The Supply Side: Walmart updates women’s lingerie, sleepwear offerings

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,261 views 

Walmart is already a top retailer for women’s lingerie, with roughly one-fifth of U.S. consumers purchasing the Secret Treasures brand of intimate apparel or sleepwear in the year ending Jan. 22, second only to Victoria’s Secret, according to NPD Group.

But the Bentonville retailer is phasing out the Secret Treasures brand and ushering in what it considers a more inclusive and modern line of lingerie and sleepwear known as Joyspun. It’s also a private brand made for Walmart.

“Walmart’s billion-dollar sleepwear and intimates private brand has been re-invented,” said Denise Incandela, head of apparel and private brands for Walmart U.S. “After decades in the market, we had to think and act differently. Operating more like a start-up, we approached building Joyspun like a contemporary brand, with in-house designers and one consistent point of view across the collection. The result is elevated quality, construction, fit and style at sharp price points that only Walmart can offer.”

As the pandemic changed consumer behaviors, Walmart said comfort began to trump the previous, more fitted styles. Joyspun takes advantage of more bra styles, such as wire-free and bralettes with wider color palettes and size offerings. The same is true for underwear, having sought out silky luxe fabrics that provide a soft feel after many washes, Incandela said.

The sleepwear/loungewear category continues to grow, and Incandela said sleepwear is the DNA of the new brand.

“Walmart has a massive sleepwear business,” Incandela said. “It’s very important for this time of year, during the holiday shopping period. This is where we really pop.”

She said Walmart took the consumer loyalty around Secret Treasures and built on that by adding additional styles and expanded sizes for a more inclusive Joyspun brand, all priced affordably compared to competitors.

Analysts said Joyspun will have plenty of competition as more retailers launched loungewear lines during the pandemic.

Deanah Baker, a brand consultant and a recently retired Walmart apparel executive, said the lines between loungewear and sleepwear have continued to blur. She said comfort was the name of the game when many people were working from home. Since returning to their offices, Baker said they look for comfort and more refined and practical garments that can easily transition from office to dinner out or walks during their lunch break.

Baker said the bra category has also transitioned since the pandemic, with sports bras and bralettes now being favored over the previous push-up styles. With recessionary fears still looming, Baker said this category is discretionary. She said women shop for items that help them express their points of view. Hence, designers and retailers need to ensure the brands they offer convey value, and something shoppers might not already have in their closet.

She said retailers like Lululemon and PJ Warehouse have taken advantage of the blurring lines between loungewear and activewear. Baker said it’s not just women but also men looking for stretch fabrics that have a tailored fit flex with movements.

For Joyspun, she said comparable brands at other retailers, from Old Navy to Victoria’s Secret, have also embraced inclusivity concerning expanded color palettes that appeal to different skin tones and sizing to cover women of all ages regardless of shape or size.

“The shopper is in the driver’s seat, and those brands who are listening and responding to consumer needs will continue to be successful even in a slowing economy,” Baker said.

The online presence for lingerie is growing. Technavio reported in May that online lingerie sales were expected to grow by $6.11 billion from 2021 to 2026. Underwear makes up about 4% of the total online womenswear sales in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. According to Verified Market Research, the global sleepwear market was valued at about $9.78 billion in 2020 but is projected to reach $17.04 billion by 2026. The report said sleepwear doubles as loungewear and activewear in the post-pandemic era.

For consumers who are brand loyal, Baker said it’s not as crucial for products to be offered in physical stores. She said retailers that sell lingerie in physical stores need to merchandise the products to convey value, sensibility and sophisticated style to ensure shoppers stop and feel the product and then put it into their carts. Even so, she said plenty of shoppers will want to touch the products and feel the texture before they purchase.

Baker said it’s hard to distinguish between some sleepwear and activewear because fabrics and styles are similar. The only real difference is the thickness of the material, she said.

Walmart launched Joyspun just as digitally native brands like Knix, ThirdLove and Lively continue to take lingerie market share from top brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Vanity Fair and Jockey.

Incandela said the Joyspun launch is timely as more consumers are bargain shopping amid rising prices.

“The big opportunity was where people were going back to work and wearing dresses and more tailored clothing. … But I also think people are constantly updating their intimates; updating their bras and underwear. So it’s kind of a steady, safe business. We have re-engineered the fit for every body type to take the brand to the next level,” Incandela said.

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.