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Japanese retail giant invests in fast-growing U.S. online retail start-up

Boxed has gotten a new infusion of cash.

The online retailer, which sells discounted groceries and everyday essentials in bulk-form only, has raised $111 million in Series D funding. The round was led by Aeon Co., described as Japan’s largest retailer by sales, with participation from the Alpha Square Group, CDIB Capital, consumer technology investor Gabriel Naouri and existing investors.

The investment makes Aeon one of the largest investors in Boxed, according to The Wall Street Journal. It comes after Boxed reportedly rejected a buyout offer from Kroger Co. earlier this year.

With the deal, Boxed will “knowledge-share” with Aeon on logistics, robotics, AI-driven data usage and accelerate Aeon’s digital transformation. The two companies will also explore further collaboration on technology and business models.

“Our industry is constantly evolving, Chieh Huang, co-founder and CEO of Boxed, said in a statement. “Our latest fundraising efforts will allow us to capitalize on those changes. We'll also continue to expand our national footprint by focusing on reaching our core consumer in various key markets, to increase national brand awareness of Boxed."

Boxed said it plans to use the new capital to continue to ramp up automation of facilities with hardware developed by its in-house robotics team. The company writes its own software, runs its own fulfillment centers and builds its own automation robotics in-house.

“The autonomous vehicles our robotics team has created will help support our rapid growth, enabling us to meet customer demand through increased efficiency, and put us at the forefront of fulfillment center technology,” said Huang.

The e-tailer said it is also exploring future expansion of its operations around the country, including in the Chicago area, where execs have begun visiting potential new sites for a Midwest-based facility.

Founded in 2013, Boxed has recreated a wholesale-club shopping experience online. Its mobile app allows consumers direct-to-their-door access to bulk goods, without membership fees.
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