil its debut NFT collection “in the near future.”

Onlife’s ultimate mission is to power a more creative and playful world by harmonizing online and physical lives. In tapping into the metaverse, the firm aims to augment an average user’s daily life through the concept of play on a map of the world. In particular, Aglet is designed to allow users to explore, collect and create, while also empowering them to build, trade and grow together.

To date, Onlife Inc. has raised $24 million in funding with participation from other investors including Lakestar Ventures, Sapphire Sport and Forecast Ventures. The Series A financing will allow the company to focus on implementing a global team to enhance the gameplay experience and construct the underlying platform for convergent commerce. Other contributors to the round include JDS Media and Goal Ventures.

The company currently has 25 employees, but plans to scale the team within departments including partnerships, game design and development.

Site search

Searchspring

Searchspring, a site search, merchandising and personalization technology platform, has rolled out two strategic initiatives: discounted access to e-commerce technology for certified minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) and its own Ecommerce Accelerator program, which is now accepting applications.

Designed to support the growth of pre-revenue and early-stage e-commerce companies, the Searchspring Ecommerce Accelerator is built to empower brands with the technical capabilities required to become competitive in today’s market. The program focuses on driving improved online shopping experiences, which can deliver greater conversion, increased satisfaction and boosted customer lifetime value.

In being accepted into the Searchspring Ecommerce Accelerator, participating brands will enjoy the same robust search, category merchandising and personalization platform, at a fraction of the cost.

Each application for the Searchspring Ecommerce Accelerator is reviewed by the company’s executive team, who have more than 100 collective years in e-commerce management and technology experience.

The program includes discounted access to the search, merchandising and personalization platform for a period of 12 months, as well as white-glove implementation where startups get a dedicated onboarding specialist and account manager. Additionally, participants will take part in quarterly accelerator meet-ups focused on trending e-commerce topics, and access exclusive content and best practices via the Searchspring Academy.

Cloud 

Hatco/Fortude/Infor

Hatco, a U.S.-based manufacturer of fur felt and straw hats for Western and formal wear, is partnering with Fortude, a global enterprise and digital technology solutions company, to transition business solutions from on-premise to Infor’s CloudSuite Fashion platform.

Fortude has experience in bringing fashion brands onto the Infor CloudSuite, and has built extensions to address solutions gaps. In early 2021, Hatco initially worked with Fortude to resolve issues with its existing solution. Within two months, Fortude solved the issues that Hatco had been dealing with for several years in their production reporting process, the companies said.

Having become familiar with the Hatco business, Fortude learned how existing gaps caused problems with performance, data security and data integrity. Fortude and Infor realized that an upgrade to Infor CloudSuite Fashion could resolve many gaps in the existing solution.

“Since the beginning of this relationship, we have been continually impressed by Fortude and their dedication to understanding our needs completely, said Duane Prentice, chief financial officer at Hatco, in a statement. “We have total confidence in the team’s approach, and we’re excited to see the impact the project will have on our business.”

According to Robert McKee, senior vice president of global strategic alliances at Fortude, the company hosted detailed discovery sessions across a two-week period to identify the processes, modifications, integrations and pain points of Hatco’s existing solution. From there, the Fortude team developed a three-phased approach to resolve current issues, move Hatco to the cloud and finally perform a solution optimization in the cloud.

Fortude also worked with the Hatco team to understand the level of insights that they were looking for from the upgrade and the planned optimization.

Fortude’s aids digital transformation efforts in sectors such as fashion, food and beverage, manufacturing and distribution, by enabling customers to implement their Infor software and help them benefit from continuous optimization and support. The company also serves as an Infor Global Alliance Partner, as well as a Microsoft Gold Data Analytics and Gold Data Platform Partner, and Power BI Solutions Partner.

Staff management

WorkWhile

WorkWhile has raised a $13 million Series A funding round led by Reach Capital with participation from existing investors Khosla Ventures, F7 Ventures and new investors Chamaeleon, Position Ventures, and Gaingels, among others.

The company currently has a presence in 13 major markets across the U.S., and plans to use the funds to drive growth and hiring, with plans to double market footprint in 2022.

WorkWhile also announced it has launched an API for hourly workers with pilot partners WORLDPAC, a division of Advance Auto Parts, and technology partner Bringg, the delivery and fulfillment cloud platform provider. This partnership will enable Bringg customers to create automatic last-mile courier shifts, and is designed to ensure all AAP’s mechanic customers can get their parts reliably delivered.

The platform is designed to allow hourly workers to choose when, where and how they want to work, with the idea to create a schedule that works for them. And for brands, WorkWhile’s predictive machine learning models and advanced labor API is geared at simplifying the process of finding workers and filling shifts.

The WorkWhile app preview, showcasing job openings.
The WorkWhile app preview, showcasing job openings. WorkWhile

The company cited Bureau of Labor Statistics data documenting 82 million hourly wage earners in the U.S., comprising 58 percent of the labor force over the age of 16—indicating that these employees have the highest risk for hardship.

WorkWhile also says it offers 100 percent transparency into what a worker will make, which can be as much as twice the minimum wage in their local market. It also offers portable benefits like next-day pay and access to telehealth services, and more. With the new funding round, WorkWhile plans to explore offering new perks and benefits that address the core pain points of its workforce, including upskilling and career development.

By giving workers more stability and easier access to their earnings, WorkWhile is built specifically to help fill high-demand and high-turnover roles like light industrial and last-mile courier delivery.

Average no-show rate for WorkWhile workers is only 5 percent, and WorkWhile’s predictive machine learning models can predict with 76 percent accuracy whether or not a worker will turn up for a shift, the company says.