Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn returns as brand advisor after Walmart sale

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A bonobos ‘guideshop’ stands in lower Manhattan on April 18, 2017 in New York City.

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Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn is returning to the retailer as brand advisor as the company looks to return to its roots after sold by walmart Earlier this year, Bonobos and new parent company WHP Global announced on Friday.

Dunn, who founded the men’s clothing brand in 2007, will report to Yehuda Schmidtman, CEO of WHP Global, but will work closely with Jon Hutchison, president of Bonobos. Express Inc. CEO Tim Baxter.

WHP Global and Express Inc., which runs the Express brand, bought Bonobos from Walmart in a $75 million deal that was announced in April and closed last month. walmart basically Bought Bonobos in 2017 for $310 million While it was working to grow its online presence under former e-commerce president Marc Lorre.

“It’s almost limitless opportunities, isn’t it?” Schmidtman told CNBC about the decision to bring Dunn back to the brand. “You have the opportunity to delve deeper into why the brand was created in the first place, what brought it to success in the early years and how it came to be, and learn from it to inspire the next chapter of growth.”

Schmidtman said WHP Global has no plans to change the Bonobos DNA and said the firm’s decision to hire Dunn is part of a plan to focus the brand on its core identity.

“It’s very important to know that we are not changing. In fact, if anything, we are doubling down on the same DNA that made bonobos successful in the first place,” Schmidtman said.

One area where Schmidtman would like to see change is Bonobos’ physical footprint: The brand currently runs a brick-and-mortar Guideshop, where customers can try on clothes and then order them online, but only in the US. Under Global, Bonobos can. expanding internationally, he said.

“How about the bonobos in Dubai? How about the bonobos in Hong Kong?” Schmidman said. “How cool would that be?”

Dunn said he’s excited to “have a seat at the table” and that this time he’ll be mentoring the brand — not running it.

“I’m here to be of service any way I can and the way I think about it is to be really close to the customer. I’m a lot older than the beginning of Bonobos, you know, I’m 43 now , I was 28 years old,” Dunn said. “So, I’ve got a lot of perspectives on the product and the customer and how we start this new chapter and just get bigger.”

Bonobos started out as a purely digital retailer early on and has grown to become a leader in the direct-to-consumer space after achieving scale, profitability, and national recognition.

When Walmart decided to acquire the brand, some thought the partnership didn’t make sense because the giant retailer’s focus on value didn’t seem to mesh with Bonobos’ identity as a premium menswear line.

While Walmart sold Bonobos for a significant discount compared to what it paid for the acquisition not necessarily a loser for walmart. The tie-up helped boost its digital sales.

Online sales accounted for about $53.4 billion — or about 13% — of Walmart US’s total net sales last fiscal year, according to a company filing. That’s $15.7 billion in 2019, or about 5% of Walmart US’s total net sales.

Andy Dunn, co-founder of Bonobos

Source: Brian McConkey

But how Bonobos performed — and what it accomplished — isn’t as black and white as its time under Walmart’s giant tent.

At the time of acquisition, Dunn wrote in a blog post The sale to Walmart gave Bonobos an opportunity to access a wider ecosystem, arguing that the deal fits with its goal of “becoming the market leader in all premium menswear”.

It also gave Dunn the opportunity to work with Lorre, his longtime mentor, whom he considered “the best in the world at building third-party brand e-commerce properties”.

Six years after that blog post was written, Dunn told CNBC that he stands by his decision to sell Walmart and disagrees “strongly” with critics who say the brand was diluted by the acquisition.

“From a premium positioning perspective, the Bonobos business is still moving up and to the right,” Dunn said. “From the customer’s vantage point, I don’t think it’s changed much, you know, my reading would be, and I think the proof is in the pudding on the continued evolution of the brand.”

The Walmart umbrella provided bonobos exposure to a wider customer base and also provided protection pandemic headwinds Which irked other independent retailers during the global health crisis.

“With the pandemic, and how tough it has been in retail, that was the moment for me where I stepped back and thought, wow, we made the right decision by keeping bonobos so strong indoors,” Dunn said.

These days, Bonobos is still delivering double-digit sales growth, WHP Global said.