Wal-Mart Is Terrified of Selling Clothes, Especially Fashionable Ones

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An $18 Norma Kamali bat-wing cardigan for Wal-Mart. Photo: www.walmart.com

Wal-Mart wants to sell more clothes, because they make a lot of money off of clothes. However, they haven't been so successful. They certainly aren't Target, with its designer collaborations and fancy marketing campaigns. Nor do they want to be, since they're terrified of brands. They're terrified of competitively marketing the brands and collaborative lines they do have — Norma Kamali and Miley Cyrus among them — after a scarring experience with Kathy Lee Gifford.

Kathie Lee Gifford’s exclusive apparel collection did $300 million in sales in its first year, according to Gifford, but the TV personality in 1996 was accused of using sweatshop labor to produce the line and Wal-Mart was vilified in the press. Wal-Mart in 2003 began phasing the brand out of its stores, but the episode left psychological scars on the company.


The retailer was most recently attacked for selling jewelry by Miley Cyrus containing toxic levels of cadmium. And you probably almost forgot that they sold all kinds of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen stuff for ten years. But you hardly hear about the Kamali line — which Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn adores — or Miley Cyrus's Max Azria line. The chain hopes to make money by doing more in the plus-size market. Kamali will launch a plus-size line for Wal-Mart in the fall, online-only at first.

Retail experts say Wal-Mart will have to get over their fear of promoting these brands if they want people to know about them, buy them, and make money on them. However, with a bulk of their profits currently coming from food sales, they don't want to intimidate their core customer shopping for groceries who might find fashion and trendiness scary. We get it. Fashion scares (link NSFW) us all the time.

Wal-Mart’s Uphill Battle With Apparel [WWD]