Finance

Walmart is shutting down its exclusive Jet Black shopping service and laying off almost 300 people

  • Walmart’s New York City-based, members-only shopping service Jet Black will shut down on February 21.
  • The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Nassauer first reported that the Walmart-owned venture would shutter.
  • But Walmart may still be able to use technology developed through Jet Black.
  • A Walmart spokesperson told Business Insider that the retailer will “focus on how to leverage Walmart’s infrastructure to make conversational commerce scalable.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Walmart announced that it is shuttering its exclusive concierge shopping startup Jet Black on Thursday. The service will officially be discontinued for members in New York City on February 21. 

The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Nassauer was first to report that Walmart would be shuttering the $50-a-month, members-only service, which launched in New York City in 2018. The venture was the “first portfolio company to launch from Store No. 8,” Walmart’s startup incubator, according to a statement on the company’s website.

Jet Black CEO Jenny Fleiss departed the company in 2019. Walmart SVP of e-commerce logistics Nate Faust took on her role. 

Over 350 Walmart employees work on the Jet Black service. A Walmart spokesperson told Business Insider that 293 jobs would be cut, while 58 employees would be retained. The spokesperson said that the company is moving Jet Black “from incubation to join our broader business” under the retailer’s customer organization.

“As we said in the beginning when we launched Jet black in 2018, part of the initiative was to start testing and building the technology with the intent that it could be used in other ways, including applying it to other parts of our business in the future,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve learned a lot over the past two years, including how customers respond to the ability of ordering by text as well as the type of items they purchase through texting.”

Previously, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart sought to sell its personal shopping service, which reportedly lost $15,000 per member on an annual basis.

This isn’t the first Walmart-owned digital startup to undergo a big shakeup lately. Walmart’s Jet.com stopped its fresh grocery delivery service in New York City in November 2019. And in January 2020, the company announced that 29 of its 56 New York City-based e-commerce employees would lose their jobs. The affected office houses Allswell, Walmart’s mattress brand. 

“We’re integrating many of these brands as private brands within Walmart as we continue to deepen our category expertise and strengthen our ability to offer customers a larger range of products,” a Walmart spokesperson told Business Insider at the time.

The Walmart spokesperson told Business Insider that after Jet Black closes for good on February 21, the company will “focus on how to leverage Walmart’s infrastructure to make conversational commerce scalable.”

“We are only beginning to explore how the capabilities being developed within Store No. 8 can complement one another and be leveraged to enhance the customer experience,” Store No. 8 principal Scott Eckert said in a statement posted on Walmart’s website. “We look forward to sharing more updates from the team as we work together to shape the future of retail at Walmart.”

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