Wal-Mart tech exec Marc Lore pushes plan to make up for lost time

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 1,730 views 

Wal-Mart e-Commerce CEO Marc Lore

It’s been a little more than six months since Jet.com founder Marc Lore joined forces with Wal-Mart Stores, and while technically he is still in the honeymoon period, he has not wasted time in putting his stamp on the retail giant’s e-commerce business.

News late last week that Wal-Mart was in talks to buy specialty online retailer Bonobos is an example of the pace in which the Bentonville-based retailer is moving to expand its e-commerce footprint.

Bonobos sells men’s fashion through Nordstrom in addition to its own website. Recode reports the two parties have already settled on a price, which they believe will surpass the $70 million paid for ShoeBuy. Bonobos has reported annual revenue around $125 million.

Aside from the possibility of acquiring Bonobos and revamping the division’s leadership, Lore has spent just under $200 million in the past three months acquiring three smaller retail specialty businesses in ModCloth, Moosejaw and ShoeBuy.

Lore said recently that the game is won or lost in “long tail” for a merchant. He explained that it’s easy to get parity of assortment on more commoditized goods like toys and electronics, but it’s much harder for long tail items such as home, shoes and fashion. He said it’s a faster strategy for Walmart eCommerce by buying category expertise – which brings relationships with the suppliers and unique product content.

During an interview with Recode’s Jason Del Rey at the recent ShopTalk conference in Las Vegas, Lore reiterated that the CEOs of the recently acquired companies (ShoeBuy, Moosejaw, ModCloth) and the existing home retailer Hayneedle will manage not only their own businesses, but will also oversee that category business on Walmart.com and Jet.com. For example, ShoeBuy CEO Mike Sorabella is going to be responsible for shoes sold not just on ShoeBuy, but also the entire retail shoe business on Walmart.com and Jet.com, Lore explained.

Lore said Walmart.com is behind and the retailer needs to catch up. He said the recent acquisitions have provided a nice surge in the respective categories and the company will continue to look for more acquisitions because it’s a good way to build out that “long tail of assortment.” He said by acquiring the category depth needed Walmart.com can skip steps and avoid a lot of the heavy lifting which saves time and energy.

He also said Walmart U.S. e-commerce is looking for opportunities to acquire brands like ModCloth, which are more vertically integrated with exclusive products not found anywhere else. He said the product exclusivity is one of the most interesting aspects of ModCloth along with the retailer’s efforts to empower women.

When asked about a five-year vision, Lore said Walmart U.S. e-commerce plans to be a disruptor and turn the corner in terms of overall market share and customer experience. He said Walmart.com is on a mission with its suite of specialty retailers to have anything a consumer wants to buy, make sure it’s easily found, priced right with adequate online content and delivered fast. Lore said the retailer is applying this concept throughout the product universe, and over time it will make a big difference.

“Quite frankly to date we haven’t done a great job,” Lore added. “We are focused on a lot of shiny things and business inputs now and not that concerned with the outputs of price. We think it’s important to first get the inputs right. That’s why we are hiring more merchants (and) merchandisers for online and having them focus on very narrow categories and perfecting it. The goal is to get every category perfected,” he said.

While Wal-Mart Stores has increased its stake in JD.com in China, Lore said the company’s first order of business and priority is to win in the U.S. because it’s a bigger opportunity.

“My mandate was to crush the U.S.,” Lore said.

When asked if “win” means No. 2, Lore said emphatically that “win means win. It’s not going to happen in 12 months, but win means win.”

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