In an effort to expand beyond bricks and mortar retail and its focus on fashion, Walmart has hired co-founder of Rent the Runway to oversee its first startup it’s called Code Eight.
Jennifer Fliess, who stepped down from online clothing rental business Rent the Runway she co-founded in 2009, will now lead Walmart’s Code Eight project, which will develop a highly personalised one-to-one shopping experience.
Walmart unveiled its tech incubator Store No. 8 in March at Shoptalk 2017, to identify trends that are shaping shopping experiences, as well as nurture and accelerate cutting-edge technologies that can be used across Walmart stores, including virtual reality, robotics, drone delivery and personalised shopping.
The startups within Silicon Valley based Store No. 8 will be wholly owned by Walmart, which will have access to all its resources, however operated with an entrepreneurial and creative spirit.
This is all part of Walmart’s broader push into e-commerce, under the guidance of CEO Marc Lore, who sold his company Jet.com to the retailer for a cool US $3.3 billion last year.
Fliess’s background in fashion and her successful Rent the Runway startup, creates an ideal talent mix for the retail giant, since fashion is a focal point of Walmart’s push into e-commerce. To accentuate this, the company recently acquired womenswear retailer Modcoth earlier this year, snagged footwear online retailer ShoeBuy last year, as well as outdoor e-commerce retailer MooseJaw, and is currently in talks to buy thriving New York based menswear label Bonobos Inc.
Store No.8 lends its name from one of Walmart’s early locations, where founder Sam Walton would test out new ideas.
Fliess, a fellow Harvard School graduate, along with Jennifer Hyman, raised US $190 million venture capital for Rent the Runway, which initially began as a pureplay eight years ago. The company recently dived into the physical space, unveiling its own stores. US department chain Neiman Marcus also partnered with Rent the Runway to open boutique stores in some of its Dallas based stores.