Fashion has not ever been a winning category at Walmart, but in recent years the retail giant has moved to expand its apparel lines in stores and online. Last week Walmart announced a new marketplace partnership with San Francisco-based ThredUp that resales upscale fashion to a population seeking value and sustainability.
Denise Incandela, head of fashion at Walmart U.S. eCommerce, said Walmart has made strides in expanding assortment of “quality, on-trend, accessible fashion to help customers regardless of budget.” Walmart has added almost 1,000 brands to its fashion assortment including Champion and Levi Strauss while also expanding it private brands of Time and Tru, Terra & Sky for women, Wonder Nation for kids and George for men. Celebrities Sofia Vergara and Ellen DeGeneres have also added their own fashion lines sold on Walmart.com.
Incandela said Walmart is happy with the new marketplace relationship with ThredUp and its 750,000 pre-owned items including women’s and children’s apparel, footwear and accessories.
“It’s an incredible online assortment. The resale prices are outstanding, and we are thrilled to offer our Walmart customers the opportunity to reuse garments. Items have been carefully evaluated and selected by ThredUp for sale based on their overall quality and condition. Only pre-owned garments and shoes deemed new or like-new by ThredUp are available on Walmart.com. “Gently used” accessories and handbags are also available,” she said.
Jenn Volk, director of product management at ThredUp, said the partnership enhances Walmart’s fashion offering with fresh brands at value prices.
Walmart is also extending the free shipping benefit for orders of $35 or more and free returns to Walmart stores or ThredUp. Walmart said the company believes its customers, particularly millennials, are interested in shopping resale clothing. Incandela said ThredUp reports 70% of consumers have bought or are now willing to buy secondhand.
Analysts have said Walmart still has much more to do to be the fashion force its competitor Target is, but they do applaud the efforts because higher-margin apparel sales are good for the retail giant’s top and bottom lines.
“As big as Walmart’s apparel business is, it can be difficult to imagine how much bigger it could get. It’s nice to see Walmart waking up on the apparel front to realize the opportunity. The endless aisles of Walmart’s online marketplace present an ongoing expansion opportunity but shouldn’t replace store-based strategies. Walmart’s brand refreshes were bold and even risky given the years-long loyalty that many of the shuttered brands enjoyed,” said Carol Spieckerman CEO of Spieckerman Retail.
She said Walmart had little choice in order to remain relevant to new generations of value-conscious shoppers. The updates Walmart made in basics were smart in the wake of the COVID crisis as more shoppers work from home and favor value-oriented basics in general. Spieckerman said partnerships like thredUP are a way for Walmart to participate in hot movements without making big investments.
A year ago Walmart announced a partnership with New York-based KIDBOX for a seasonal shopping concierge service that gives families fashion advice for a $48 fee that includes four or five items selected for the child by the stylist with input from the parents. This came on the heels of a total revamp and launch of the Kids Nation private label selections sold at Walmart.
Spieckerman said Walmart’s efforts to expand its brands and extend its brand portfolio by association while mitigating any resistance from brands that wouldn’t want to be sold in Walmart stores.
The resale market is expected to reach $51 billion by 2023, according to GlobalData Retail as second-hand clothing was seen as one of the hottest shopping trends in recent years. But some retail consultants have said COVID-19 could dampen the consumer appetite for buying “used” items. Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University, said he expects the re-sale market to be one the slower to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. He said consumers will also be more likely to look for values if the recession lingers and resale does provide a value proposition.