Amazon, Walmart strive to put fashion forward

Farla Efros of HRC Advisory discusses the efforts made by Amazon and Walmart to have success in fashion.

April 13, 2018

Walmart and Amazon are increasing their retail offerings as both companies attempt to move higher on the fashion ladder, WWD reports.


Both companies are considered tough competitors and have extensive experience in logistics, but high-end designer brands worry about losing their prestige appeal by going into mass distribution, per WWD.


Although Amazon is one of the largest apparel retailers in the U.S., success selling design-driven, trendy fashion on Amazon has remained elusive, Quartz reports. Manny Chirico, CEO of PVH Corp., parent company of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, which began selling on Amazon last year, said during a recent investor that the partnership is “just not where it needs to be right now” because high-end items aren’t selling, per Quartz.


Chirico said about 80 percent of PVH’s business on Amazon is “replenishment items” such as multi-packs of underwear and T-shirts, which is similar to trends among all clothing sold on Amazon, Quartz reports.


But fashion brands that shy away from large online sellers like Amazon can’t ignore the power of such platforms much longer, according to the 2018 State of Fashion report from Business of Fashion and McKinsey. The report predicts that this year’s main question for fashion brands “is no longer ‘if’ but ‘how’ to collaborate with big online platforms.”


Amazon has been courting European luxury brands, offering its large collection of shopper data and reach in exchange for collaborations, per WWD. An Amazon spokesperson could not reveal specific brands, but she told WWD that “we sell an incredible breadth of product — from small, burgeoning designers to well-known brands — and are constantly expanding our selection for our tens of millions of Amazon Fashion customers.”


Walmart has taken its own fashion-forward steps and began working with fashion consultant Stefani Greenfield, who cofounded the now-defunct retailer Scoop NYC, per WWD. Marc Lore, founder of Jet and president and CEO of Walmart’s U.S. ecommerce division, said during the Shoptalk retail conference in March that the company is looking to acquire digital brands that have established vendor relationships and merchandising expertise, according to WWD.


Amazon has an online advantage over Walmart, as half of all product searches start on Amazon, WWD reports. The company has reportedly hired fashion buyers and proposed setting up generic online shops for designer labels in an effort to convince brands that Amazon’s platform can be used to sell high-end looks on a large scale without reducing the price, according to WWD.


Walmart has made strong efforts to keep up with Amazon’s offerings through its acquisitions of Jet, Bonobos, ModCloth and Moosejaw, as well as its recent partnership with Lord & Taylor, per WWD.


Walmart debuted four private-label apparel brands last month to appeal to more fashion-conscious shoppers, USA Today reports. The new labels include women’s line Time and Tru, women’s plus-size brand Terra & Sky, children’s brand Wonder Nation and men’s line George. Although low-priced clothing is one of Walmart’s top categories, the retailer isn’t known as a fashion destination, per USA Today.


“Walmart has not had any real success as the lead in fashion,’’ Farla Efros, president of retail strategy firm HRC Retail Advisory, told USA Today. “The only way to stand out from Amazon is to have exclusive products that cannot be found on Amazon.’’


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