Forget Kroger. Will Boxed open its own stores?
Rumors have been flying about a possible acquisition of Boxed by Kroger. But in a session at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City, Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed, alluded to another possible development for the pure-play e-tail wholesale club. There may be standalone brick-and-mortar stores in Boxed’s future.
“I think it’s just a race; will the online folks like us figure out brick-and-mortar retailer faster than the brick and mortar retailers figure out online?” Mr. Huang said. “As you saw, Walmart took a shortcut and bought Jet. Amazon sort of capitulated and said, ‘We better speed up our in-store strategy,’ so they went out and bought Whole Foods. So, for us, definitely, definitely in our future.”
Mr. Huang further explained how recent brick-and-mortar shakeups could be a boon for Boxed.
“Even when you’re looking at Sam’s Club shuttering of their stores, in the back of my mind I’m thinking some of those stores would be excellent for us,” Mr. Huang said. “Could we use those things as fulfillment centers and make a more Millennial-focused experience? Potentially. And so, it’s absolutely in our future.”
When asked by moderator Sarah Halzack, retail columnist at Bloomberg, if brick-and-mortar stores would be soon forthcoming, Mr. Huang indicated that the need for capital would be the prime factor pushing such an initiative farther off into the future.
Mr. Huang did not give a direct answer regarding the prospects of a Kroger acquisition.
Henrik Werdelin, co-founder of BarkBox, was also on the panel and discussed the learning curve the company has experienced, having moved from pure-play e-tail to having some of its products on the shelf at Target.
“We’re learning,” Mr. Werdelin said. “We’re definitely getting more and more in tune that you can’t just take the stuff you’re doing in digital and move it into the offline space.”
Mr. Werdelin gave the example of creating text message-based games to augment the experience of a pet toy sold in-store. He sees such techniques as ways to replace the experience-extending features the company can more easily include in a subscription box.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Would Boxed succeed in an attempt to expand into standalone brick-and-mortar stores? How might online retailers like Boxed and BarkBox leverage their expertise in digital marketing to better engage customers in stores?