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Walmart Wants to Woo Gen Z With Everlane-like Line, But Will They Bite?

Walmart has its eye on Gen Z with a direct-to-consumer line of basics that will—literally—give Everlane a run for its money.

That’s the rumor, anyway.

Like Allswell, the direct-to-consumer mattress brand that Walmart launched in February, the as-yet-unnamed line will hawk its wares primarily through its own dedicated e-commerce site, according to Business of Fashion (BoF), which cited two people with “firsthand knowledge of the matter” on Tuesday.

It’ll hew to the look and feel of Everlane, the San Francisco cult brand with no-frills staples that start at $15 for a solid cotton V-neck and top out at $175 for an Italian leather tote. “However, Walmart’s range will be geared more pointedly toward Gen Z and boast even lower prices,”  BoF wrote.

Walmart declined to comment on the BoF story. 

Andy Dunn, founder of CEO of Bonobos, a digitally native men’s wear brand whose acquisition by the world’s largest retailer for $310 million in 2017 roiled progressive circles, will be “leading the charge” in his role as senior vice president of digital consumer brands, BoF noted.

The new brand might be another salvo in Walmart’s growing turf war with Amazon, which has been diligently building its own private-label arsenal.

Of the 70-plus Amazon-exclusive brands, more than half fall under the men’s, women’s and children’s clothing categories, including underwear (Good Brief), denim (Hale) and knitted sweaters (Cable Stitch). Target is also nipping at both retailers’ heels, with over a dozen private clothing lines rearing their heads in the past year and a half. 

Walmart has made no secret of the fact that it wants to be the No. 1 online destination for fashion. Under the direction of Marc Lore, Jet.com founder and CEO of Walmart’s online operations, the retailer has been on an acquisition tear, snapping up not only the aforementioned Bonobos but other pure-play internet outlets like Modcloth, Moosejaw and Shoebuy, too. (Jet.com itself was acquired by Walmart in September 2016 for $3.3 million.) In November, it finagled a deal to sell Lord & Taylor’s luxury offerings on Walmart.com.

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That’s not to say the big box has forgotten its core customer: the bargain hunter. In February, Walmart rolled out four in-house clothing labels, including lines for men and women that range in size from XS to XXXL, priced between $5 and $30.

But it remains to be seen whether Walmart, in its quest to woo Gen Z, can shake off the specters of monopolistic practices, worker mistreatment and reticence to open up its supply chain, all of which have contributed to its lagging public perception. 

Its complicated reputation could be a stumbling block. Most signs show that these so-called “post-millennials,” who were born between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, might be the most environmentally and socially conscious consumer demographic yet.

A May white paper from MNI Targeted Media, a division of Meredith Corp., for instance, revealed that 56 percent of Gen Zers consider themselves to be socially conscious, and more than 50 percent said knowing a brand is socially conscious influences their purchasing decisions.

“This generation makes sophisticated choices about identity, purpose and values,” the study’s authors wrote. “They’ve spent their lives surrounded by digital content and they know how to filter anything that lacks the right tone, language and relevancy.”

In short? If Walmart is looking to appeal to today’s kids, it’ll have its work cut out for it.