Walmart courts the fashion world with Bonobos, Modcloth acquisitions

Luxury Daily – Mass market retailer Walmart’s recent acquisitions of online fashion sellers could put the retail giant on a course set more toward high-fashion than its typical fast-fashion apparel and accessories.

The company has recently gone on a shopping spree, picking up online fashion retailers such as men’s brand Bonobos and Modcloth, a seller of women’s apparel, accessories and homewares, which typically serve a shopper more discerning than Walmart’s regular retail hub. While the move may seem at odds with Walmart’s more down-to-earth products, its large built-in customer base could be a boon for the recently acquired properties.

“Success in selling luxury via e-commerce is largely about building and communicating unique brand imagery in a way that invokes emotion and resonates with the consumer,” said Laura Sossong, manager at BRP Consulting, Boston. “Walmart must be sensitive to the customer’s association between them and their high-end acquisitions, for fear of jeopardizing existing brand equity and exclusivity.”

As more brands offer options for international shipping and local currency purchasing, luxury consumers are beginning to expect a certain level of convenience to cross-border ecommerce. The luxury brands that encourage this expectation and rise to meet it will be most successful.

While Bonobos and Modcloth are not in the upper echelons of high fashion, they are significantly closer to that world than typical Walmart offerings. The luxury world should keep an eye on Walmart’s future as it could continue moving in that direction.

“Walmart is wisely following the cues of other retail powerhouses such as Amazon and Yoox and acquiring market share in the high fashion space,” BRP’s Ms. Sossong said.

“As they have an overwhelmingly large share of captive customers and have achieved utmost efficiency in pricing, inventory and supply chain models, they are now looking to expand and evolve by acquiring new segments and types of clientele,” she said.

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