Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is out to grab a bigger piece of the e-commerce pie.
Wal-Mart Marketplace, the retail giant’s latest salvo in the online shopping wars, is expanding walmart.com’s assortment and broadening its range of prices. The program is bringing select retailers to walmart.com, where they will sell products seamlessly integrated into the Web site. Consumers’ only hint the item isn’t supplied by walmart.com is a discreet box on the product page that says “Sold by Wal-Mart Marketplace” and the name of the retailer in small type. Walmart.com is handling orders and the retailers are responsible for fulfillment, shipping, customer service and returns. Walmart.com declined to discuss the terms of the partnerships.
So far, Marketplace consists of only three retailers, but Wal-Mart promises many more. “We’re really bullish on the program,” said Ravi Jariwala, a walmart.com spokesman. “We’re really focused on this and interested in growing Marketplace in the future.”
Already, the retailers — CSN Stores (home, baby, toys, sporting goods and shoes); eBags, (handbags and luggage), and Pro Team, a subsidiary of Dreams Inc. (licensed sports apparel and collectibles), have added nearly one million new products to the walmart.com assortment.
The strategy, if successful, could win walmart.com new consumers, who in turn may give Wal-Mart brick-and-mortar stores a second look. “This changes who the walmart.com customer is,” said Carol Spieckerman, president of Newmarketbuilders, a retail consultant based in Bentonville, Ark., where Wal-Mart Stores’ headquarters is located. “Basically, it’s a new statement that walmart.com is not necessarily about low prices. Now that they’ve perfected all the metrics in terms of how dot-com is driving traffic to the stores, walmart.com can expand and become more relevant to different kinds of customers.”
Jariwala said 90 percent of walmart.com customers shopped at a Wal-Mart within the last month, and more than 50 percent shopped in one in the last week.
“Having higher prices is not a function of having a different customer demographic [online],” he said. “Because we have virtual shelves, we don’t have inventory or space constraints, so, of course, we can offer a much broader selection in electronics, apparel and home in a variety of different price points.”
While Marketplace was developed to give customers more choices, it’s not just about stockkeeping units. The third-party retailers are introducing higher prices and labels and designers rarely, if ever, seen on walmart.com.
For example, there is Ed Hardy’s Rebel Luella lace-up handbag, $300, and Vanessa Austrian Crystal Multi Clutch, $500, courtesy of eBags. CSN Stores offers Nina evening sandals for $69.95, Franco Sarto platform sandals, $73.95, Aerosoles’ wedge suede boots, $120, and Dan Post ostrich boots,$279.
“People are going to feel differently about Wal-Mart and stay with it not only on the Internet, but start to think of it as more interesting and approachable for bricks and mortar,” said Joan Treistman, founder of the Treistman Group, a market research firm specializing in Web site optimization. “It’s a big deal for Wal-Mart. It has far-reaching potential.”
One sticky question walmart.com declined to address is whether the participating retailers will need approval from the designers sold on their own Web sites, to offer those designers’ products at walmart.com. Treistman said, “It really depends on the economy to some extent. Michael Kors has outlet stores, and they have products that are branded somewhat differently and priced differently. If Michael Kors is willing to have his name associated with an outlet store, it seems to me that eventually, these brands are going to come around [to selling on walmart.com], although not all will.”
“Currently we are not on walmart.com, and we have no plans to be on walmart.com,” said a spokesman for Michael Kors. “That’s not part of our strategy. We would never do Collection. We don’t do a lot of off-price and mass market with current live product. We do sell on eBags.com.”
The largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the world, Wal-Mart has made no secret of its online ambitions. According to Internet Retailer, walmart.com had sales of $1.7 billion last year, making it the 14th-largest online retailer. Amazon.com, the top-ranked e-commerce company, had sales of $20 billion in 2008, and Apple displaced Wal-Mart as the top music seller.
Wal-Mart is keenly aware it’s reaching the saturation point in many U.S. markets and sees walmart.com as a growth vehicle.
Walmart.com gets 40 million unique visitors every month and as many as 80 million during the holiday season. Jariwala said the walmart.com customer tends to skew “a little more female, with a slightly higher income and slightly more education.” The site’s target customer is 25 to 54 years old with a household income of $60,000-plus a year, Spieckerman said. “Looking at those types of statistics,” she said, it’s easy to see how “more aspirational customers might start looking at the Web site and raising their perception” of walmart.com.Spieckerman noted the divergent online strategies of Wal-Mart and competitor Target Corp., which said last month it will rebrand and redesign its Web site and bring it in-house by 2012. The target.com store has been run by Amazon. “Target experienced some inefficiencies it feels it might remedy on its own,” said Treistman. “They might be able to do that. If not, they may partner with someone else. The decision relates to the desire to be more cost efficient.”
“This is Wal-Mart really getting a jump start,” Spieckerman said. “Target is taking the site back and incubating it. Wal-Mart is out and proud and making these big moves.”
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)