News Briefs


REI’s Accelerator Program Enters Second Year


REI’s accelerator program is entering its second year and is currently accepting applications.

The Navigate accelerator program supports founders of color with existing businesses in the outdoor industry as they scale their efforts. Currently, the outdoor industry represents a $459.8-billion-dollar-sector, yet only an estimated 1% of brands in the industry are owned or led by people of color, according to REI. To help close this gap, the outdoor retailer created Path Ahead Ventures – a $30 million investment to empower founders of color to start and scale their businesses in the outdoor industry.

In the second year of the program, Navigate will offer founders a customized learning experience tailored to their company’s specific needs, as well as funding, mentorship, and one-on-one strategic guidance with subject matter experts. Founders will also have opportunities to meet with and learn from experienced partners both inside and outside the industry, while building their networks and connecting with founders of companies at similar stages. 

Applications for Navigate are open now until March 12. Interested founders can learn more and apply at  



Alo Yoga Leverages VR and Streaming for Immersive Digital Shopping Experience

Alo Yoga

Activewear retailer Alo Yoga is elevating the shopping experience, tapping into immersive technologies like virtual reality and streaming to capture consumer interest. 

The company has launched a new platform through which customers can access VR, digital styling capabilities, beauty and wellness tutorials, workout classes, and an improved checkout experience. Alo Yoga partnered with experiential e-commerce provider Obsess to launch the virtual store, accessible via desktop, mobile, or the Meta Quest 2 VR headset.

Within the experience, shoppers can interact with different types of content, build their own custom outfits, and choose from several workout videos through the Alo Moves fitness platform (previously only available to paid subscribers). 

Danny Harris, co-founder and co-CEO of Alo Yoga, said that interactive shopping experiences that incorporate VR are the future of e-commerce. “They are an exciting new way for a visionary brand like ours to reach and engage our community while transporting them directly into our world,” he added.

Angelic Vendette, VP and global head of marketing at Alo, stated the experience will help the brand reach and engage the Alo community wherever they are “in a 3D environment that feels unbelievably similar to shopping in one of our stores in real life.”

Anand Dass, director, metaverse content applications at Meta, said the technology is “transporting the digital storefront into virtual reality, and we are looking forward to learning how this could change the way consumers shop.”

Retailers have their eyes on immersive experiences, looking to differentiate their services from the competition. See how other retailers are approaching innovating shopping:


Save A Lot To Modernize Merchandising Systems


Save A Lot has struck a deal to obtain real-time inventory visibility, including data synchronization to centralize ownership and data flows for business agility, as well as unified order management and complete store and channel insights.

The supermarket chain, which is transitioning to be a licensed wholesaler, selected SymphonyAI Retail CPGto provide the end-to-end insights that it hopes will enable it to minimize stockouts and substitutions. The SymphonyAI Retail CPG solutions being implemented by Save A Lot include Master Data Management (MDM), Core Merchandising, Insights, Vendor Portal and Retail Operations.

“At Save A Lot, we have undertaken a strategic transformation from grocery retailer to licensed wholesaler,” said Jennifer Hopper, chief information officer, Save A Lot. “With SymphonyAI Retail CPG technology, we get best-in-class solutions and can evolve to full end-to-end supply chain optimization that best supports our owner/operator Retail Partner network while giving us enhanced business agility, efficiency, and scalability.”

“We are pleased to partner with an innovative grocery wholesaler like Save A Lot to speed and streamline supply chain and store operations, enhancing both shopper experience and business performance,” said Raj Marimuthu, general manager of supply chain management, SymphonyAI Retail. “We lead the industry in MDM and merchandising capabilities with a seamless path to full end-to-end AI-based insights, including demand forecasting AI — all with a compelling ROI value proposition.”


Giant Eagle Modernizes Product Management System to Improve Customer Experience

giant eagle storefront

Grocery retailer and distributor Giant Eagle is drilling down on their product management modernization efforts, investing in new strategic category management technology across 216 supermarkets and 274 GetGo convenience stores. 

Giant Eagle has tapped Plantensive, a MorganFranklin company, to spearhead the effort. Under the terms of the new partnership, the supply chain and retail planning solutions provider will roll out their category management technology to Giant Eagle and GetGo stores in western Pennsylvania, north central Ohio, northern West Virginia, Maryland, and Indiana.

The integration aims to transition Giant Eagle’s product management processes over to the Blue Yonder Category Management suite, removing siloes from data sources and providing greater insight into customer preferences. The solution also allows users to spatially analyze macro and micro space and keep track of product allocation in stores and on shelves. 

“Plantensive joined Giant Eagle as an experienced Blue Yonder category management partner which was critical for us in this implementation,” said Giant Eagle VP of merchandising planning, operations & analytics Scott McNeely. “We are looking forward to our improved guest experience and increased collaboration with the updated solution as our teams continue partnering to accelerate our category management initiatives.”


Cole Haan Implements Open Architecture Commerce Tech to Modernize the Store Experience

Cole Haan

Shoe and outerwear retailer Cole Haan is modernizing its store experience, implementing technology that will unify and streamline its commerce platform. 

The composable architecture, provided by retail tech company Aptos, will allow Cole Haan to improve its flexibility, meet shifting consumer demands, and deliver new innovations. This will help support the retailer’s more than 90 stores in the U.S. and Canada, and over 300 international store locations.  

Ron Edwards, chief operating officer of Cole Haan, said the retail experience has changed dramatically in recent years. 

“Our investment in Aptos ONE reflects our commitment to keeping pace with consumers’ evolving expectations,” Edwards said in a statement. “Aptos ONE gives Cole Haan enterprise-grade point of sale capabilities that are delivered mobile first and cloud native, with highly resilient offline capabilities that give you the confidence of omnichannel transacting anytime and anywhere.” 

Aptos CEO Pete Sinisgalli said, through the investment, the company will be able to more tightly integrate the customer experience and the enterprise to continue providing high-quality craftsmanship, customer obsession, and technological modernization.


Crate & Barrel Taps Long-time Nike Exec as New Chief Operating Officer

crate and barrel store exterior

Crate & Barrel Inc. is tapping former Nike executive Mike Brewer as their new chief operating officer. Taking up the role from February 1, 2023, Brewer will be responsible for CBH's entire brand portfolio, including Crate & Barrel, CB2, Crate & Kids, and Hudson Grace.

Brewer held various sourcing, manufacturing, and supply chain roles during his twenty-year tenure at Nike. Most recently, Brewer held the positions of VP, global sourcing and manufacturing and VP, global operations and logistics.

“I look forward to the leadership and expertise Mike will bring to CBH with his customer-centric and purpose-driven mindset,” said Janet Hayes, CEO of Crate & Barrel Holdings. “We are confident his experience will further our goals of operational excellence and elevate the modern shopping experience and products our customers turn to brands for.”

This is not the first time Crate & Barrel has brought a Nike executive into the leadership fold. In 2021, the home goods retailer tapped former Nike vice president of technology Jason Booth as their new chief technology officer. In May of 2022, Crate & Barrel also built out their senior leadership team, promoting Sebastian Brauer to senior vice president for product design, development and metaverse.

“I admire Crate & Barrel Holdings' commitment to creating meaningful connections with customers across its omnichannel offerings," said Brewer. “I'm excited to join this ambitious team and drive solutions that positively transform our customer journey and meet current and future retail challenges.”