Plus, delivery service Jokr raises funds, LVMH acquires Etro, Klarna makes another social commerce purchase, and personnel updates at Qurate, NewStore and Wish.

(Bloomberg)—Instacart Inc. is teaming up with ecommerce technology startup Fabric to equip fulfillment centers with robots in an effort to speed up delivery and cut costs as it prepares for an initial public offering.

The company is planning to build new standalone warehouses as well as fulfillment centers for supermarket partners, Instacart said in a statement in July. The multi-year deal is the first step in what the grocery delivery service calls a “next-gen” fulfillment process that will use Fabric’s robotic technology to pick items while gig workers deliver food to customers’ doorsteps. The company didn’t disclose the financial terms of the partnership.

“Our next-gen fulfillment work will also help reduce some of the things that make in-store shopping cumbersome for Instacart shoppers, like crowded store aisles, out-of-stock items and long checkout lines,” said Chief Technology Officer Mark Schaaf.

Instacart delivers from more than 10% of retailers in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 500, including Walmart Inc. (No. 2), Target Corp. (No. 6) and Dick’s Sporting Goods (No. 29). It also has partnerships with grocery chains like The Kroger Co. (No. 8) and Albertson’s Inc. (No. 27).

Bloomberg reported in June that Instacart was planning to build automated fulfillment centers but had fallen behind schedule. The company has yet to disclose any grocery chains that have agreed to participate in the automation of its operations but said it plans to kick off pilots with supermarket partners in the coming year.

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San Francisco-based Instacart announced the partnership as it looks to revamp its labor-intensive model, which currently depends on 500,000 gig workers. The pandemic catapulted Instacart from a startup to delivery giant as store-avoiding consumers stampeded online. After Walmart, the company is now the second-largest grocery delivery and pickup company in the U.S., with 45% of the market as of June, according to Bloomberg Second Measure data. Instacart doubled its valuation to $39 billion in a March funding round where it raised $265 million from investors.

Instacart recently poached Fidji Simo from Facebook Inc. to replace co-founder Apoorva Mehta as chief executive officer. Fidji has talked up plans to build out the advertising business and expand internationally.

In other funding news:

  • On-demand delivery grocery delivery startup Jokr this month raised $170 million in financing to fuel its expansion across the Americas and Europe after rolling out its services just three months ago. In the last four months, the company has built about 100 small fulfillment centers. These centers, known as “dark stores,” operate out of traditional storefronts but only fulfill online orders, CEO Ralf Wenzel said. He expects to roughly double that number by the end of this year.
  • L Catterton, the private equity firm backed by French luxury retailer LVMH, agreed to buy a majority stake in Italian fashion house Etro SpA. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore had reported L Catterton will buy a 60% stake, which would value Etro at about 500 million euros ($590 million). L Catterton in February bought sandal maker Birkenstock. LVMH is No. 3 in the Digital Commerce 360 Europe 500.
  • Installment payment provider Klarna acquired influencer software firm APPRL this week. The move strengthens Klarna’s retailer marketing stable, after acquiring social shopping platform Hero just weeks ago. Using APPRL, Klarna clients will be able to find social media stars to partner with for social commerce. Klarna is used by 56 Top 1000 retailers, including Macy’s Inc. (No. 13), Lulus (No. 120) and M. Gemi (No. 325).
  • Banyan, a technology vendor that connects SKU-level receipt data with transactions, raised $10 million in a round led by Fin VC. The company’s technology allows merchants and consumers to connect checkout receipts from both online and offline stores to loyalty programs, financial applications and consumer budgeting software. For example, budgeting apps could use Banyan to properly sort spending into multiple categories from one transaction based on the receipt-level data, or a manufacturer could confirm that a consumer purchased an item within the warranty period before sending out a replacement. The new funding will be used to reach new customers and expand the team.

In other personnel news:

  • This month, QVC owner Qurate Retail Group (No. 11 in the Top 1000) named David Rawlinson II as the next CEO and president, effective Oct. 1. Rawlinson previously served as CEO of consumer market research firm NielsenIQ and as president of the ecommerce division of W.W. Grainger Inc. (No. 15). Current CEO and president Mike George will retire at the end of the year, serving as senior advisor in a transitional capacity after Rawlinson takes over.
  • Omnichannel software provider NewStore announced the promotion of Richard Berger  to president from chief commercial officer. As president, Berger will oversee strategies around global sales, customer service and partnerships. Berger joined the company in 2019. NewStore provides direct-to-consumer brands with software to manage both physical stores and online stores with a unified platform that combines point-of-sale systems with order management and inventory data. Top 1000 retailers like Untuckit (No. 376) and Burton (No. 739) are among the company’s clients.
  • Wish.com named former Googler Farhang Kassaei as chief technology officer. Wish is No. 15 in the ranking of Digital Commerce 360 Top 100 Online Marketplaces. The former senior director of software engineering at Google will help the marketplace scale its business. Kassaei is not new to marketplace engineering—before starting at Google he worked for eBay Inc. (No. 5) as chief architect for the core marketplace.
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