The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies Of 2015 In Retail

Fast Company: From the Amazon of India to the Warby Parker of Warby Parkers, the companies changing how we shop.


For building the first great made-on-the-Internet brand. “We’re often asked why Warby has been successful,” Co-CEO Neil Blumenthal says of his eyewear company. “If we sum it up in one word, it’s deliberate.” You wouldn’t know it, except by looking at the results. Annual revenues at the five-year-old company are “well over” $100 million, according to a person familiar with its finances. Meanwhile, its two CEOs, who founded the company with two other Wharton classmates, have transformed what was a niche web shop into the hottest thing in offline retail, with 10 stores so far and sales-per-square foot figures that rival those of Tiffany & Co. “When we launched, a lot of people bucketed us as an e-commerce company, but we never thought of ourselves as an e-commerce company,” Gilboa says. “The only products we sell now are glasses, but we think our brand can stand for much more than that over a long time period.” That’s an ambition that many e-commerce companies have talked about. Warby Parker is the only one so far that seems likely to pull it off.


For helping consumers save, spend—and be entertained. The West has a simple narrative about Alibaba: In that telling, it’s a Chinese e-commerce giant that raised $25 billion in an IPO in New York last fall, and is a sort of eBay-Amazon-PayPal hydra. But in China, the company run by CEO Jack Ma is far more ambitious: Last year it began targeting and remaking some of the country’s most moneyed industries, including banking and entertainment. Its Internet finance arm, Yu’e bao, looks to have the earliest impact: It offers Alipay customers higher returns than state-run banks that pay paltry interest rates, and, starved for investment options, the masses responded in droves by putting in $82 billion in the first year. Ma made growing one’s nest egg even sexier with his next offering, Yu Le Bao, a crowdsourced film-investment fund that lets ordinary folks become movie producers—with much less risk than that would normally entail. Though Yu Le Bao remains small, the model threatens to upend traditional film financing in China.


For building a grocery empire that looks nothing like a grocery store. Eataly is an Italian grocery market/restaurant emporium/enoteca/bakery/cheese shop, and business is booming. Its 50,000-square-foot New York City location, across from Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, is doing $85 million in annual revenue. Its even larger counterpart in Chicago, which opened in late 2013, is on pace to hit $50 million this year, nearly matching the gross sales of its flagship store in Turin, Italy. And that’s on top of the 15 other Eataly locations in Italy; the 11 in Japan; and the large-scale outposts soon opening in London, Hong Kong, Moscow, Munich, Paris, São Paulo, Sydney, and Toronto, among other cities. The company’s aim is to build a store that harks back to old-style markets such as the bazaars of Istanbul or the fish markets of Sicily, where, 30-year-old CEO Nicola Farinetti says, “there is no distinction between restaurant and retail: You can eat and buy, or buy and eat.”


For giving the mall a high-tech makeover. Westfield Corp. is a $27.7 billion global shopping-center behemoth based in Australia, but its innovation arm, Westfield Labs, is very different. To start, it’s in San Francisco. And its chief digital officer, Kevin McKenzie, is free to admit something like this: “It’s easy for people to have a vision of a mall as dead,” he says. Westfield Labs is charged with rehabbing the very concept of a boring old retail hub; VP of creative services Rayna Wiles calls it “using digital to amplify the physical.” And in just two years, Westfield Labs’ crew, which has grown to more than 55 employees, has put into motion several ideas to show how malls don’t have to be a relic of late-20th-century American commerce. Projects are tested in shopping centers everywhere including London and Sydney, with the goal of upgrading the company’s 40 malls worldwide and baking these innovations into its most ambitious effort yet—the $1.4 billion World Trade Center retail complex in Manhattan, set to open later this year.


For tapping into the buying power of moms. Zulily launched five years ago as a flash-sale e-commerce site for baby and kids’ products. Moms immediately took to it, and with their buying power Zulily exploded. Last November the site reported a 72% year-over-year sales increase, and today it reaches 4.5 million customers who are projected to spend $1.2 billion in purchases this year. To keep up with the demand and the expanded product line—the company now sells housewares and adult apparel—Zulily has built fulfillment centers across America.

See the full list: Fast Company