By Christian Smith
The shopping world may be shifting online, but building up its brick-and-mortar experience is central to the strategy of wholesale retailer Boxed, said founder and CEO Chieh Huang.
"I've always found that omnichannel will be that winning formula," Huang said Wednesday in an interview on Cheddar. "We've got to solve that in-store experience."
To help with that, Boxed announced Tuesday it raised $111 million in a Series D funding round led by Aeon, one of Japan's largest grocers. The company plans to use the cash to fully automate its fulfillment centers with original proprietary technology. From this point on, Huang said, all robotics involved in the "pick, pack, and ship" process will be built in-house.
According to Huang, automating a Boxed fulfillment center costs about $600,000-$800,000 per facility, a sum that pales in comparison to the estimated $20 million Kroger will spend automating each of its warehouses using the tech of British grocer Ocado.
Huang's reasoning for automating Boxed from within is three-fold: existing automation technology didn't fit well with the company's typically large order size, it will allow the company to power same-day delivery and express shipping, and it will save the company millions.
Perhaps its no surprise that Boxed aims to build its technology itself, rather than looking elsewhere for help. The company has reportedly rebuffed takeover offers from the likes of Kroger and even Amazon.
"Some of the biggest companies on the face of the Earth simultaneously want to kill us, buy us, invest in us, and partner with us," Huang said. "We've built this company to this point, where we now actually matter in this industry."
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