Walmart will discontinue high-end Jetblack service this month

Key Points
  • Walmart said it will discontinue its personal shopping service, Jetblack, on Feb. 21. 
  • The decision came after it ended talks about an investment or spinoff, a report said.
  • The service is reportedly unprofitable and has attracted few customers.
  • Jetblack's CEO was replaced in October.
The Jetblack team attends Jetblack Holiday Marketplace on November 20, 2019 in New York City.
Noam Galai | Getty Images

Walmart said it will discontinue its personal shopping service, Jetblack, on Feb. 21.

The comments follow a report by The Wall Street Journal that the company ended talks to spin off the business and will now restructure it. The retailer had conversations with potential investors, including Microsoft, United Parcel Service and venture capital firms, according to the report.

In a post on its corporate website Thursday, Scott Eckert, head of the retailer's technology incubator Store No. 8, said Jetblack has graduated from its tech incubator and will become part of Walmart's customer organization.

"We've learned a lot through Jet black, including how customers respond to the ability of ordering by text as well as the type of items they purchase through texting," Eckert said in the post. "We're eager to apply these learnings from Jet black and leverage its core capabilities within Walmart."

He did not provide further detail about what that might look like.

Jetblack notified customers about the end of the service in text messages and emails on Thursday. It said it would no longer accept new orders but would fulfill pending ones. It also said it would refund all customers their most recent $50 monthly membership fee.

About 300 Jetblack employees will lose their jobs and 58 others will become a conversational commerce team for Walmart, and remain working in New York, company spokesman Ravi Jariwala said. 

Jetblack launched in New York City in May 2018. The membership-based service caters to high-end customers and was priced at $50 a month when it rolled out. Members were able to order items on demand, from cosmetics to party decor, but not fresh food, by sending a text message. The company then delivered the purchases to the home.

Since its launch, the service has struggled to gain traction. Jetblack's CEO and co-founder Jenny Fleiss, who co-founded Rent the Runway, was replaced by Nate Faust in October. The service had less than a thousand customers as of last year, according to The Journal report.

It was losing around $15,000 per member annually as of summer 2019, the newspaper said.

Walmart shares were trading higher Thursday, up about 1%. The stock, which is valued at $332.5 billion, is up nearly 20% over the past year.

Walmart just announced a new technology called Alphabot
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