In March, the behemoth Walmart announced the launch of it’s Silicon Valley-based incubator – called Store No. 8. As background it’s named after the location where Walmart experiments with their new store layouts. You might have heard of some of Walmart’s recent acquisitions of Bonobos (for $300m from Nordstrom) , Jet.com (US$3B in cash) etc these have been through Store No. 8.
As background Store No. 8 is the brainchild of Jet CEO, Marc Lore, who was essentially bought by Walmart during their acquisition of Jet.com. They had strategic reasons for doing this – namely Amazon.
Lore is now Walmart’s Head of E-commerce (and runs Store No. 8). As background he’s a pretty smart individual – in his open letter published in Fortune when he became head of E-commerce, he stated ‘more than 90% of the US population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart store, and we will take advantage of that to serve customers in new ways’. It seems that has happened, as Walmart last week announced it would start using employees to deliver online orders from store on their way home (aka. out convenience Amazon).
Ok so back to Store No. 8…
We thought this was just another retailer trying to be a VC, until we read that founder of Rent-the-Runway, Jenny Fleiss, had left her subscription fashion business to head up the incubator’s first portion company called ‘Code 8’. Fashion has always been a weak point for Walmart – and some would say the ability for a supermarket to run fashion is limiting. However, it seems that Walmart is broadening their skill set and bringing in the talent to do this – even making it a separate division of the business (which makes sense).
 So what the hell is Code 8? Here’s our rundown of what we know about Code 8:
  1. It will be based in NYC (the fashion Mecca) – so it will have the ability to hire people in the fashion industry not willing to move to San Fran or Bentonville.
  2. It currently has 6 employees – one of which is Fleiss.
  3. It’s mission is to make ‘shopping magical and delightful’ – we’ve heard further the project will be focused on personalisation.
  4. It will leverage AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning – aka it will be backed my high tech systems and processes, going up against Alexa perhaps.
  5. It will offer a premium experience not targeted to Walmart’s current customer – an interesting foray into extending the businesses appeal beyond the middle America market.
  6. Finally, it is not a fashion company.
Sounds very interesting and mysterious. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

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Author Pippa Kulmar

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