The Future of Retail with Lee Hnetinka

17 Aug 2023 • 38 min • EN
38 min
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Lee Hnetinka, founder and CEO of Future and Darkstore, joins Olga Serhiyevich, Head of Investor Relations at Village Global, on this episode. Lee and his companies are building innovative solutions in retail and e-commerce and have worked with world’s most admired brands like Nike, Adidas and Disney where they enabled same-day and 1-hour delivery for customers nationwide. They’ve also worked with tech companies like Snapchat, Shopify and Stripe to enable next generation payments and loyalty program solutions. Takeaways: - Lee says cities will look completely different in a few decades. Retail has been the backbone of cities for a very long time but as more and more commerces goes online, physical stores will transform into more of a place to go to have an experience. - In the old days loyalty programs used stamps to provide a potential discount on a future purchase but now provide the customer with more convenience and a better experience. - Loyalty programs have been transforming into tiered programs where a customer can pay for status. Lee predicts that every single loyalty program will turn into a tiered program with multiple paid options in the future. For example, there may be multiple levels of Amazon Prime in the same way that there are multiple tiers at American Express. - Dark stores were pioneered in the UK and leveraged existing stores that had excess space to carry products from many different retailers in one place. Lee partnered with companies like Office Depot, Mattress Firm, and Iron Mountain to make Darkstore a reality. Fun fact: 90% of the population of the US lives within 5 miles of an Office Depot, and on average only three people a day walk in to a mattress store. - FastAF, the consumer-facing brand at Darkstore, provided high-end versions of the products that someone would typically find in a convenience store. A lot of the core value was the curation that went into which products to carry. - One of the keys to success for a business like Darkstore is to consider unit economics on a per-building basis and to make sure that there is enough population in any one place to support a physical location. - Running two companies has made Lee better at both of them as compared to running only one. He says that many insights are transferrable between them. Also, when making decisions, Lee asks whether a decision is reversible or not and spends most of his time on the irreversible decisions and errs towards moving quickly on the reversible ones. Thanks for listening — if you like what you hear, please review us on your favorite podcast platform. Check us out on the web at or get in touch with us on Twitter @villageglobal. Want to get updates from us? Subscribe to get a peek inside the Village. We’ll send you reading recommendations, exclusive event invites, and commentary on the latest happenings in Silicon Valley.

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