(Bloomberg)—The surge of online buying during the pandemic has created stacks of boxes on America’s doorsteps. A former Walmart Inc. (No. 3 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 500) logistics expert wants to reduce all that cardboard clutter.
Nate Faust, who for years worked alongside Walmart’s recently departed online chief Marc Lore, on Wednesday debuted a delivery service called Olive that consolidates orders from fashion labels including Michael Kors, Coach and Stuart Weitzman. Olive will gather items from more than 100 brands at its two hubs, where boxes will be recycled while the goods are sent on to consumers at no extra charge in a reusable container.
Faust acknowledges that it will take longer for buyers to receive their orders. But he’s betting that the affluent, frequent shoppers who drive the majority of online fashion purchases won’t mind waiting a few extra days to get all their purchases in one tidy package, with no boxes to slice open. Unwanted items can be returned in the same tote at their doorstep.
He got the idea for Olive after looking down his suburban New Jersey street to see piles of cardboard at his neighbors’ curbs.
“I thought, ‘This is crazy, after years of ecommerce, this is still the status quo delivery experience,’” said Faust, who co-founded Jet.com with Lore before selling it to Walmart for $3.3 billion in 2016. With Olive, “this is the way e-commerce should work, from a consumer experience and an environmental perspective.”
The share of apparel and accessories bought online was increasing even before the pandemic and accelerated last year as shoppers swapped khakis for sweat pants and other comfortable athleisure items to wear around the house. Researcher eMarketer projects clothing and accessories will grow faster than any other category in 2021.
The vagaries of fit and fashion mean that apparel gets returned at a higher rate than other products bought online. But the hassle of returning items means many shoppers don’t bother, giving startups an opportunity to improve the process.
Olive, which operates as both an app and a browser extension that’s layered on top of its partner websites, makes money by taking about a 10% cut of each order it consolidates from its affiliated brands, including Adidas, Everlane and Hunter. The service counts Primary Venture Partners, Invus and SignalFire among its investors.
Olive in turn pays its network of carriers, which handles home deliveries and returns. Shoppers tell Olive which items they don’t want, and then they leave the reusable box on their doorstep.
“You don’t have to print the label or go to FedEx,” said Faust, who left Walmart in March 2020.