STORE SPACES

Tech-savvy b8ta to expand footprint as Macy’s leads new funding

BY Marianne Wilson

B8ta, the disruptive retailer with an unusual business model, is expanding on the heels of new funding.

The company announced it will open additional flagships across the country, starting this year with locations in Chicago, and Tysons Corner, Virginia. B8ta stores provide hands-on demonstrations of cutting-edge tech products, many from emerging brands. Under its model, b8ta leases space in its stores to the product makers/manufacturers. Brands keep 100% of their sales and pay a flat monthly fee to b8ta.

The company also announced it has raised $19 million in a new round of funding led by Macy’s, bringing the company’s total funding to $39 million to date. Other new investors include Sound Ventures, Palm Drive Capital, Capitaland and Plug and Play Ventures.

In addition to leading the round, Macy’s is partnering with b8ta to scale the tech retailer’s software platform and “retail as a service model” to expand The Market @Macy’s, a pop-up shop marketplace concept currently in place in 10 Macy’s stores.

“b8ta was the first retail-as-a-service software to market three years ago, and we have taken a dominant position in the market for both retailers and brands alike who want to build incredible in-store experiences,” said Vibhu Norby, CEO of b8ta. “When we began, third wave retail was just a whisper. Now, it is a force that is tearing down all structures in retail and replacing them with better business models, better products, and better customer experiences. With Macy’s leading our Series B, we are in position to be the infrastructure that the next generation of stores are built on top of.”

b8ta also said it will be welcoming senior level talent from large tech companies to its team later this summer.

It’s been a busy couple of months for b8ta, which currently has nine freestanding locations. In April, it launched an initiative to help brands open stores with minimal effort using its “retail-as-a-service” model. Under the arrangement, b8ta takes care of everything, from landlord negotiations to providing a state-of-the-art, data-driven technology platform.

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Party City to ‘pop up’ with toy stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Party City is looking to fill the void left by the demise of Toys “R” Us — at least for the holiday season.

The party supplies giant on Monday announced plans to open about 50 pop-up stores nationwide under the Toy City banner. The pop-ups will be located alongside Party City’s seasonal Halloween City stores, with both concepts opening in early September. The toy stores will operate throughout the holiday shopping period.

“The creation of a Toy City concept to complement our temporary seasonal retail strategy is a logical extension of our brand; one that will allow us to leverage our existing pop-up store capabilities and capitalize on the category whitespace that has recently been created,” stated James M. Harrison, CEO, Party City.

In addition, the retailer will test an expansion of its online assortment of toys.

“We’re excited to increase our toy assortments while still remaining focused on our core seasonal offerings,” said Harrison.

Party City’s retail operations include over 900 specialty retail party supply stores (including approximately 150 franchise stores) throughout North America operating under the names Party City and Halloween City, and e-commerce websites.

 

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First Look: Casper expanding in physical retail

BY Marianne Wilson

The fast-growing online company that disrupted the mattress industry has its sights set on brick-and-mortar expansion up north.

Casper, which upended the mattress industry with its bed-in-a-box product, has opened a temporary location in Montréal. It will be followed by a permanent store later this year.

The Montreal outpost comes on the heels of the company’s first Canadian site — and second permanent store to date — which opened in May, at Toronto’s CF Sherway Gardens. Its opening marks the launch of a multi-province retail fleet throughout Canada. Casper will also open a Canadian headquarters, in Toronto.

“We’ve seen tremendous success in Canada with three years of triple digit growth,” said Philip Krim, co-founder and CEO, Casper. “Investing further in the market and expanding our local presence will enable us to bring better sleep to even more Canadians across the country.”

Called Le Chalet Casper, the Montreal store offers an inviting environment inspired by the tranquility of a traditional Québécois summer home. Visitors can test out Casper sleep products in one of three miniature sleeping areas, with the spaces themed around the Canadian summer activities of hiking, sailing and fishing. Product can be purchased for carry out or for home delivery.

“At Casper, we believe that the experience of buying a mattress should be just as comfortable as sleeping on one,” said Nicole Tapscott, senior director and general manager of Casper Canada. “Le Chalet Casper is designed as an oasis for people to relax as they would in a summer chalet to escape the city heat and bustle. We encourage visitors to touch, feel and experience our sleep products in an environment that will leave them with the feeling of a life well slept.”

On the home front, Casper opened some 15 long-term pop-ups across the United States last year. In February, the brand opened its first-ever permanent location, in downtown Manhattan.

Founded in 2014, Casper’s total global revenue since inception has grown to more than $600 million.

For more slideshows, click here.

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