The homepage on the new Hudson's Bay marketplace.

Hudson’s Bay has transformed its e-commerce website into a marketplace format, which launches today with an assortment augmented by nearly 300 brands and many categories never before carried by the Canadian retailer.

By the end of 2021, Hudson’s Bay expects to have added more than 1,000 brands to thebay.com. There have been 1,670 brands on the website.

Categories Hudson’s Bay is introducing Friday through its marketplace include pet supplies; books; stationery; health and wellness; gourmet food; electronics including televisions, headphones, computers and smart home devices such as security cameras and baby monitors; vintage designer handbags, and sports equipment, including outdoor gear as well as sports nutrition.

Among the new brands coming to the site are, in women’s apparel, Israella Kobla, Brunette the Label and Joe’s Jeans, and in electronics and smart devices, ​Garmin and Hubble Connected.

Also new to the assortment: Whiskers & Fins pet food, treats, accessories and supplies; ​Under the Stairs Paper Co. cards and stationery; BioSteel protein powders, vitamins and sports accessories, and beauty products from ​Dew of the Gods and Zephyr Beauty Brands.

“This is a real game changer for us to extend our offer to customers,” said Iain Nairn, president and chief executive officer of Hudson’s Bay, a division of the Hudson’s Bay Co.

According to Hudson’s Bay, thebay.com expects to generate about 1 billion Canadian dollars in 2021, excluding returns. The website attracts 220 million visits annually, nearly half of whom come from mobile, and has 5.7 million loyalty customers.

“We are the fifth largest e-commerce business in Canada by revenue,” said Nairn, who added that the company for several seasons has been working to drive e-commerce. “We more than doubled our e-commerce penetration in 2020.”

In Canada, online shopping overall has more than doubled over the past year, with Canadians shopping such marketplaces as Amazon and walmart.com. But Nairn said thebay.com differentiates by providing “premium products” to the Canadian consumer.

Nairn said getting brands onto the marketplace is faster and easier than the normal wholesale process. “It can be as quick as a week for a brand to get on our website,” versus the six-to-seven-month normal wholesale process involving buyers visiting showrooms and placing orders.

With marketplace vendors, there is less risk for Hudson’s Bay since it’s not purchasing the products, but there would be less profit per transaction. Hudson’s Bay does make money by charging the third-party sellers on its marketplace a commission based on sales plus a monthly 30 Canadian dollar fee. Hudson’s Bay takes the transaction, and sends it to the seller, which holds the inventory and handles the shipping and customer service. “It’s really an efficient way of reaching customers and driving business to their brands,” Nairn said.

The marketplace, the CEO explained, is fully integrated so customers will have the same experience they are accustomed to on thebay.com and on the Hudson’s Bay app, including the ability to earn and redeem Hudson’s Bay Reward points on all marketplace items.

Aside from having a broader assortment, the Hudson’s Bay marketplace is “no different from thebay.com. We are not creating another website,” Nairn said. “Everything will look seamless. It still takes the same number of clicks to get to a purchase. Let’s say you want to buy a yellow dress with a V-front, you search for that and you’ll find products supplied by us, and the next one might be from a marketplace vendor.

“There are currently about 100,000 styles on our existing platform, not including all the different sizes and colors in each style. We think that will grow to 200,000 over time,” Nairn said.

“We have 1,700 sellers we are in conversation with. We have contracted just over 200 already,” Nairn said. “We are launching with about 150 new vendors and some 30,000 additional skus when we go live.” More than 20 percent of the sellers that contacted Hudson’s Bay are Canadian.

Iain Nairn 

Hudson’s Bay instructs the brands on how to sell on the marketplace. “We give them access to a portal, which has a template on how to load their products on the site,” Nairn explained. “They have options. They can have branded locations. They could get a whole page, and can also choose to be featured in certain places or with headers. They have options on how to raise their profile within the site.” In addition, the marketplace format is an alternative to vendors building their own e-commerce websites and dealing with all the costs and kinks that come with launching them.

In some cases, the Hudson’s Bay marketplace will feature vendors with styles and items that can be found in one or more of the retailer’s 88 department stores. In other words, Hudson’s Bay could buy wholesale from a vendor to be sold in its stores, and it can simultaneously present a much bigger range from the vendor via the marketplace.

Customer responses to what’s presented in the marketplace will shape Hudson’s Bay’s wholesale buy. “We see this as almost putting the customers in control of what’s ending up in the store,” Nairn said. “The marketplace is a great place for us to test and learn and try out new merchandise.” Data obtained through the marketplace will be analyzed and instrumental in localizing assortments in the Hudson’s Bay stores in different geographies and climates across Canada.

With the marketplace, “We can tap into inventory already available,” Nairn said. “We now have the ability to add millions of products to our offering, quickly adapting to customer demand. The response from the seller community has been extraordinarily positive as more and more brands seek to join this modern and convenient shopping experience.”

Supported by the marketplace solution by Mirakl, a French firm, Hudson’s Bay can react to consumer trends, expand its assortment and onboard sellers from around the world in a matter of days, versus weeks or months needed with a traditional e-commerce model. The normal wholesaling involves buyers making appointments to see the collections, visiting showrooms and placing their orders in what amounts to a six- to seven-month process, Nairn said.

However, Hudson’s Bay, since it doesn’t own the merchandise selling through its marketplace, doesn’t make as much money on each item sold.

“With the launch of its online marketplace powered by Mirakl, Hudson’s Bay is creating an expanded, seamless shopping experience that customers will love,” said Adrien Nussenbaum, cofounder and U.S. CEO of Mirakl.

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