Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is increasing its e-commerce emphasis by hiring the co-founder of Rent the Runway, an online service that rents designer apparel and accessories.
Wal-Mart, No. 3 in the just-released Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000, hired Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Fleiss to head a new company called code eight, which springs from the retail chain’s new Store No. 8 tech incubator.
Code eight will focus on developing “highly personalized, one-to-one shopping experiences” for Wal-Mart shoppers and will fall under the umbrella of Store No. 8, which launched last month, the retailer said. Wal-Mart representatives declined to give more details about code eight. Store No. 8, named after the Wal-Mart store location where the retailer experimented with new store layouts, aims to focus on such technology as virtual reality, autonomous vehicles and drone delivery, and personalized shopping.
“Jenny is a trailblazer in her field and has spent her career advancing ideas that have shaped retail as we know it today,” Store No. 8 principals Seth Beal and Katie Finnegan wrote in a blog post. “As co-founder of Rent the Runway, she saw the expansion of the company into a globally recognizable brand and pioneered a new retail model. Under Jenny’s leadership, this new company will be a jumping off point for Store No. 8’s mission to shape the future of commerce.”
Fleiss announced she was leaving Rent the Runway (No. 229 in the Top 1000) last month. During her time there, Rent the Runway raised $174.4 million over five funding rounds, according to CrunchBase, including a $60 million round in December led by Fidelity Investments.
Fleiss’s hiring comes during Wal-Mart‘s acquisition spree that has helped it add a stable of high-profile e-commerce talent in its push to increase its breadth of online customers and compete with Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1). In August, Wal-Mart acquired online marketplace Jet.com for $3.3 billion, which led to Marc Lore being named president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. e-commerce business.
Since then, Wal-Mart acquired Shoebuy (No. 103) for $70 million in January, outdoor gear e-retailer Moosejaw (No. 258) for $51 million in February and vintage apparel e-retailer ModCloth in March for a price close to what it paid for Shoebuy and Moosejaw, according to a company spokesman. In all three deals, Wal-Mart opted to retain the CEOs and staff of the retailers it acquired.
And, it appears Wal-Mart may not be done with its acquisitions. Reports surfaced last week that Wal-Mart is in talks to acquire men’s clothing e-retailer Bonobos (No. 232). A Wal-Mart spokeswoman and a Bonobos spokesman both declined to comment on those reports.