Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s push to attract wealthier shoppers continues.
The retailing giant, No. 4 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, is in talks to buy men’s clothing retail startup Bonobos Inc. (No. 245) for about $300 million, a person familiar with the situation tells Bloomberg.
A Wal-Mart spokeswoman declined to comment while Bonobos did not return multiple requests for comment. Recode first reported the potential deal.
If the acquisition goes through, Bonobos would be the fourth Top 500 retailer snapped up by Wal-Mart this year alone. The acquisition spree kicked off in January when Wal-Mart bought shoe and apparel retailer ShoeBuy.com Inc. (No. 101) for $70 million. In February, Wal-Mart bought outdoor apparel and equipment retailer Moosejaw (No. 261) for about $51 million. Last month, the retailer acquired vintage-inspired apparel retailer ModCloth Inc. (No. 187) for an undisclosed price that a Wal-Mart spokesman described as being “along the lines of” what the retailer paid for ShoeBuy and Moosejaw.
One thing Bonobos, Moosejaw, ModCloth and ShoeBuy have in common is that they attract a wealthier audience than Wal-Mart does. According to the soon-to-be-released 2017 Internet Retailer Top 500, 10% of Wal-Mart shoppers have an annual household income in the $100,000-$150,000 range, and only 6% have an annual household income exceeding $150,000. Bonobos, on the other hand, has a notably different demographic, with 22% of its shoppers making between $100,000-$150,000, and 21% having an annual household income of more than $150,000.
Before 2017, Wal-Mart’s e-commerce acquisition spree began in August when it acquired online marketplace Jet.com for $3.3 billion and then subsequently named Jet.com co-founder Marc Lore as its president and CEO of U.S. e-commerce.
Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University, says the potential Bonobos acquisition is baffling to him.
“Bonobos is a small and insignificant on Wal-Mart’s scale,” he says. “I think there is little connection between Wal-Mart’s deals. If they were to announce 30 of these, it would be one thing.”
Bonobos generated an Internet Retailer-estimated $130.7 million in online sales in 2016, up 24% from $105.4 million last year. The e-retailer’s $130.7 million in online sales represents 0.8% of Wal-Mart’s online sales in 2016.
A recent Internet Retailer report, “Valuing America’s Top E-Retailers: A Guide for E-Retailers and Investors,” is based on an analysis of 553 privately held web-only and catalog retailers in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 1000. The analysis shows that the median value of e-retailers that largely sell proprietary products (as Bonobos does) is 1.35 times sales, versus 0.54 for web merchants that mainly sell product from other companies. If the $300 million price tag is accurate, that means Bonobos would sell for a 2.3 multiple of value to Internet Retailer-estimated online sales, much higher than the 0.8 average for online retailers sold since 2013, Internet Retailer finds.
Charles Fishman, author of “The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works—and How It’s Transforming the American Economy,” disagrees with Cohen’s assessment that acquiring Bonobos makes little sense for Wal-Mart.
“Wal-Mart and Lore are trying to do two things: They are trying to assemble an online presence with hip, well-regarded brands that can compete in very specific categories with Amazon: Shoes, men’s apparel, outdoor wear,” he says. “Those brands are retaining their independent identities, for now, after having been purchased. Wal-Mart wants to use its financial oomph and logistics ability to help these acquisitions grow much faster than they otherwise could.”
Amazon.com Inc. is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000.
Internet Retailer editor Zak Stambor and Bloomberg News contributed.