When a retailer launches a private label, it means they’ve achieved a critical mass. According to Placer.ai data, Gopuff’s launch of “Basically,” is right on time.
A lot can be said about the state of the retail industry, and the modern consumer, by looking at the companies that are expanding their store footprint most aggressively. Recent data from Placer.ai reported the top ten retailers to watch in 2022 based on their expansion plans. The list, which features fast food chains, Dollar Store spinoffs, and a store-in-a-store partnership, confirms that today’s customers are drawn to physical stores when there’s a reason to visit them, and the companies that best deliver are those that are most aware of current consumer trends: DTC, bifurcation, instantaneous delivery, and convenience.
Most notable on the list is Gopuff, which has turned some of its micro-fulfillment sites into customer outlets after building up a business based on ultra-fast delivery. Gopuff is expected to IPO this year, after Reuters reported it has hired banks to help it go public, with a valuation of close to $15 billion. The physical locations could make Gopuff even faster by bringing customers to the delivery point, cutting down on time workers take to get items to customers at home. The stores are not typical convenience stores, but ordering hubs, where customers use digital kiosks to place orders that are then fulfilled from the warehouse. To facilitate this omnichannel strategy, GoPuff acquired companies in a land grab, with 161 BevMo stores and 23 Liquor Barns now acquired.
The Gopuff model does what retailers like Target are trying to retrofit their stores to accomplish: functions seamlessly as order fulfillment centers by serving both in-person and online customers simultaneously and sustainably. One look at instantaneous delivery data shows that Gopuff is not optimizing for sub-15 minute delivery:
By building its retail business off the back of its delivery business, Gopuff is poised to meet customers exactly where they want to shop: either online, at home, with instantaneous delivery, or in person when they’re out already and it’s easier, or they want to avoid additional fees.
Getting customers to build a Gopuff habit both via delivery and physical retail will place the nine year old company in a league of its own. With the launch of Basically, – Gopuff’s private label – and the in-store model that only DoorDash’s Dashmart comes close to in function, and Gopuff could present a case for why it may lead the convenience delivery market in the years to come. According to YipitData, as of now, DoorDash leads with 45% to Gopuff’s 23%. Instacart and Uber have earned 16% and 15% of the market.
This could – and should be – a wake up call to grocery and convenience store chains that have slowly turned to delivery. From Grocery Dive:
Gopuff is hardly the first online retailer to move into physical stores, joining a long list that includes large companies like Amazon and niche players like Warby Parker. This underscores the importance of bricks as well as clicks to companies’ retail strategies, even as the pandemic has boosted online shopping. But a strictly digital ordering model for in-store shoppers is unique among grocery and convenience stores, and could prove to be a useful test of shoppers’ expectations for convenience and store experience.
Gopuff’s physical retail strategy isn’t the only one to watch.
DTC brands are the new mall brand. Placer.ai also lists Warby Parker and Allbirds, both of which IPO’ed last year. More stores are integral to both DTC brands’ plans as they’re massive money makers, with customers who shop both in store and online spending more than customers who only shop online. In last week’s member brief on Glossier, Skims, and Savage x Fenty, I explained:
Malls need them, and they’ve effectively built passionate customer followings supported both by savvy marketing and products that people want to buy.
That also applies to Allbirds and Warby who are representative of the future of mall retail: they have enough of a following online that customers seek them out, and they are both pushing to build enough of a national retail footprint to allow existing consumers to buy more impulsively (a benefit of owned retail). They are also benefiting from cheaper customer acquisition costs as new consumers are introduced to them through more efficient channels.
Beauty is a sales driver, but only for certain retailers. Ulta and Sephora have amassed an in-store beauty monopoly to the detriment of department stores. Retailers that have won their business have gained from their statuses as retail destinations for beauty fans. Placer.ai found that Kohl’s stores with Sephora locations inside drew more foot traffic than those without Sephoras. And Target is already expanding its partnership with Ulta after a successful start. What’s more interesting is what’s happening online in this space, much to the dismay of Glossier:
Notice the shift from brand eCommerce to marketplace eCommerce as a preference in beauty. As companies like Sephora, Ulta, and Walmart have grown their eCommerce presences, Glossier has avoided partnerships with them (both in-store and digital). Walmart recruited nearly 100 beauty brands over the trailing 12 months, Ulta has partnered with Target, and Sephora is within Kohl’s.
Retailers are following customer bifurcation. Two brands on Placer.ai’s list, Arhaus and pOpshelf, reflect the continued trend of consumer bifurcation. Furniture brand Arhaus is targeting high-income households, particularly those in suburban areas, as an alternative to RH, with 70 stores and showrooms so far. pOpshelf, meanwhile, is the Dollar General spinoff designed to appeal to wealthier, younger, suburban shoppers who turn the nose to the Dollar General but appreciate the treasure-hunt shopping experience known at stores like TJ Maxx.
The bottom line? Rightsizing is still underway as overly stretched retailers with weaker online presences and less relevant brand names shrink their footprint. Waiting in the wings is a new class of retailers that more closely mirror today’s consumer, with digital innovation in stores and omnichannel cachet becoming top competitive advantages.
The internet has reshaped class and how the affluent shop. What the Placer.ai data shows is just how great the influence of eCommerce on retail real estate seems to be.
By Web Smith | Edited by Hilary Milnes with art by Alex Remy and Christina Williams