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Stitch Fix COO Mike Smith on the Style Feedback Loop, Entering New Markets, and Tech Entering Everything

By Motley Fool Staff - Updated Nov 7, 2019 at 6:39AM

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Tom Gardner and team talked with a leader from one of his favorite companies.

Listen in as Tom Gardner, Andy Cross, and Tim Beyers chat with Stitch Fix (SFIX 2.22%) COO Mike Smith about the company's origins, its business model, and its philosophy on experimentation and growth.

Andy Cross: Michael, well, thanks so much for joining us here at The Motley Fool, where Stitch Fix is a recommendation to our members, and we've follow the business for many years. I think we'd like to start with a little bit of your background, your history. What's your position at Stitch Fix, and how did you end up there?

Mike Smith: Sure. So, I'm Mike Smith. I'm a president and chief operating officer. I've been with the company about seven and a half years. I joined from I had been at Walmart online division for nine years. Left that position as chief operating officer and then joined Katrina when we were just four people. And it's been an amazing and intellectually challenging run for the seven half years that I've been here.

I grew up in Virginia. I went to University of Virginia for undergrad, worked in consulting, and then went to business school. And then had been in retail pretty much since 2003. And it's been obviously an exciting time to be in retail.

Tom Gardner: Can you talk about the first year or two of getting Stitch Fix off the ground? We've certainly read and heard from Katrina Lake about the capital-raising challenges that she faced. What can you tell us about the early days, and what is there in the DNA of the company that you experienced as employee No. 4?

Smith: Yeah, we talk a lot about Stitch Fix grant and sort of some of the thick skin we got back in the day, when it was more challenging to get investors excited about this category. A lot of investors, specifically in Silicon Valley, didn't love sort of an inventory business. There were very few public market comps of retail businesses that were doing well. In the early days, building that thick skin and really a focus on managing both growth and profitability so that we could have control of our own destiny drove the DNA and kind of formed the DNA of the company, which still exists today.

And so, at times, we think of ourselves as underdogs. We certainly are really proud of the execution of the business side of the company today, which has been driven by this great balance between growth and profitability, where we're able to self-fund all new investments and not be dependent on the capital markets. But those early days, I'd say, helped form us culturally and also help form how we think about executing the model.

Gardner: And what was the...if you could walk us through the decision to go public and IPO experience, that one's a little bit more of just essence of the day question. Given all of the IPO turmoil of the last couple of weeks and months, what was that experience like at Stitch Fix?

Smith: Yeah, it was a really just another milestone and a very long journey. A lot of people talk about the IPO experience being just a financing event. It was more than that. It was a special time for us, but it also was just a time for us to celebrate for a hot second that we had achieved the greatness that we'd achieved, but really get back to work. Because we have so many opportunities on this platform to bring personalization to life in a lot of different ways. And so, it was an amazing experience as we've talked about kind of other conversations. It wasn't the easiest experience.

Again, we experienced similar to the private markets, a challenging public market environment for people being excited about our stock. But what it did for us was just another reminder that if you focus on executing, and you have a very long-term mentality to what you want to build from a company standpoint, that you'll achieve those goals and not worry about, sort of, the short-term-ism that sometimes exists with an IPO market.

Gardner: What are the one or two things that you think investors in the public market right now are getting right about Stitch Fix? And what are the one or two things that you think are being misunderstood?

Smith: Yeah. I think the one or two things that our long-term investors really get are kind of this focus on bringing a long-term value, thinking about it from a long-term value perspective. That it requires investment in technology and data science in particular to deliver the value of a long period of time. We can do, and have done a lot of different things on this platform. Again, we launched with women's; we now have a men's business. We've launched a kid's business and a U.K. business.

When we think about the vision of the company, it's transforming the way people find what they love. And that has a very broad kind of purview out of all the things that we can do. And so, I think our long-term investors understand that long-term view and all the ways that personalization can be applied to apparel, but also other things in the future.

I think the misunderstanding is, there are questions about real impact of data science in our business, and we can clearly see it. We have 125 data scientists; we have 200 engineers. We measure our return on investment on everything we do, because of some of our foundational things that we experienced in fundraising. And I think, it's misunderstood exactly all the places that data science could have an impact in our business. Because it's not just in the styling algorithm, it's also in merchandising, it's in planning, it's in operations, it's in finance, it's in personalized marketing, and algorithms can really help you scale and be smarter about how to target clients. And also just match inventory to clients in ways that we've done [indecipherable 00:05:52] today, but still have a lot more opportunity to go even deeper.

Cross: Mike, I really want to ask you a how many fixes you get a year, but I'm going to refrain from that question just to keep the conversation focused on our business a little bit. Thinking through the culture that you and Katrina have been able to build, and the type of people you've been able to hire. You mentioned 125 data scientists, I think 200 engineers. Also a lot of stylists that you work with. Think about helping us understand the culture and the balance between the type of people that are working at Stitch Fix, and why you consider that such an asset to your success?

Smith: Yeah, to be clear, it is a massive asset to us and it's a very differentiated in the marketplace. We call it our operating system, or our OS, and we have specific things that we hire for. And then our core values. And then we also teach leadership around specific attributes that we expect all leaders to have. And so, we hire for bright, kind, and motivated by challenge. And in the early days, it became very clear that bright was different than smart in our model.

Bright, in my opinion, has more risk-taking attributes to it. You have to be smart to be bright, but you also, bright like a light. It is sharing, and you have to share kind of the thoughts that you have. Kind was always something that...Katrina and I felt that there are too many companies that were based on a lot of hierarchy that was unnecessary.

The best ideas really come from people that are closest to the business, and not from kind of the ivory tower sort of the C-suite. The C-suites is important, and Katrina is very important, I'm very important to the business. But the reality is, if you create a culture where ideas can come from anywhere, they actually do come from everywhere. Which, in this model specifically, when you're being as disruptive as we're being in changing the way apparel is bought, you want ideas to flow freely. And that's been a really important part of kind of how we've shown up.

And then the last thing I touch on is exactly what you said in, sort of, the question is that, I love the diversity of the types of people, and the functions you have at this company. The difference between a data scientist and a stylist, or an engineer and a merchant, they're fundamentally different. But they start from the foundation of our operating system, and then they solve business problems together. Kind of using both sides of their brain and really thinking about the problem very broadly, which is, probably the most fun part of my job is just walking around and listening to these conversations that are happening as we're changing the way retail has been done.

Cross: And Mike, I'll just jump in with a quick follow-up there. Piggybacking on the balance of working together across engineering and stylists and throughout the whole organization, when you look at something like, let's just take Direct-Buy, a new initiative you've launched recently. Talk a little bit about the excitement around that concept, how it kind of evolved, and where do you expect to take it over the next few years?

Smith: Yeah, sure. With Direct-Buy, there's a lot of Direct-Buy that we've talked about for a number of years at the company, which is this idea of how broad and how evolved can personalization be. And we see large applications of how personalization should work in our model. But the specifics around Direct-Buy, we had talked about wanting to digitize the style cards. So in a client's fix, you get the cards that will show you how to pair items with other items in your closet. And it became really clear that you should, at some point, make that digital so that you could have people click on things and really understand how things pair together.

And then that evolved into...well, imagine a world where you could have a client almost walking into their own personal shop, that they take something that they bought from us, and then they can see all the different ways to wear that, and with what. And then buy those things from us. And so that's the evolution of Shop Your Looks and Direct-Buy. It's really just in a sort of an extension of personalization, in ways that the Fix doesn't provide as much evolution there.

And so, we're really excited about the potential for Direct-Buy. It's very early. I mean, we talked about in our last earnings call that we had just given 20% of our women's client base the opportunity to test Shop Your Looks. There's a lot of kind of optimization that we want to do with that product, but we thought it was important enough to talk to the investor community about it because of how big we think it will be. It is an evolution, it is not changing from what personalization is. It's a better form and a more granular form and a more hyper-curated form of personalization. And I'm using all the powers of personalization that we have in the model.

Tim Beyers: Mike, can you talk a little bit does seem that, Stitch Fix has a culture of experimentation, and something you said about how the market misunderstands the quality of data science you have. If anybody hasn't read it, I would recommend heartily they read the multithreaded blog that you guys keep on data science, which is amazing. It's really interesting and very fun. But in there, you talk a lot, your data scientists talk a lot about experiments and experimentation, and this in particular, Shop Your Colors and Shop Your Looks, sort of seems like it came out of that. The Direct-Buy offering that you have now. Can you talk a little bit about how you run experiments at Stitch Fix and what you're working on now?

Smith: Yeah, we have a very robust A/B test kind of a platform. But I think more importantly, going back to the operating system and culturally how we want people to show up. We have a very openness to, sort, of fail fast and fail forward, and to have people try new things. I mean, again, you're talking about a company that was started by Katrina in 2011. Where she felt like retail had not seen very much disruption at all, and hadn't infused technology into the retail experience like it should have. And so she had a very disruptive nature in terms of just starting the company.

And the performance that we've had as a public company today is really a result of us being willing to take risks and have a very long-term focus as to how we run the company. And so we ask our data science team, our engineering team, to have the same kind of ethos. Which is the biggest kind of hockey-stick impact things that happen in our business are a result of people just coming up with the ideas and trying them, and not being afraid to fail.

And so the other kind of example of that, that I talk about, is just the evolution of Style Shuffle. So, for those that aren't familiar with Style Shuffle, the way that Style Shuffle works is, it's a game that you can thumb up or thumb down certain styles that you like and other styles that you don't. And we have, over 80% of our active client base, has played that game. And we have over 3 billion ratings that have come from Style Shuffle. What that does, is it allows us to understand both the client's style that's playing the game, but any client that's like that client, understand their style better.

As a result of that, we've seen our like/love scores, which is the ratings people give us around style, go up and the businesses that Style Shuffle is being applied to. But there's a lot more we can do with Style Shuffle. Like, if you imagine a world where you take merchandise before you're about to buy it, and put it through Style Shuffle to make sure that it's merchandise that you should buy. You could see kind of a world where you start...we do our own product development, so we have what we call exclusive brands. It's just private-label product. And you take some of those ideas you have around designs and put it through Style Shuffle and get an early read on whether you should design that product.

So, there are a number of things, like Style Shuffle, like Shop Your Looks that start as little kernels of ideas. And then explode into these amazing platforms that allow us to see really differentiated and impactful performance as a retailer.

Beyers: One quick follow up on this. The last time we checked in with you, I think in...not the last quarterly letter, but maybe the quarter before, you were around 2 billion inputs on Style Shuffle, which is amazing. Is that right?

Smith: Yeah, so it's gone up. The first time we talked about it, it was a billion ratings. And just in two quarters later, I believe it was up to 3 billion ratings. And so --

Beyers: Wow, OK.

Smith: Wen you talk about being a scientist, there's never enough data to help them figure out how that data can be impactful and unlocking, in this case, style. People really enjoy playing the game. And honestly, clients give us feedback about how they want to even evolve Style Shuffle. There're clients that tell us, "I'd like to tell you why I didn't like it. It's not that I didn't like that style, it's just that I have that," or "I like it, but I like it because of this color." And so some of the reasons why people either thumb up or thumb down can be evolved as well, as we think about what this product looks like over the next few years.

Gardner: Can you give an example --

Beyers: Can you talk about the feedback loop? Because, there's that, but then, you also have these relationships with retailers. You have some premium retailers who are on your platform, and I've heard Katrina say that, there's something that you can give those retailers that a traditional retailer can't. You can give them the feedback, you can give them data on how their styles are performing on the Stitch Fix platform. How does that work, and how have those relationships evolved? And then I'll let Tom ask his question.

Gardner: That's good. That was very close to what my question was going to be. Nice job.

Smith: Yeah. One of the joys of my job has been, sort of, a little bit of being here seven and a half years is being able to answer this question with some histories. So, in the early days, you would go to a brand, and you would talk to them about selling in this channel. There were some brands that gave us a chance, and you could buy 20 units from the brand. And other brands are like, "I don't really understand what this kind of business is about." And they'd be, fast-forward to where we are today, we're working with all the brands that we want to work with. And there's this unbelievable evolution of, sort of, our brand relationship, where people truly understand how differentiated it is, and how much data they get to help them be a better brand.

So, examples of that are, a brand will get feedback from us on how their t-shirt or their pair of pants is working with a small guy up to a triple extra large guy. And they'll also get feedback on how their shirt might be performing on a guy that's husky versus athletic. And in some cases, we've been able to show them data that it performs differently, not as effective with a triple XL guy, because the way they've constructed this shirt didn't take into account the difference between an athletic-cut guy and a husky guy. I have some sensitivity to this because I've moved back and forth between athletic and husky. And sometimes shirts don't fit me as well when I'm in one shape or the other. And what I appreciate about Stitch Fix is this idea.

Personalization is more than just finding me the right t-shirt. It's finding me a great t-shirt that's going to fit me, and that I'm excited about wearing, and it's going to drive confidence. And so, that data is very helpful to a brand to develop better product. But what we also give that brand is protection of the brand. We care deeply about brands. So, we don't mark down product. We provide a full-price retail channel for them, and we can also show a brand how their product might do for someone that...for t-shirts, they might have clients that feel like a $50 t-shirt is too much, or a $50 t-shirt isn't enough.

They want to spend more. And it really allows them to be more granular in what product they sell us, based on kind of the size and fit and price preferences of our clients in ways, again, that other retailers don't have that data on their clients' size. And we do, and they can develop product that's more tailored and more personalized for a very large group of clients.

Gardner: As I look at Stitch Fix -- obvious comparison over to Netflix. I know that you all have some linkages with Netflix, and you see Netflix as original programming becoming so crucial to their company, their business and their platform for their audience, and looking at Stitch Fix, is your own brands. And I'm wondering, where you see the boundary lines for where you'll take your own brands. Or if you don't see any boundary lines. Where you see opportunities, you will launch a new brand. How do you think about the interplay between your own brands and the brands that you're bringing on your platform?

Smith: Yeah, we only see a world where both exists. Where we have market-brand product in our portfolio, and we have exclusive brand product in our portfolio. Private-label product, we develop private-label products as a result of seeing gaps in the market. So, there might be gaps from a price point perspective, or quality perspective, or a style perspective. Then we'll develop exclusive brand product around those holes that we see, where our clients are telling us they want product at this price point, but can't find it in the market, nor can we. And we can develop product around that.

So, we don't have any specific targets around how much of the business is going to be exclusive brand versus market brand. But we only see a world where market brands are very important. And what it does is, it provides some healthy competition. We would never take a brand and sort of make product that is similar to the brand. That's just not how we operate as a company. But we will develop product that might be...again, we go out to shopping in the market, and we don't find it. And we've done a really nice job of building exclusive brand business in women, men and kids.

Each of those businesses might have different targets for how much exclusive brand product we'll have. But that really is a result of what we're seeing kind of in the market and what the needs are from our client base.

Cross: Mike, can you share a little insights into the expansion into new areas? So, for example, you just mentioned kids. How do you think...what is the framework to thinking about going into a new client base, or actually even into a new country, and some of the challenges that you as a cultural fit for Stitch Fix? How do you balance between going after the new, and making sure you continue to thrive in the old? I shouldn't say "old," but just more in the current.

Smith: Yeah, it's a great question. It's kind of, I'd say multilayered. Hopefully, I'll hit on your points. The first is, before we do any new market or even new business like men's, we do a lot of market research to ensure that we have a right to be in that market. And so, we'll do primary research, and we'll also listen to our clients to say, what are their needs? Is there a real place for us to play in men's, or in the U.K., or in kids? And so far, obviously, all the businesses that we launch, we got positive feedback that this is something that people would, how they want to shop.

I'd say more broadly speaking, though, if you look at what we're doing, what we're doing is changing the way people shop. And we're doing it in apparel first, and we're doing it with men's, kids, in the U.K., and in women's business. But there's no reason why, like, for any nuanced decision-making, or where data science or building trust with a client that gets you more feedback, that helps you help them find things that they love -- why we can't apply this personalization to other business problems as well.

And then the second part of your question is about the trade offs. I mean, that's the fun part, and the hard part of this job. If you're walking around the building here -- and we really encourage you to come and hang out sometime -- the men's business loves the resources they get, but would take more. Like, they take more data scientists to work on the challenge. The same for the kids business. There's no shortage of ideas that each of these businesses have, to help grow their business and increase our total adjustable market.

And so, the hard part is, how much investment are we going to make? We've always had this balance between growth and profitability. And you'll have some investors that feel like we should just go negative and spend into our very strong cash position on the balance sheet. And then many more investors really appreciate the balance between growth and profitability. But there's no shortage of ideas that we have where we want to make investments and resource kind of an improving the experiences. And then growing into new markets and new possibilities as well.

Cross: Mike, can you also share some insights, inventory's a large part of your balance sheet, or a meaningful part of your balance sheet. Just think about how you think about inventory. Are there new ways to think about inventory? How about technology that goes into that? Just what does the inventory picture look like? How do you get better and better at that considering the size of it relative to your balance sheet and [crosstalk 00:25:01]?

Smith: Yeah, I mean, we look at...our turns is one metric. I mean, we turn faster than any other apparel retailer in terms of six times a year at cost. We are, we believe, best in the world at matching products to what the client wants. And that has a lot to do with, again, feedback that we've gotten and how much trust we've gotten with people filling out the style profile that allows us to develop product, and then buy product, and then match product to that client when they get a fix, or now in indirect buy.

That being said, we still have more room for opportunity to get even faster in our supply chain. And using things like Style Shuffle that'll help us do even a better job of planning what the inventory is going to be in the future. But we're very pleased with what we've seen eight years or nine years into this business what we can do with data science on inventory in particular. And while it's a big part of the balance sheet, we manage inventory probably better than any other retailer.

Gardner: I do agree. It's an awesome part of the business. A question that I have about that -- this is just my crazy, dreamer mind. Is there a way, ultimately, to have your suppliers carry the inventory until you distribute it?

Smith: Yeah. It's a great question, and we talk about it a lot. I think the way I'd answer it is, if there's ways to continue to deliver a great client experience, and allow us to attribute the product in our proprietary way that helps us matching. We're somewhat agnostic to how the inventory is held. There's obviously working capital benefits by having the brand hold the inventory. But if it detracts from the client experience for whatever reason, or doesn't allow us to sort the algorithm to work as well as it needs to work to deliver a great client experience, then we won't do that.

And then the last thing I'd say is, there's plenty of retail models that have gone to brands and basically told them, "You need to keep this on your balance sheet. And you need to sort of do it in a consignment way that's not brand-friendly." And ultimately, I don't believe that's the way you partner with brands to get the best product and get unique product, like we've done in our model.

So, we will always be balancing. If we did something different with a brand, making sure that it delivers a great client experience, that the algorithm is going to work as well as it did, and that we're a great partner to our brands. And won't ever break away from those three attributes.

Beyers: Mike, in the latest quarter, you had a couple of metrics. I mean, speaking of the efficiency of your algorithms, you had a couple of new metrics in the quarterly letter. I want you to talk about these a little bit: the success rate and the payback period on your marketing spend. It's kind of interesting, here, and it does fit with your, sort of, relentless desire to squeeze as much as you can out of every dollar of capital. But how should we think about these two metrics, and what do they signify to you?

Smith: Yeah, I think the two disclosures in our last earnings...I'll touch on them individually. The marketing disclosure really was to give people confidence and comfort that, for every dollar we're spending, we're super intentional about making sure that we have fast payback on that dollar, and showing the discipline of the company. There are a number of companies, I'd say specifically out here in Silicon Valley, that look at lifetime value and don't calculate it from a revenue perspective, or not a full contribution margin, and will spend marketing dollars up exactly to that lifetime value. And we have not nor will we ever do that. We want to make sure that every dollar has a very good return and fast paybacks on that investment. And that's what that disclosure shows.

I'd say on a success rate, we've had questions before like, "Do the algorithms really work? Does data science really work? And what we showed in that disclosure was that, in cohorts 18 and 19, that we did see improvement both from Fix one to Fix three, but also year over year. So again, the baseline was the hundred. But what we saw was double-digit improvement in Fix performance. And that's because of how much data we get from clients that allows us to get better over each Fixes. And then the network and scale effects of the size of our business. We'll get better at Fix one every time when you're operating with 3.2 million active clients and guiding to almost $2 billion in revenue for next year. There was lot of scale and network benefits that we'd get from the size of the business that we have.

Beyers: So, when I look at this, and it says 121% in the third cohort of fiscal 2019, what you're telling me is, in that cohort, that third cohort, they're buying on a year-over-year basis, they're taking 21% more from the box than they did the year prior. They're buying 21% more.

Smith: Yes, that's correct.

Beyers: Got it.

Smith: Exactly that.

Gardner: As you perfect your algorithms, and as we travel into a world where there's an increasing amount of automation, I think back to a meeting we had with some of the leadership at Comcast, is they were talking about really preparing everyone in their customer services area, as an example, for automation and the transition they would have to make in their career, and the reality that chat bots would emerge. That they wanted to be as transparent as possible with their customer service agents.

Do you think that the algorithms could get so good that there is a changing role for the stylist at Stitch Fix over the long term? Will the algorithms be able to simply select the right, and match the right patterns and selections for each individual, or do you not anticipate that happening?

Smith: Yeah. I'll answer the question in a couple of ways. One, we've always been balanced between human and data science. And there will always be a place for humans in our stylist and our model. Customers and clients won't tell the algorithm that their butt felt too big in their pair of jeans that they got, or their thighs got...they weren't comfortable with how their thighs showed, or things like bra size or whether, like I just shared, whether I'm athletic or husky.

That was just something that we do not believe an algorithm will be told. It requires you to have trust with the client, that you built that trust, that when they share those intimate details, that you're going to deliver them great-fitting clothes from their sharing those vulnerabilities frankly. So, I always see a place for humans and data science working together.

The second thing I'd say is that, the stylist job has changed dramatically over the seven and a half years that I've been here. We originally started in women's tops, and now we do shoes, and we do plus, and we do maternity, and we do men's, and we do kids, and the U.K. And so, the stylists community and, frankly, everyone who works at this company, really understands that, when you're growing as much as we've grown and have as much opportunity as we have on this platform, you have to be pretty comfortable with change. My job in seven half years probably feels like it changes every quarter. And so, you have to feel comfortable, generally, with change if you want to work in a disruptive, high-growth area like what we're doing.

I think I'd close by saying, we want humans, in this case stylists, to do the things that humans do best. There're so many rote calculations that happen with matching that doesn't make sense for our stylists to do. There are a number of things in the warehouse that it doesn't make sense to have. We used to have a box folder, and all that person did all day was build boxes. That's not the most exciting job for anybody. And so, if you can have automation or technology that solves the more mundane parts of a person's job, then they can be more excited about the more creative parts of their job. And I think that builds longer-term, enduring relationships with our employee base.

Beyers: Yeah. Mike, that makes absolute sense. And if you could talk about just some of the brand extensions that you could do. So, for example, you just recently acquired Finery. If you could give us the sense of A, why did you do the Finery acquisition? And B, how are you going to think about this? Are there other ways that the Stitch Fix brand can grow and be in other places?

Smith: Yeah, I think, without talking specifically about the Finery acquisition, because what that did for us was create, let's say, competency within the company of how to do mergers and acquisition. In the early days, we would get a decent amount of inbound from companies that were interested in being part of Stitch Fix. But we just didn't have the time or the muscle for evaluating that. And that most recent acquisition helped us build that muscle. As far as future things, I mean, we have so many ideas. I think one of the things I'm most proud of what we've done, especially as a public company, is say what we're going to do, and do it. And not get distracted.

So again, we've had eight quarters as a public company, delivering exactly what we said we were going to do from a revenue guidance perspective and a profit guidance perspective. And we're building trust with Wall Street and the analyst community and long-term investors over time. And my opinion is that, the only way to keep that trust is to stay very focused on delivering what you know is in front of you, and not get ahead of your skis.

But I will say, whether it's bicycles or restaurants or dating or beauty or home goods, there's lots of different ways that personalization can be applied and have it be a better shopping experience. And we talk about all of those. But for now, we're very focused on kind of the things that are in front of us, and we'll evaluate those other things when it makes sense for us.

Cross: Mike, we have just a few minutes left, so we just want to respect your time. And so, just a few questions left. But first, I wanted to ask, you sit on the board of Ulta (ULTA 1.40%), which is another, recommendation of The Motley Fool; it's done very well for us. And it's also run by a fantastic leader in Mary Dillon. If you could just give some thoughts about what you have learned from that experience, and then perhaps what has Stitch Fix brought to Ulta?

Smith: Yeah, I think, it's early on in my days being involved Ulta, but I feel really fortunate to be involved with Mary and her team and the rest of the board. It's an amazing company. They really understand their clients and their guests and how to deliver amazing experiences in stores, both with product and services. And so, I think what I learned from Ulta in my early weeks of being on the board, is successful scaling of a great idea. They've gone from $1 billion to a lot more than that. And from a market cap perspective, have gained a lot of market capital over the last six or seven years.

And so, how do you scale successfully, is what I have learned already in my short time being associated with Ulta. And also, just the quality of the leadership team there with Mary, that the leadership team Mary's built, gives us sort of a framework to ensure that we're always having a very high-impact leadership team.

I think what I can bring to them over time is this idea of how much data science and engineering specifically, around personalization, can impact their experience as well. They have lots of loyal members that go into Ulta stores all the time. There's, I think a ton of opportunity that Ulta has, and frankly, any retailer has to have a much better understanding of their client experience, and use data science and engineering, I think, more robustly in the model. It's too early to say. I mean, I'm hoping that I can add value. I expect to add value on that board, but also it has done a tremendous job of having just a fabulous business in beauty.

Cross: That's awesome. Thank you.

Gardner: It's time for our final question. I think it would be a good idea, in our minds, to all queue the Rocky movie music that we know. And we've got that in our minds now. And I wanted to give a shout out to Paul Yee because I think Stitch Fix is extremely well managed financially. He's an outside passive investor looking at the company. And I look on the balance sheet, and we have $300 million-plus in cash sitting there. We got the Rocky music in our minds, and Amazon has $40 billion in cash on their balance sheet.

So, Mike, tell us why we're going to win in any showdowns with Amazon?

Smith: Yeah, I'd go back to how much product and how much apparel is done in brick-and-mortar stores today, and know that there's a lot of opportunity. We have good tailwinds for our business of continuing to take share from other brick-and-mortar retailers. Specifically to Amazon, personalization is all we do. Katrina built this company, with this idea of using a style profile, and getting checkout data, and having data science be part of how we disrupt apparel retail. And this is all we're doing.

And so, I think the seven and a half years I've been here, the eight and a half years the company has been around. It's the scale of the business. It's the understanding of what data matters. It's the fact that we're solely focused on this problem set versus lots of other businesses that other companies are in, that give us confidence that we'll be able to fend off anybody. But also more importantly, deliver a great client experiences over a long period of time. So, we're excited about how much more we can do at Stitch Fix and focused on that.

Gardner: Thank you for that answer, and all your answers, and for this conversation, I'll just emphasize two words that you focused on, just the last sentence of that answer, and the two words: "long period" or "long period of time," those four words. That's what The Motley Fool is all about. You may or may not know this, but when we recommend a stock, we allow our members to invest before we do. And then when we invest in the services in which Stitch Fix is recommended, we have a mandated five-year holding period, which is completely anathema. It's very hard to find that on Wall Street.

We're extremely focused on the long-term performance of the businesses that we're invested in. We're very happy to be a part of the overall Stitch Fix stakeholder base. And thanks so much for taking the time, and we look forward to continuing to follow and invest in your company going forward.

Smith: Yeah, well, thank you for the support and, kind of, the fair coverage of what you guys talk about -- and challenging, too, which is what we want. We want the smartest and best people around the table kind of working with us. Because this idea has so many legs, and there's a lot more we can do, and it's great to have smart people that are very engaged in our business, that have a long-term lens like you guys do. So, thanks for that support.

Gardner: Awesome, Mike. Thank you very much. And Andy and Tim and everyone here at the Fool, thank you and carry on.

Cross: Thanks Mike.

Smith: All right, thank you.

Beyers: Thanks, Mike.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Andy Cross owns shares of Comcast and Netflix. Tim Beyers owns shares of Netflix and Stitch Fix. Tom Gardner owns shares of Netflix and Stitch Fix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Netflix, and Stitch Fix. The Motley Fool recommends Comcast and Ulta Beauty. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Ulta Beauty, Inc. Stock Quote
Ulta Beauty, Inc.
$395.47 (1.40%) $5.44
StitchFix Stock Quote
$7.36 (2.22%) $0.16
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$132.22 (1.85%) $2.40
Netflix, Inc. Stock Quote
Netflix, Inc.
$249.30 (2.72%) $6.60
Comcast Corporation Stock Quote
Comcast Corporation
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$143.55 (2.07%) $2.91

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