Bonobos is facing backlash after news broke Friday that the brand will be acquired by Walmart, but the founder isn’t scared of criticism killing the menswear brand.
Andy Dunn, Bonobos’ founder and CEO, who is now taking on the role of senior vice president of digital consumer brands for Walmart US ecommerce, told Business Insider he was “extremely anxious” about how the news of the acquisition would go over.
“You never know how things are going to be interpreted,” Dunn said.
However, Dun says Bonobos was basically able to preform a test of how people would react to the news two months before the acquisition was formally announced.
When Recode reported Walmart was in talked to buy Bonobos in April, Dunn witnessed the backlash on social media, with customers claiming that the brand was “selling out.” He also saw the actual impact of the news on Bonobos’ sales.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Dunn said. “In fact, our new customer acquisition is growing more rapidly this year than it did in 2016, and we grew a lot in 2016. So, I don’t know, maybe the news is healthy, because it is bringing Bonobos to a larger stage.”
Dunn acknowledged that he is aware of customers’ concerns, and how “painful” it was not to be able to address these worries when news of the deal originally leaked. Now, he says the company can be “transparent” about what will happen — that product quality, design, and customer service will remain unchanged.
The Bonobos founder also released a blog post on Friday in an attempt to convey to customers why he believes that acquisition is a good move for the brand.
“When the idea first presented itself, my immediate thought was no way,” he wrote, noting at the time the company was “inches” from a deal that would keep Bonobos independent. “When Walmart acquired Jet, I realised the world is now changing even faster than I thought.”
The chance to work with Marc Lore, Jet.com’s founder who has served as a mentor of Dunn’s, helped convince him that striking a deal with Walmart could be a chance to help build a different kind of ecommerce company — a superteam of brands and executives.
“It’s an honour to belong with what is happening at Walmart and Jet right now,” Dunn told Business Insider. “What Marc is doing, what Doug [McMillion, Walmart’s CEO] is shepherding in the ecommerce space, it’s just incredible.”
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