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SmartEtailing and Retail Toolkit to merge

Published April 13, 2021

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — SmartEtailing, a 22-year-old company known for building e-commerce websites for bike shops, has acquired Retail Toolkit, a startup that offers retailers management analytics and marketing tools.

The companies plan to merge their complementary software; Retail Toolkit will remain a distinct brand for services that SmartEtailing offers to retailers, said Ryan Atkinson, the president and co-owner of SmartEtailing.

"The industry is evolving at an unprecedented pace and we want to ensure that SmartEtailing clients have the tools they need to stay competitive," Atkinson said.

Retail Toolkit was developed at Milwaukee's Wheel & Sprocket retail chain. Its founder, Noel Kegel, is the co-owner of Wheel & Sprocket with his sister, Amelia Kegel.

Noel Kegel sold his interest in Retail Tookit as part of this transaction and will consult with SmartEtailing on software development.

Atkinson was the founder of Harvest Marketing, a retail marketing firm that merged with SmartEtailing in 2016. Atkinson co-owns SmartEtailing with Steve Flagg and Mary Henrickson (Flagg is the founder and retired president of QBP but the two businesses are not connected in any way).

Atkinson said SmartEtailing and Retail Toolkit are merging their software and their teams, and the transaction is being structured as an acquisition that is expected to be completed this summer.

Dan Kowalke remains Retail Toolkit's general manager, and Retail Toolkit's six employees are being offered positions with SmartEtailing.

In-store and e-commerce services

Currently SmartEtailing's most visible services revolve around e-commerce, including facilitating omnichannel programs like Buy Local Now

Retail Toolkit, in contrast, is more connected to brick-and-mortar store management. The software integrates with Ascend and Lightspeed systems and contains tools for inventory management, staff scheduling, and open to buy.

Retail Toolkit also has tools to create a consumer rewards program and conduct automated, personalized email marketing.

Atkinson said SmartEtailing's existing clients will soon have access to the automated email software.

While SmartEtailing currently uses third-party software to help retailers create email campaigns, the Retail Toolkit email feature is integrated end-to-end, Atkinson said. Email content and timing can be tied to a consumer's specific transaction history, allowing retailers to run personalized campaigns that run automatically in the background.

SmartEtailing's marketing team has already been using Retail Toolkit's email automations on behalf of clients, Atkinson said

"The team here is very excited about this," he said.

Retail Toolkit has been slowly building its presence among U.S. retailers, but the connection to SmartEtailing will quickly expose it to SmartEtailing's clients and could increase its market penetration considerably. Current Retail Toolkit clients should see no change to their services this year, the company said.

Improved data for clients and the industry

SmartEtailing calls itself a "bike shop e-commerce and data provider." The company crunches a lot of data in managing its services, including offering Buy Local Now brands the local inventory information needed to point consumers to SmartEtailing retailers who have specific items in stock.

The merger gives the company more visibility into retail inventory and sales data — all anonymized, Atkinson emphasized — for e-commerce and in-store sales.

SmartEtailing plans to share some of that data with the industry via PeopleForBikes' Business Intelligence Hub, an industry data resource for PFB members.

Retail Toolkit and SmartEtailing already share data with the Business Intelligence Hub, but combining the two will give a more complete look at retail trends and help the industry better forecast and manage supply chain, he said.

PeopleForBikes launched the Business Intelligence Hub last May in response to the pandemic.

"Can you imagine if we had been able to launch it on January 1, 2020? Then we could have let the industry know on March 19 when the e-commerce spike really hit —How many companies might have not canceled orders if they knew that? That lag (in retail sales information) had real consequences, as it turned out," he said.

Atkinson is hosting a panel discussion on supply chain issues at PeopleForBikes' virtual Bicycle Leadership Conference, which opens Tuesday.

Topics associated with this article: Mergers, Acquisitions & Investments

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