Acumen's Goal: To Own the Southern Lifestyle Marketplace

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Mar. 10, 2014 12:00 am  

Lela Davidson (top), director of content for Acumen Brands and John Elliott (below), director of partnership marketing. Kiva Systems robots (right) bring merchandise for stocking at the Acumen Brands warehouse across from the company’s 200,000-SF headquarters.  (Photos by Beth Hall)

In December, Acumen Brands of Fayetteville announced objectives for 2014 that one company executive called “insane.” The leadership wanted five new programs to keep the company vibrant and growing, among those programs “flash sales” and “Marketplace.”

“Everyone said, ‘You guys are crazy,’” according to Lela Davidson, the company’s director of content. “There’s no way you can start all the new initiatives at once. But since January, flash has been launched, Marketplace has been launched and partnership has been launched.”

Flash sales was so popular that the surge of traffic slowed the main server so a backup server was kicked into use; officials said the lag was probably not noticeable to online shoppers. “It has been crazy successful,” Davidson said. “My best day here was when we broke the server. We were excited. We say we broke the server because it sounds cool. Sounds like you’re a badass. Every website owner wants to break their server.”

Marketplace went online March 3.

“Flash and Marketplace have dramatically exceeded our expectations,” Acumen CEO John James said in an email message to Arkansas Business. “Both these initiatives are part and parcel to the goal of owning the Southern lifestyle category online.

“Coupled with our core business, each of these growth initiatives are designed to accomplish a singular goal: owning/dominating/winning the Southern Lifestyle category.”

An $83 Million Injection

Acumen, launched in 2009, owns branded online stores for consumer-specific markets such as western wear (, medical uniforms ( and work wear ( Business has been so good for Acumen that it moved this past year into a 200,000-SF facility on North Shiloh Drive in west Fayetteville.

Officials said that, during an average week, Acumen ships approximately 7,500 items. A little less than a year ago, the company received an $83 million influx of capital investment from the New York firm General Atlantic. Acumen is putting some of that money to good use.

In mid-February, Acumen started its flash sales on its Country Outfitter website. The promotion offers items for sale at a deep discount for a limited time.

A flash sale is just one of several initiatives Acumen is rolling out this year. When the company’s top executives met with the directors and explained their goals for this year, they were met with skepticism.

The leadership wanted five new programs to keep the company vibrant and growing. Country Outfitter, the company’s online flagship, had been a surprising hit — the store has 6.6 million “likes” on its Facebook page — but Acumen wasn’t content with its runaway star.



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