By Eric Smith
The big news out of Walmart this week that the retail behemoth is wrapping its Jet.com operations into Walmart.com raised questions about the impact on e-commerce at its outdoor outfitter, Moosejaw.
But everything will be business as usual at Moosejaw—the outdoor retailer that Walmart bought in 2017 for $51 million—a company PR rep told SGB Executive on Thursday.
“This news has no relation to Moosejaw,” Walmart spokesman Ravi Jariwala confirmed to SGB Executive. “This was isolated to Jet and was a continuation of what we’ve already been doing the last couple of years.”
Walmart on Wednesday announced sweeping changes at Jet.com, the online startup that Walmart acquired in 2016 for $3.3 billion. The company plans to merge Jet.com’s retail, marketing, technology, analytics, product and other divisions into Walmart’s, and Jet.com President Simon Belsham will be stepping down from his post.
Jariwala added that Moosejaw’s e-commerce platform remains independent of Walmart’s except for backend support and tapping into such advantages as cheaper shipping, faster fulfillment and robust inventory, all of which have benefited the once-small outdoor retailer that opened in 1992 in Michigan.
“Moosejaw has been able to leverage the scale of Walmart,” Jariwala said. “But Moosejaw has and will continue to operate as a separate and independent entity within the portfolio. The consumers who engage and know Moosejaw expect certain things. They expect a certain brand voice; they expect a certain experience. And those are all really important for us to be able to support allow Moosejaw to continue to grow. We want the best of that brand to come forth. Because we know that’s what drives consumer engagement. We know that’s what drives consumers back and brings them in the first place.”
However, Walmart’s acquisition of Moosejaw two years turned heads across the outdoor industry among customers, vendors and retail competitors. And then in August 2018, Walmart sparked an uproar when it opened a “Premium Outdoor Store curated by Moosejaw”— the first time Walmart had created an online store on the company’s flagship website for one of its acquired specialty retailers.
Brands such as Deuter USA and Leki objected to being included on the site, and Black Diamond Equipment Ltd. even sent a cease-and-desist letter to Walmart demanding its products be removed from the outdoor store.
“We did not see or approve the statement which Walmart released Monday and have never sold to Walmart,” John Walbrecht, Black Diamond’s president, said at the time. “Black Diamond remains committed to our specialty retail partners, and we do not plan on deviating from this strategy.”
Walmart’s decision to sell premium outdoor brands under a banner cobranded with Moosejaw sparked an industry-wide debate around channel loyalty and how to grow outdoor recreation.
Last August, in response to the brouhaha, Moosejaw CEO Eoin Comerford wrote an open letter to the outdoor industry asserting that the development of the Premium Outdoor Store on Walmart was done in the spirit of “inclusivity,” and that he was “surprised by the vehemence of the attacks by some of our industry’s leading retailers and the threats to drop brands that participated.”
In the letter, Comerford wrote that the industry remains “predominantly male and remarkably white” despite numerous efforts over the years to become “younger, more female, more diverse.” He said the Premium Outdoor Store curated by Moosejaw offers a path for the industry to broaden its reach.
“Walmart.com’s huge traffic offered the ability to expose outdoor brands, activities and products to a massive audience of new and long-term outdoor enthusiasts, including the very groups that are underrepresented in our industry today,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Walmart remains committed to growing Moosejaw and ensuring it’s continually meeting outdoor customers’ demands. And the Walmart-Jet saga shouldn’t impact that.
“We acquire these companies not to let them pitter patter along and stagnate,” Jariwala said. “We acquire them because we really see incredible value in them. And we are committed to helping them grow their business. All in all, we’ve been very pleased with the Moosejaw acquisition.”
Walmart doesn’t break out Moosejaw revenue, but the company does break out its overall U.S. e-commerce, which posted a 40 percent comp last year and a 37 percent comp in the first quarter.
“We’ve got a ton of momentum,” Jariwala said. “There’s been a lot of expertise that we’ve been able to ingest from Moosejaw into our broader ecosystem. A lot of the metrics that we look at, either in terms of customer acquisition or revenue or orders or mobile interaction, those numbers were trending up and to the right. And that’s exactly what we want to see.”
Photo courtesy Moosejaw