On the growing Walmart group of brands:
I’ve long believed that this digital-native brand model that we’ve invented as Bonobos would be one where ultimately there would be collections built of those brands, because the challenges of bringing new customers in are significant. And so for years I’ve been dreaming of a marketplace where a number of these brands could live, so you would have both your own website and you would go to some marketplace that would bring new customers into the brand. And I think we’ve proved that we can make it through decade one, and now our observation is, it makes sense to belong to a collection in an ecosystem. And when Marc gave me the opportunity to really run that ecosystem and to lead it, it was way too good to pass up. We’ve got some work to do to assuage people’s anxieties, and to show them that not only is Bonobos’ strength not going to change—it’s going to get better.
We’ve got some work to do to assuage people’s anxieties, and to show them that not only is Bonobos’ strength not going to change—it’s going to get better.
On the future of Bonobos:
We’re going to run the business entirely autonomously. There’s no plan to integrate the teams. There is a mandate to keep the brand in NYC; you don’t have a great vision for your brand without a great culture. And when the folks at Walmart decided to pay $310 million for our business, they understood that they have to keep that culture and magic intact for the brand to continue to be successful. It wouldn’t make sense to buy it at that price and then to change the je ne sais quoi and the magic of the brand. And so if you look at Marc’s perspective on it—he’s a guy who’s a great entrepreneur and founder, even though Jet is in Hoboken—he’s given them the mandate that Bonobos and the brands and digitally native ecosystem we create will be entirely autonomous. Think of it almost as a holding company where the brands are going to be allowed to do their own thing, separate from the mothership, and that’s actually core to the strategy.
On the backlash to the Walmart acquisition announcement:
There may be a few people who say, “We’re not sure we want to continue to build with you.” But there’s also a huge group of people out there who don’t yet know us, and the opportunity to plug into Jet and reach a much wider audience and the fact that we have loyal customers. I’m pretty sure what we’re up against here is that on social media you’ve got a few folks speaking out, and that can make you feel like, “Oh gosh, is this everyone’s point of view?” And we’re optimistic that it’s not. At the same time, as a brand that is really conversational with its consumer, we’re not taking lightly anyone’s opinion. We’re going to engage in that dialogue, we’re going to try to prove it to folks, and ultimately the proof will be in action, which is as the quality of the experience continues to improve, people will trust that, however we did it, we set up the operating structure right to maintain the brand’s magic.
On what he’d say to disappointed Bonobos fans:
Tell them I won’t let them down. Tell them that I didn’t spend ten years building this to get to a place where we actually really kind of cracked the code on how to scale it, and at that moment take ourselves off track. For me, the question was really a question around the brand’s soul.
“For me, the question was really a question around the brand’s soul.”
We consistently do things that are surprising and are ahead of our time. And I think we’ll wake up one day here in a few years, and hopefully in part because of what we’re doing, people will start to see that Walmart is a brand that’s on the move. And a big part of that will be having bought Jet and having built an e-commerce property that’s positioned to urban millennials. And then the strategy that the founder of Jet, and the CEO of Walmart e-commerce, Marc Lore, is now crafting, including this insight that he should own a great portfolio of proprietary digital brands.
When he gave me the chance to run that, that means I now have two mandates. One is to continue to grow Bonobos, and I think we can end up being a leading menswear company. I mean, if you look at what’s happened in the ecosystem, it’s a total meltdown, and so we can build this into the leader with an amazing balance sheet and set of capabilities behind us between Jet and Walmart. And we also get a chance to shepard in and help create a whole ecosystem of these brands, and so no doubt people are going to be anxious. I would be too. I was myself. And it may take a little while to prove that to some of the skeptics around this, but we’ve done the homework. We’ve set up the right structure, we’re fanatically committed to this customer, and we’re absolutely not going to let anyone down.