The battle lines are clear. It’s going to be a war between two retail giants.
Amazon’s entry into the fashion business is a threat that Walmart must meet head-on. Amazon has been busy using famous designers to collaborate on development of its e-commerce site. However, Walmart has not been sitting idle. The company is responding with an overwhelming amount of fashion brands – 600 was a recent count – and, in addition, has about 150 premium brands that are available through its Lord & Taylor association.
All of this indicates that now there is a huge effort by Walmart to capture the fashion spending of its customers and have them shop more on the Walmart e-mail site or in the stores. With e-commerce becoming more important, the acquisitions that Walmart has made of some e-commerce companies in the past few years must now pay off.
I think that can happen. I am particularly impressed by Denise Incandela, (56) now head of Fashion Group -Walmart US e-commerce. She has been with Walmart since 2017, after being CMO for Saks Fifth Avenue and President of Ralph Lauren Global Digital Commerce. Since assuming her position at Walmart, she is responsible for adding EV1 and Sofia Jeans to the brand mix. Recently, she also introduced Scoop, an exclusive line of trendy merchandise she developed with Scoop Founder Stefan Greenfield.
First, let’s look at some of the brands driving the Walmart effort.
Bonobos, a menswear boutique, recently had a change of management. Co-founder Andy Dunn is leaving Walmart; he had been very active in overseeing much of the entire on-line business. Bonobos leadership was taken over by Micky Onvural who had been Bonobos’ marketing chief. The company is important for Walmart’s overall fashion effort. The company was founded in 2012 and bought by Walmart in June 2017. While sales have increased, reports continue that the line is still unprofitable.
Eloquii is an important plus-sizes ladies apparel line that was acquired in 2017. While still unprofitable, the line adds fashion flair to the line-up and serves an important, often under-served customer segment.
EV1 is a line introduced by Ellen DeGeneres in September of 2018. The line, designed to be fun and accessible to everyone, was successful on-line and now has been rolling out into stores. It is true, Ellen DeGeneres can sell anything.
Sofia Jeans were introduced by Sofia Vergara. The line of denim jeans was launched in the fall of 2018 and has now moved into stores because of strong demand.
Scoop. It is Walmart’s private fashion brand based on the legendary fashion boutique. Forward looking customers can find trend inspired styles at affordable prices. It is a curated collection ranging from a $15 tee shirt to a $65 teddy coat.
With all of these popular products in its portfolio, the website must step it up, too. It is true that the company should make some changes on the e-commerce site. Merchandise is shown in a very static and uninspiring way, there is no way to zoom in, and the models do not move for closer examination. Our survey shows that other e-commerce sites are much more exciting.
If Walmart upgrades its site to support all of the new, stronger fashion activity, it should be able to counter what Amazon is doing. To win big, let us also look at some important trends that Walmart should keep in mind to develop a strong fashion leadership position.
Denim and color denim continue to be very important for the Walmart customer. Major designers are adding color to their denim assortment. This will be a fashion look that will be very popular in Walmart stores.
Orange is ‘the’ color for Spring. I look for new bright colors every Spring to spruce up the assortment. Orange is bright and beautiful and can have romantic expressions. Let’s see how it plays out across the Walmart offerings.
Shorts will be in vogue. Shorts will be seen in fashion brands and will also be seen in denim. This will be hot seller at the stores.
I am excited that Denise Incandela has taken the fashion leadership role at Walmart for e-commerce (and I suspect many of her efforts will find their way into stores as well). Initially, Mark Lore had made all the acquisitions (including ModCloth which has since been sold), and there was no deliberate effort to create a sharp fashion image. Happily, there is more focused fashion direction now. I think Incandela’s efforts will help Walmart become more aggressive in e-commerce against Amazon.