What Walmart's Second Try at Private Label Apparel Tells Us About Consumer Apparel Trends
Walmart is still trying to make private label apparel work, launching its new collection, Free Assembly, this week. This is the second attempt Walmart has made, after acquiring Eloquii and turning it into its own online-only private label.
Free Assembly is more general, including items for men and women and ranging in price from $9 to $45, according to Retail Dive. But after seeing other big-name retailers, like Amazon, try this to uninspiring results, it leads to some questions about apparel trends and what consumers are actually looking for in their apparel.
.@Walmart recently launched a private label apparel line called Free Assembly - clearly a direct move to encourage shoppers to add on basics like jeans and other clothing to their basket of household items. Walmart fans are already keen on the idea ⬇️ https://t.co/ah6k9GUV1f
— CivicScience (@CivicScience) September 23, 2020
Let’s look back at Amazon’s foray into private label apparel. Back in 2018, we reported that Amazon, which has had massive success with other private-label products, wasn’t selling much in the way of its own apparel:
While apparel makes up 88 percent of all Amazon's private label brands, it only accounts for 1 percent of Amazon's private label sales. Amazon bet big on the women's apparel sector, but it is this category that is struggling the most. Four out of five of the women's clothing brands are selling fewer than 100 items per month.
And it’s worth including the additional context that Amazon even passed Walmart in apparel sales. Granted, this isn’t just for private label stuff, but if Amazon can’t do it, it’s worth asking if others can.
Walmart appears to be giving private label apparel another try primarily in response to the rise of e-commerce. RetailDive suggested that Walmart is trying to capitalize on the fact that a lot of people don’t want to shop in person because of COVID-19.
“Walmart is big in apparel, but this is mostly because its size and reach,” GlobalData Retail managing director Neil Saunders told RetailDive. “It is an easy and convenient option for existing customers to buy basics, but it does less well at taking share of wallet from more fashion-focused shoppers. It also underperforms with young shoppers. As a result, Walmart’s clothing business is under-potentialized.”
Saunders nails two points that absolutely should resonate when it comes to apparel trends—fashion-focus and young audience. So many apparel suppliers within the promotional space have taken the initiative to offer more than just a boxy T-shirt or a plain sweatshirt. They’ve paid attention to trends like athleisure and changing silhouettes. Also, appealing to a young audience goes hand-in-hand with this. They are the ones dictating the trends, and if you aren’t creating something they like with a brand message that appeals to them, you’re going to lag behind.
Also, as Saunders and the tweet above imply, Walmart sort of sees apparel as an afterthought—an impulse buy you make while you're shopping online for other household items. This doesn't exactly paint a picture of a company vying for apparel market dominance, though it's worth paying attention to how the collection performs to see if any additional trends emerge.