Top leaders are leaving Walmart's Jet, and some employees are growing concerned about the site's future
- Several top leaders have departed Walmart-owned Jet this year, including at least eight vice presidents and five senior directors, according to LinkedIn data.
- Some employees say the departures are fueling concerns about the site's future.
- "We're all sort of fighting through the chaos and trying to make sense of all of it as people are leaving," one senior Jet employee told Business Insider. "It's apparent big leaders are leaving every month... and there's a snowball effect in many ways."
- A Walmart spokesperson said Jet remains an important part of the company's e-commerce business. "Jet continues to operate as an important brand within the Walmart e-commerce portfolio and serves a valuable and intentional purpose in serving urban consumers," the spokesperson said.
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Walmart-owned Jet is facing a stream of departures from top leaders, fueling concerns among some employees about the site's future.
At least eight vice presidents and five senior directors have exited Jet this year, seven of whom left over the course of two months this summer, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
In total, at least 84 Jet employees have left the company's Hoboken, New Jersey offices this year, according to LinkedIn data reviewed by Business Insider. Fifty-four reported leaving between June and October in their LinkedIn profiles. The Hoboken offices employ more than 2,000 people across Walmart's e-commerce business, according to a company spokesperson.
"We're all sort of fighting through the chaos and trying to make sense of all of it as people are leaving," one senior Jet employee told Business Insider on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. "It's apparent big leaders are leaving every month... and there's a snowball effect in many ways."
The departures since June include Diane Vavrasek, vice president of human resources; Emily Frankel, vice president of marketing; Jeff Saunders, vice president of product and technology; Carmela Cugini, vice president and general manager of merchandising and curation; and Jack Hanlon, vice president of analytics and insights. Departures in the first half of the year included Andrew Gasper, vice president of business development; Sumaiya Balbale, vice president and chief marketing officer; and Levin Gorodinski, vice president of engineering.
Four current or recent Jet employees who spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity described their experience at the company as overwhelmingly positive, citing the top talent and great culture. But they said the recent departures have been concerning.
"Like five people every week are leaving... there's a big exodus," said one recent employee. He described Jet as an open and functioning store with barely anyone inside.
"They didn't tear the store down, as far as the site goes and what's being sold on it," he said. "But instead of having 500 employees inside, there's one cashier at the registers and one person stocking shelves."
In reality, there are more than two people whose job functions remain solely dedicated to Jet, but that group has shrunk since June, according to people with knowledge of the company's operations. Walmart declined to quantify the size of its Jet-dedicated team, but said that since June it has hired more than 500 people at its Hoboken offices.
A Walmart spokesperson said the company can't comment on the departures. In response to speculation about Jet's future, the spokesperson said, "Jet continues to operate as an important brand within the Walmart e-commerce portfolio and serves a valuable and intentional purpose in serving urban consumers."
Jet's strategy has shifted this year to focus solely on large cities like New York City, where Walmart has few or no stores, the spokesperson said.
"While this has made Jet smaller from a sales perspective, it has helped us create a smart portfolio approach where our businesses - Walmart and Jet - complement each other," she said.
Walmart-themed decor moves into Jet's headquarters
Walmart acquired Jet in 2016 in a $3.3 billion deal and named Jet cofounder Marc Lore as the head of its US e-commerce business. Walmart then went on an acquisition spree over the next couple years, snapping up startups including ModCloth, Bonobos, Shoes.com, and Moosejaw.
"This natural progression of integrating an acquisition allows us to fully leverage Walmart's assets for Jet and leverage Jet's talent for Walmart," Lore said in a blog post at the time.
Walmart said it would not cut any jobs during the transition, and that Jet would remain a standalone site. Walmart also said that Jet president Simon Belsham would depart the company. Nine months earlier, Belsham had helped launch a revamped Jet site that was referred to internally as Jet 2.0.
After Walmart's June announcement, Jet employees got new email addresses featuring Walmart's domain name and they were offered new or similar positions within Walmart. In some cases, these positions shifted focus away from Jet in part or entirely. The Hoboken offices, which were home to Jet's headquarters, also started getting some design updates.
A Walmart "spark," as the company's logo is called, appeared on glass doors at an office entrance. Conference rooms were renamed to brands that Walmart has acquired, including Eloquii and MooseJaw. Blue chairs and yellow accent pillows matching Walmart's color scheme replaced some of Jet's purple furniture. Televisions that typically displayed Jet news started more regularly advertising Walmart news.
The changes, amid the loss of some widely respected leaders, has worried some Jet employees.
"I'm getting the feeling it's sort of the end of an era," said a current employee.
A Walmart spokesperson said the design changes are meant to reflect the transformation of the Hoboken office, which long served as Jet's headquarters, into an e-commerce hub representing all facets of the Walmart's online business.
"The Hoboken office reflects our omni approach to serving customers, with integrated teams and associates working across Jet, Walmart and the broader technology organization," the spokesperson said.
Jet's social media activity grinds to a near halt
When Walmart absorbed Jet in June, the company made it clear that Jet would live on as a standalone site.
"Jet continues to be a very valuable brand to us, and it is playing a specific role in helping Walmart reach urban customers," Lore said in a blog post at the time. "The focus has largely been on NY so far, and we're looking at other cities where we might bring together Jet's expertise and the scale and operating model of Walmart. More to come on that."
Lore's message remains true today, according to a company spokesperson.
At the same time, Jet's social media activity has slowed to a near halt, signaling that it may be dialing back marketing efforts.
The company stopped tweeting in March, except to periodically reply to customer complaints. Jet's Instagram and Facebook accounts are relatively silent, as well. The company's most recent Facebook post was on Sept. 4 and Jet's Instagram posts dropped off around March, when it was averaging about 15 posts monthly. Jet has posted to Instagram four times since the beginning of August.
This level of engagement on social media stands in stark contrast to Walmart's, which involves posting every day to Instagram and multiple times daily to Facebook and Twitter.
What does this mean for Jet's future?
Current and recent employees are curious about the future of the Jet brand.
One current employee said they believe the brand will survive this period of change, since it resonates with a key group of young, urban shoppers that is highly attractive to Walmart.
Another recent employee isn't so optimistic.
"I think it will be fully shut down," this person said of the company's website. "I see them totally fading out over the next couple years."
Some customers also appear to be wondering about Jet's status, according to social media posts.
"Jet did you guys give up? You were the best option for urban grocery... Better than Amazon, but now your prices are wack-a-do. Like $21 for cat litter I can buy for $8 on Amazon. I know it may not have been working, but man! Disappointing!," one person tweeted in late October.
Jet's Twitter account responded and asked the customer to send a direct message regarding any "outrageous prices."
"Thanks for getting back!" the customer tweeted in reply. "Glad you're still around."