A personal shopping service and Walmart (NYSE:MGM) -- these are words you don't ordinarily expect to find in a sentence together. And yet, for more than a year -- not long after it laid out $3.3 billion to buy online e-tailer Jet.com, in fact -- Walmart has tried to make a go of its "Jetblack" personal shopper service.
But now, the company is walking the service back.
At last report, Jetblack had about 600 subscribers, each paying $600 a year for the privilege of being able to order from Walmart, and from retailers other than Walmart, but through Walmart, by text message. Upon receipt of a text, Jetblack would dispatch couriers to buy the items requested and deliver them as soon as the same day.
Originally thought to give Walmart's AI computers more insight into what consumers really want, it was an interesting attempt from the company's tech incubator to digitize discretionary spending. But just last year, The Wall Street Journal reviewed internal documents from Walmart, showing that Jetblack was losing about $15,000 per shopper subscribed to the service, per year -- and Walmart figured it would need to spend about $60 million a year to keep the business going.
Even for a business doing $521 billion in sales, that smarts. So last summer, Walmart began shopping Jetblack around for outside investment -- even thinking of doing a spinoff -- but that hasn't gone well, either. With little interest from parties that aren't already invested in Jetblack, the Journal now reports that Walmart is restructuring Jetblack -- a restructuring that verges on disassembly.
Personal shopping, for example -- the raison d' etre of Jetblack -- will be discontinued. Jetblack's "technology" will be "moved within Walmart." Even the name of the service will be changed.