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Walmart Revamps Apparel Offering to Head Off Amazon

Taking a page from Amazon’s apparel ramp up and Target’s private brand overhaul, Walmart is now refreshing its clothing offering.

The retailer’s new collections include Time and Tru for women, Terra & Sky for plus and Wonder Nation in kids, according to Bloomberg News, which got a look at a presentation given to suppliers last month. In addition to these introductions, the George brand will be men’s only going forward and Just My Size plus apparel will be online only. Faded Glory and White Stag are going away altogether.

The price points for the new pieces are in keeping with Walmart’s low price promise with tees for around $6, leggings under $10 and jeans for as little as $18.

Half of the assortments will be comprised of core basics, 40 percent of fashion basics and the remaining 10 percent will be reserved for trend right goods, which will be updated quarterly.

Though one of the slides in the presentation reportedly stated, “We will cover every aspect of fashion,” at least some in the industry are underwhelmed by the pieces that have made it to stores thus far.

“As Walmart shoppers have more money to spend again, apparel is an opportunity,” Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, told the publication. “But Walmart’s offer is pretty basic, even for Walmart.”

And Walmart’s apparel attempts have never resonated with the fashion crowd like Target’s has in the past. It’s one reason why the industry and fans were skeptical when news broke that the big box retailer purchased Bonobos and ModCloth last year.

But the company has brought in former Ralph Lauren exec Denise Incandela to head up its online clothing business. And it has an online portal with Lord & Taylor in the works, which will offer shoppers free two-day shipping.

The new apparel strategy is just in time. Amazon has spent the last year and change rolling out a slew of private label collections, including Buttoned Down, Mae, Goodthreads and Lark & Ro. One Click Retail estimates that these brands together pulled in $21 million in sales through October in 2017.

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And analysts expect these brands to continue to grow given Amazon’s secret weapon: Prime. The membership is credited with training shoppers to think Amazon first for all purchases. In fact, a recent report from CoreSight Research found that of those who had purchased apparel and footwear on the site in the previous 12 months, 31.6% noted the reason was force of habit.

[Read more about Amazon’s apparel surge: Target is Falling Victim to Amazon Prime-Fueled Apparel Sales]

That’s bad news for everyone else in the apparel space, especially Target, which is the retailer that’s losing the most apparel shoppers to Amazon. And Walmart isn’t off the hook. Though more than 30 percent of consumers said they’ve switched from the Bull’s Eye to Amazon, nearly 25 percent have opted for the online retailer over Walmart, CoreSight found.

All of these companies are accelerating their clothing strategies in the face of shrinking opportunity.

Apparel now only accounts for 3.4% of spending, down from 6.2% in 1997, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. One reason is there’s more competition than ever. For instance, technology related expenditures were negligible 40 years ago. As of 2010, however, they command a larger chunk of consumer spend than apparel. Experiences, which have always had a big piece of the pie, have also crept up in recent years.