Wal-Mart’s Stylin’

Discussion
Oct 07, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Wal-Mart’s got an image problem and it has nothing to do with how it treats its employees or labor unions.


This particular image problem is the one where consumers can shop for their everyday goods at the retailer but, if they want something to wear (not counting socks or underwear), then the place to go is anywhere but Wal-Mart.


Lee Scott and company have made a point of telling the world that, if consumers will only take a look, they’ll find that there’s plenty for them in Wal-Mart’s clothing departments.


The latest case in point is the chain’s new Metro 7 “urban” line of clothes for women.


The company’s chief marketing officer, John Fleming, said the new line came about after the retailer conducted interviews with 6,000 Wal-Mart shoppers who explained why they buy their clothes at other outlets.


“We found that she has an urban sensibility, she’s very fashionable, very style conscious, and we didn’t have the apparel that met her needs,” he said.


The Metro 7 line was been rolled out in 500 stores this week and the company expects it to be in 1,000 stores by next spring. The line includes silk camisoles, tunics, T-shirts, embellished jeans and velvet skirts and jackets priced from $9.99 to $29.99.


NPD Group’s Marshall Cohen told USA Today, “Wal-Mart has finally learned that they are not going to get new people to come (for fashion), but they can convert the ones that are already shopping.”


“You can’t buy a fashion reputation by carrying one label,” he added. “If you just take the merchandise and took the tags out, you’d say it’s not bad disposable clothing. It’s close enough. But the minute you put it in that environment, you’ve already branded it in such a way that you have to climb up a steep hill.”


Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on Wal-Mart’s strategic and tactical approach to apparel?


John Fleming said Wal-Mart was “redeploying dollars” to its marketing budget to increase the visibility and cachet (our word not his) of the retailer’s
George, Faded Glory, White Stag and No Boundaries apparel brands.

George Anderson – Moderator

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12 Comments on "Wal-Mart’s Stylin’"


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Kate Blake
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Kate Blake
15 years 4 months ago

Target edits their line, keeps their focus tight, and also allows
the shopper to play with the latest trends (prairie skirts, shrugs, etc.), while doing so in a clean, well-lit, well-staffed environment. They cycle quickly and still have bathing suits in July!

Entering a Wal-Mart is like being dropped into a war zone – a messy, disorganized, battleground of rushing carts, harassed employees, and poorly lit mazes – not a place to linger and look for the latest trends!

Daymara Baker
Guest
Daymara Baker
15 years 4 months ago

Wal-Mart should rethink their branding strategy. Faded Glory and White Stag don’t convey a quality image. When I read “Faded Glory,” the first thing that comes to my mind is faded colors after the first wash. There is a negative connotation attached to that particular brand name when it comes down to clothing. I applaud their decision to have a new brand name to launch the new clothing line.

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
15 years 4 months ago

Perhaps Faded Glory could recapture some glory if it were made in America and not overseas. The brand name associates itself with America. Perhaps Wal-Mart would do well (from a publicity and sales standpoint) it were to launch a “Made in America” t-shirt and jeans brand under the Faded Glory name.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 4 months ago
I’m so glad others in this space take an occasional break from Wal-Mart-bashing to acknowledge progress. I am not sold on the new brand. Quick observations: 1. A quick store trip did not show that the entire collection had shipped at the same time, and I shudder at the thought of on-floor merchandising with components arriving at various times. The ability to execute fashion merchandising plan-o-grams is not one WM has demonstrated. 2. The assortments are relatively narrow (or what was in-store is). Fashion (trend fashion) outside of image-makers like The Limited, should not be bought narrow and deep, particularly when you are learning. If the fashion isn’t “right” enough, when is the next collection due in? JCP has learned that 45 days is the maximum for a collection to stay on the floor before it turns into a markdown begging to happen. 3. The price-value comparative with existing product will only work if the fashion is right. The product quality (material and make) are not obviously enough different to support the price differential. 4.… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I buy just about all my clothes at Wal-Mart. But I’m not too picky. After some years of verbal assaults from classmates as a youngster – “ha ha, you wear Kmart clothes” – I have always been hesitant about buying clothes at discount stores. Not any more. As far as I can tell, all stores basically sell the same thing, just the prices and atmosphere are different. If Wal-Mart thinks they have an image problem, perhaps they do. But doing $300 billion a year tells me it isn’t as bad as some think.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I think you left out an important question – will this and other styling initiatives serve to alienate their existing shoppers?

I think Wal-Mart is starting to tread down a slippery slope…they’re moving “uptown” with a “downtown” customer. Perception is everything, and we’ll know they’re in big trouble when they try to do a Target-like ad (and you know that’s coming soon).

Brian Buchanan
Guest
Brian Buchanan
15 years 4 months ago

Something that has not been addressed is the customer’s fear of meeting someone on the street with the very same outfit they are wearing, silly as it sounds.

With the volume of people going through a Wal-Mart, especially in the smaller communities, the chances of this happening are increased. Fashion-conscious consumers shop to make their wardrobe unique, not an “off the rack” look and especially not “off the Wal-Mart rack.”

If the customer wants disposable clothing at a cheap price, it’s there for the taking. To try and provide anything more is foolhardy on the part of Wal-Mart. Stick to what works.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Wal-Mart has come out of its apparel shell and can look forward to an explosion in their apparel business (yes, I said explosion!) Their unprecedented ad spread in the phone-book-sized (but important) September Vogue was right on and well done and recent revelations about their talks with Hilfiger and efforts toward going neck and neck(wear) with Target in tailored for men and women portend of good things to come. Combined with their store remodels, I truly believe that specialty apparel chains both shaky and stalwart, have something to worry about. Remember, Wal-Mart doesn’t have to get newbies into the store in order for this to come together, they just have to get the diaper, sock, and motor oil shoppers to walk a few more feet and stick around.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Of course it’s easier to sell clothing to existing WM shoppers than new shoppers. Whether the fashions will perform, and whether they’ll perform consistently, is another story. WM needs to test new ideas daily and survey its customers constantly, to improve its market knowledge. By developing consistent market research procedures, any retailer can improve the assortment. And WM needs to survey and test fashions found at other stores, and in other countries, especially those known for fashion leadership. The key is frequency and consistency. If the tests, surveys, and comparison shopping is done only when when there’s trouble, or on no particular schedule, they’ll never develop their fashion potential. Why not test alliances and joint ventures with other companies with proven expertise in this area, like H&M?

Jeff Schaengold
Guest
Jeff Schaengold
15 years 4 months ago

I like Wal-Mart. I like Target.

I go to Wal-Mart for disposable clothing. I don’t expect a multi-year look of a Polo. I know their belts will fall apart in less than a year. Their seasonal line fades after a single wash.

I go to Target for disposable products. I know that I need a can opener and the mechanical made in China is $5.99 and the electric can opener from China is $6.99. Both will not last many years. They are disposable.

There was an interesting item on TV yesterday about this company in Brooklyn that exports used clothing. They purchase all the donated clothing from charities, bundle them, and ship them to Africa.

Branded clothing fetch a high price in regions of the world where a used Levi’s is still very valuable when you can’t afford a new pair of Levi’s.

Clothing from Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart shipped to Africa basically goes to the processing plant for fiber.

It’s great both retailers are becoming more fashion forward. It’s still disposable.

Santiago Vega
Guest
Santiago Vega
15 years 4 months ago

It was about time! For years, Wal-Mart’s apparel buyers proclaimed that only 5% of their customers were concerned with fashion trends and exciting new propositions, and the remaining 95% were only looking for “value,” so they were sticking to serving their majority customer.

I’m glad they finally realized that “value” has a different meaning for the contemporary customer (and I’m not only talking about 18 to 35 year olds).

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 4 months ago

It’s image, perception and the almost impossible feat of
going from EDLP with a less than acceptable outlet of
decor to a retail outlet with an upscale line of clothing.

How does this get the Target upscale shopper?????????

Here’s a retailer that boxed itself in. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

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