Cincinnati-based grocery chain Kroger has reportedly expressed interest in acquiring online bulk order retail startup Boxed.com, with other major players including Costco, Target and German grocery chain Aldi in the mix as well, according to Forbes.
Costco would be an interesting play, as Boxed.com is often described as an online version of the popular buy-in-bulk, membership-based retailer. A Kroger acquisition and integration of Boxed.com and its technology would give it significant leverage against competitors like Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s Club, and put Amazon/Whole Foods on notice.
Boxed.com, founded by Chieh Huang in a New Jersey garage in 2013, is now a $100 million-a-year seller of bulk goods to both businesses and consumers, and controls its own warehouse and distribution system.
The company has been able to offer forego the standard membership fees charged by competitors, and offer free domestic shipping on orders over $49. It did this by signing exclusive deals with brands to sell only one kind of certain items, thereby locking in more attractive prices, Forbes reported.
And according to the New York Post, Boxed.com’s success has attracted investment interest from retail (Bed, Bath & Beyond) and CPG (General Mills) quarters.
Boxed.com has also been ahead of the curve in terms of automation and robotics. Its Smart StockUp alerts customers when they’re running low on everyday goods so they can reorder before they run out, and its Concierge can even automate the ordering. And the company even designed and built its own line of autonomous fulfillment robots in its warehouse, after balking at the price from a vendor.
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