Back in May 2018, during a flurry of higher-end brand acquisitions, Walmart acquired the clothier Bonobos. The initial (and somewhat continual) response from consumers was not good.
Walmart is, for better or worse, the low cost leader for pretty much every category that they touch. Sometimes this is through savvy negotiating, while in many other instances it is by reduction in the quality of the product. For this reason, loyal Bonobos customers were wary of what this acquisition will do to the brand.
“There was the good, there was the bad and then there was the downright ugly.”
Many questions arose, but namely they were centered on “How does a boutique, bespoke clothier like Bonobos scale up to the massive volumes of a Walmart brand while still maintaining the same quality”. But beyond logistics, how does a company like Bonobos, known for their social causes, maintain this aspect of their business while still operating under the umbrella (and accountability) of a behemoth like Walmart?
One answer was maintaining the same Bonobos leadership post-acquisition. Bonobos’ founder and former chief executive Andy Dunn stepped down from Bonobos and signed on with Walmart as the SVP of digital consumer brands at Walmart. This move announced to the public that the Bonobos brand will be maintaining its same social awareness initiatives and bespoke customer service.
Another answer to the question of quality lies in the e-commerce positioning of the brand. Walmart is only carrying the line on Jet.com, it’s online repository for “all things not Walmart”. This move allows for retention of ownership without brand dilution, while also positioning Walmart (via Jet) to acquire a higher end customer.
Lots of exciting initiatives are in the works at Walmart, and I’m happy to see that some of my favorite brands are not being dismantled simply for the sake of acquisition and market share.
What do you think about Walmart’s acquisition of bespoke brands like Bonobos? Sound off in the comments section!