Much has been made of the success of retailers’ private apparel collections, from Amazon to Target and now, Walmart wants in. According to Fortune’s Phil Wahba, “Seeing an opening in the market with the difficulties of many specialty apparel chains like J.Crew and the Gap, and a slight shift away from clothing by department stores, Walmart on Tuesday unveiled four brands: Time and Tru for women; Terra & Sky for plus-size women’s apparel; Wonder Nation for kids; and a major overhaul of its George apparel brand, which is imported from its British Asda chain.”
The retailer – which first topped the Fortune 500 ranking of America's largest companies in 2002 – is aiming to expand beyond its current apparel offerings, which consist almost entirely of basics. According to Walmart, 10 percent of its new private label assortment will take the form of trend-specific garments, which will be updated every 3 months. 40 percent will be “fashion basics,” and the remaining half will continue to be apparel basics.
The move, according to Bloomberg, is part of a larger push by Walmart “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.” The private label focus comes after Walmart acquired apparel startups Bonobos and ModCloth, and along announced an impending partnership with Lord & Taylor to sell the upscale department store’s products on its website.
It also comes after Amazon introduced a bevy of private labels, such as Find., its 500-piece fast fashion collection, which takes inspiration from the likes of the fashion industry's most in-demand brands, including Vetements, Balenciaga, Off-White, and Celine. There is Peak Velocity, a line that includes shirts and sportswear, a space in the market where fit and function – plus the convenience of free shipping – are often more important than the latest fashions. Still yet, Amazon has introduced plus-size apparel for women, a segment where the e-commerce giant has increased its market share about 50 percent over the past three years.
For Amazon, the purpose of private labels has been twofold: In addition to the profitability of in-house collections, the online retailer is working hard to create legitimacy as a destination for fashion in order to lure established brands onto its platform, something that has proven challenging.
Walmart, on the other hand, is certainly expanding its fashion offerings, but is not looking to become a fashion destination, so to speak, at least not yet. Instead, it is aiming to more fully service its consumer base. “We know that we have a wide range of customers on Walmart.com, and an expanded assortment is what they are looking for,” Denise Incandela, head of fashion for Walmart U.S. e-commerce, told Bloomberg in November.