Walmart plans to pay $310 million in stock and cash to acquire men’s apparel retailer Bonobos, No. 232 in the Internet Retailer Top 500.
The deal, which has been rumored for months, continues Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s rapid push to add e-commerce expertise and bolster categories that are rapidly growing online.
Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn will oversee Walmart’s “digitally-native e-commerce brands” that, for now, include Bonobos and the vintage-inspired apparel retailer ModCloth, a Walmart spokesman says. The executive team at ModCloth, which Walmart bought in March, including CEO Matt Kaness, will report to Dunn and Dunn will report to Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S.
“That team will allow us to play offense in apparel,” the spokesman says. In other words, Walmart is adding unique products that aren’t available elsewhere. With Walmart’s massive scale and resources, the retailer believes it can help Bonobos and ModCloth grow, while also enabling it to offer products that other retailers, such as Amazon.com Inc., No. 1, cannot.
Bonobos generated an Internet Retailer-estimated $130.7 million online last year, a 24% jump from an estimated $105.4 million last year.
Walmart (No. 3) plans for Bonobos products to continue to be sold at Nordstrom Inc. stores and e-commerce site and it also expects to sell Bonobos products on Jet.com’s online marketplace. It also expects to continue supporting Bonobos’ guideshops, the physical shops that allow consumers to try on items and make assisted purchases in the store that are fulfilled through the brand’s e-commerce sites.
In addition to adding more e-commerce expertise, the Bonobos deal continues Walmart’s push to attract a more affluent customer base. Over the past year Walmart has bought Jet.com, shoe and apparel retailer ShoeBuy.com Inc. (No. 103), outdoor apparel and equipment retailer Moosejaw (No. 258) and ModCloth (No. 198).
Each of those retailers has a very different customer base than Walmart. For instance, 10% of Wal-Mart shoppers have an annual household income between $100,000-$150,000, and only 6% have an annual household income exceeding $150,000, according to Internet Retailer’s Top500Guide.com. 22% of Bonobos shoppers earn $100,000-$150,000, and 21% have an annual household income of more than $150,000.
There’s little overlap between the Walmart and Bonobos customer bases. Only about 11% of Bonobos buyers shop at Walmart and Walmart accounts for only 0.2% of their online spending, according to the NPD Group’s Checkout Tracking, which examines consumers’ online and offline receipts. And less than 1% of Walmart shoppers have bought from Bonobos and their Bonobos spending accounts for only 0.2% of their online spending.
Bonobos is “Walmart’s latest attempt to expand its addressable market,” says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Retail Systems Research. “This is a continuation of that strategy.”
However, some analysts don’t believe that approach makes sense.
“I think Walmart is mad for going after a high-end customer base,” says Howard Davidowitz, chairman of retail consulting firm Davidowitz & Associates. He believes the move reflects Walmart’s nervousness about the rapid growth of Amazon’s apparel business—which now accounts for 16.6% of all apparel sales among U.S. consumers aged 18 to 34, according to Slice Intelligence data,
“Walmart has been trying to figure out apparel for 30 years,” he says. “Nothing has worked.” Rather than continue down that path he believes Walmart should focus on its strengths, such as food and consumables, which account for 56% of Walmart’s total U.S. sales. Of course, with Amazon’s $13.7 billion deal to buy Whole Foods Market Inc., that may get more complicated as well, he adds.