- Walmart has looked at acquiring New York-based luggage startup Away.
- In the past few years, Walmart has bought up a string of smaller consumer companies in a quest to become the "Netflix of e-commerce" — and a direct competitor with Amazon.
- Multiple people said that Walmart has taken meetings with many successful direct-to-consumer startups in recent months as part of the retail giant's plan to buy up more "digitally native, vertically intergrated" startups.
Walmart looked at acquiring luggage maker Away and held several meetings with the startup, Business Insider has learned. It's unclear if the talks are still ongoing.
Known typically as a low-cost retailer, Walmart is now seeking to appeal to a higher-end, urban shopper. To do so, it's made a number of acquisitions in the last several years, including e-commerce company Jet.com, women's indie clothing brand ModCloth, and men's clothing company Bonobos. Just last week, the company announced that it had bought up plus-sized women's brand Eloquii.
Andy Dunn, head of Walmart's digital consumer brands and Bonobos founder, told CNBC in September that Walmart will continue to buy brands, just as Netflix has invested in television and movie content.
Away isn't the only company that Walmart is keeping an eye on, and Dunn often takes meetings with successful direct-to-consumer companies, according to multiple people. “Walmart has told everyone that they’re keenly interested,” one person said. “Whether they write the checks is another story.”
"If you want to win, you've got to own great brands," Dunn told CNBC. "It's kind of like what Netflix did. They started making their own content. And we're of the belief the same thing is going to happen in commerce."
Acquiring these newer, direct-to-consumer startup darlings is part of Walmart's quest to own what it calls "digitally native, vertically integrated brand" or DNVB.
Dunn described how these newer, Internet-founded companies could corner the millennial market in a 2016 Medium post: '"The reality is the brand of the future is a DNVB, but the future is not here yet," he wrote.
"Some big companies now believe they can make these brands themselves," he continued, but cautioned that this notion was one of "hubris."
Luggage company Away has established itself as a successful direct-to-consumer line. The startup's sleek USB-equipped luggage offerings were an early hit with consumers, and Away has since announced its intentions to expand into a lifestyle brand with an accompanying podcast and digital publication. Away has raised $80 million from investors including Accel, Forerunner, and Battery Ventures. Dunn is also among Away's investors.
Representatives for Walmart and Away declined to comment.
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