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Walmart doubles down on fashion

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Walmart is launching four new private apparel brands, including its first ever kids’ line, in a move that could make the retail giant more top of mind when it comes to fashion, not just function.

The move could also help Walmart gain ground in the race against rivals like Target and Amazon.

The four are:

•Time and Tru, a new women’s line.

•Terra & Sky, focused on plus-size women.

•Wonder Nation, which is exclusively for children.

•George, an older brand now focused solely on men.

They debut Thursday.   

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“We have 150 million Americans who shop Walmart every single week,’’ says Deanah Baker, Walmart’s senior vice president of apparel. “We’re committed to being a destination for on-trend, quality fashion and basics for a broad range of customers.”

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Walmart, which has been aggressively chasing more affluent and fashion conscious shoppers said that the new private labels are part its strategy to meet the needs of customers whether they’re “picking up a cute $15 top when you go in to get some milk and bread, or . . . deciding to buy that luxury handbag you’ve been eyeing online.’’

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Walmart became the world’s biggest retailer by appealing to a mass audience with a wide array of products offered at low prices, and clothing is already one of its prime categories.

But it doesn’t have the fashion cachet of competitors like Target, known for popular private brands like Cat & Jack and its Instagram-friendly collaborations with fashionistas like Victoria Beckham. And online giant Amazon also has its own roster of private lines. 

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“Walmart has not had any real success as the lead in fashion,’’ says Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, a retail strategic firm, adding that in addition to wanting to become trendier, “the only way to stand out from Amazon is to have exclusive product that cannot be found on Amazon.’’

Walmart has been aggressively pushing onto Amazon’s turf, increasing the number of products it offers online to more than 70 million and announcing in January that it will offer e-books and audiobooks in the U.S. for the first time later this year.  i

But while it plays catch up in some areas, clothing is an area where Walmart currently beats Amazon. In the last 12 months, Walmart was the only retail company to have more clothing and footwear shoppers than the online giant,  according to a report from the retail think tank Coresight Research.

A steady stream of store closures by retailers ranging from J.C. Penney to The Limited “means billions of dollars of apparel spending are potentially up for grabs,’’ says Deborah Weinswig, Coresight’s founder and CEO. “Walmart, like many other retailers, is hoping to capture some of that.’’

The new clothing lines are hitting shelves as other fashion lines fade away, like the women’s fashion brand White Stag. And while George is not new – it previously targeted women and children as well as men – it’s now been revamped for men only.

“It’s an opportunity for us to focus, ” Baker says. 

Each piece will cost from under $5 to $30. And each brand will have its own page at Walmart.com., which is getting an overall revamp this year that includes a more polished presentation of furniture as well as apparel.

The new clothing brands will also get a more vibrant display in stores. Clothing departments will have more stylish signage starting next month. By fall, most stores will have upgraded their clothing displays and some locations will feature remodeled fitting rooms and more open floor plans.

Walmart’s bid for a more fashion savvy shopper include a partnership with upscale department store Lord & TayIor, which will have a presence on Walmart.com starting in the spring, and acquisitions of various niche sites including premium menswear portal Bonobos.

“As Walmart continues to rethink its strategy and how to compete with others like Amazon, you will continue to see moves like this which aim to tap into less budget minded consumers and broaden its brand appeal,’’ says Sean Maharaj, a director in the retail practice of AArete, a global consultancy specializing in data-informed performance improvement. “Doing that, allows for Walmart to leverage some of its other offerings like groceries and household staples to create a sort of one stop shop for all the consumer’s needs.’’

But when it comes to being a fashion mecca, Walmart has a ways to go, says Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consultancy GlobalData.

“Walmart is attracting more aspirational and fashion-forward consumers than it once did,” he says. “However. .. ., Walmart still has a lot of work to do in attracting younger, high spending fashion shoppers.’’

 

 

 

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