(Bloomberg)—Walmart Inc. is introducing low-cost clothing brands for women, kids and plus-size customers, aiming to lure shoppers as Amazon.com Inc. gobbles up more apparel sales.
Apparel accounted for 11% of Walmart’s U.S. sales a decade ago, but the company dialed back its ambitions in 2011 after attempts to appeal to more fashion-forward shoppers—including ads in Vogue magazine—flopped. Walmart, No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, closed its Manhattan product development office and endured a revolving door of executive reshuffles.
But over the past year, the acquisitions of apparel startups Bonobos (No. 232) and ModCloth (No. 198), along with a partnership to sell Lord & Taylor’s products on its website, have brought some fashion sense back to the company. About 10% of the apparel assortment will be “trend right” and refreshed every three months, according to the presentation, while 40% will be “fashion basics” that last six to nine months. The rest, so-called core basics like tank tops, will last all year round.
Walmart wants apparel to be a bigger part of its burgeoning online business, and last year hired Denise Incandela, a veteran of Ralph Lauren (No. 64) and Saks, to run its e-commerce fashion team. At an October investor meeting, Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce chief Marc Lore pledged to “elevate the Walmart.com brand” to lure more premium sellers to the site. The idea is to focus on fashion and home decor—two categories normally associated with its rival Target Corp. (No. 20), which also is rolling out new apparel store brands.
The store brands include Time and Tru in ladieswear—which will replace the jettisoned DanskinNow label—along with Terra & Sky in plus-size apparel and Wonder Nation for kids, according to a company presentation to suppliers obtained by Bloomberg News. The George apparel brand, which Walmart brought over from its British unit Asda, will be refocused for men only. The new brands will replace older ones such as Faded Glory, White Stag and Just My Size.
The retailer is “launching new brands, not labels,” according to one of the slides presented at the meeting, which took place at the retailer’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., in late January. “We will cover every aspect of fashion.”
The moves are part of Walmart’s push to make its apparel business more streamlined and stylish—a response to consumers shifting more of their budgets to experiences, such as travel and eating out, rather than clothing. Walmart’s new items, such as leggings for $9.96, also could offset the pinch of rising clothing prices, which jumped the most since 1990 last month. If the brands catch on, they could check the encroachment of Amazon (No. 1), which is now the second-most-shopped apparel retailer, trailing only Walmart, according to a recent study.
The new store brands are already available at Walmart, whose website features a Terra & Sky split-neck T-shirt for $5.96, Time and Tru skinny jeans for $18.86 and a Wonder Nation ribbed tank top for $2.97.
The Just My Size brand will continue to be available but only online. A spokesman for apparel maker Hanesbrands Inc., the plus-size brand’s owner, said the company doesn’t comment on its business with individual retailers.Favorite