The Lord & Taylor “flagship” on walmart.com will soon launch with more than 125 brands, among them Tommy Bahama, Vince Camuto, Miss Selfridge, La La Anthony, Lucky Brand, H Halston and Effy.
“It’s a curated assortment that will continue to grow,” RJ Cilley, senior vice president of digital for Lord & Taylor, told WWD on Tuesday.
The level of brand participation on the Lord & Taylor store on walmart.com — called Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor — suggests that some brands typically associated with better-priced and upscale retailers want to broaden their distribution and tap the masses.
Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor gives the venerable regional department store nameplate — owned by the Hudson’s Bay Co. — a chance to boost its business, which has been tough for several years.
Executives also say it’s a sign that Lord & Taylor is evolving and innovating despite its difficulties. Much of the change is expected to come from Lord & Taylor’s new president, Vanessa LeFebvre, who as reported, will join the store next week, succeeding Liz Rodbell who left last April. LeFebvre actually started her career at Lord & Taylor, in its executive training program, and most recently worked at Stitch Fix where she was focused on data science and personalization and was vice president over women’s. Before that, she was at Macy’s, where she was instrumental in launching the Backstage off-price concept.
HBC also owns Saks Fifth Avenue, Hudson’s Bay in Canada, Kaufhof in Germany, Saks Off 5th and Gilt, but none of these other divisions are tied to the deal with Walmart. Brands at Saks Fifth Avenue are too high-end for Walmart customers generally; Lord & Taylor is moderate in comparison. Market sources have questioned why walmart.com would choose to link with Lord & Taylor, rather than a larger retailer, though the department store does carry many major and well-known, better and upscale brands such as Vince Camuto, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
For Walmart, the addition of the Lord & Taylor store on its web site is another attempt to elevate its fashion appeal. It’s long been lacking, though the $500 billion retailer is stepping up the effort, notably through such recent purchases as Jet.com and Bonobos. The launch of Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor, as well as the hiring of Denise Incandela last fall head of fashion, Walmart U.S. e-commerce, also reflects the commitment. Incandela was previously president of Ralph Lauren’s global digital division and before that spent more than 14 years at Saks Fifth Avenue in senior roles including executive vice president and president of Saks Direct.
The Lord & Taylor partnership also gives Walmart an edge in its head-on battle with Amazon to capture greater fashion business. Many better and designer brands have hesitated to distribute on Amazon and walmart.com due to concerns over how their brands are presented and repercussions to their brand image.
Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor will be phased in, meaning access to the store will be limited initially to a certain level of traffic. The Lord & Taylor store will open up to more and more online shoppers as time passes. No specific launch date was given.
According to Incandela, the Lord & Taylor online flagship is the latest step in the recent overhaul and redesign of walmart.com, which showcases cleaner, bolder photographs, editorial content and easier navigation.
“As part of the walmart.com redesign, and our commitment to establish walmart.com as a destination for fashion, we recently relaunched our new fashion shopping experience,” Incandela said. “The new experience is aligned with how customers shop the category, with editorial elements that inspire customers to browse and buy, and has already generated positive customer response. The next step is the launch of the Lord & Taylor flagship store, which introduces exciting new premium brands to our customers.”
Cilley characterized the addition of Lord & Taylor to walmart.com as “an entirely new model for us and demonstrates the evolution of Lord & Taylor and our commitment to advancing our digital presence.”
The executives said the L&T store will have thousands of “trend-right” styles, including women’s, men’s and kids’ clothing, shoes, handbags, accessories and jewelry, and also among the brands participating.
On Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor, visitors can shop by category, by brand, or they can draw style ideas from editorial stories. There will be trend stories, and Lord & Taylor will home in on categories, such as dresses that the store has a strong reputation in. Orders over $35 will be eligible for free two-day shipping, which is a regular walmart.com feature, and visitors will be able to access Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor via the Walmart fashion homepage. A preview of the store shows a “Premium Brands” icon right under the “Everyday Fashion” icon. Clicking the Premium Brands icon gets you to the Lord & Taylor shop; clicking Everyday Fashion gets you to Walmart’s fashion shop, which offers affordable items, much of it on the basic side of the fashion spectrum.
To distinguish walmart.com’s premium shop, a “Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor” header runs across each premium brand page. In addition to the categories offered by Lord & Taylor, walmart.com’s broader fashion experience features watches, luggage and travel, seasonal shops and premium beauty.
The executives said Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor will maintain Lord & Taylor’s, high-low, promotional pricing posture, versus the everyday low pricing that walmart.com offers. Lord & Taylor owns the merchandise and will handle the shipping while Walmart will handle the payments. The financial arrangement of the partnership was not disclosed.
Incandela said in the past Walmart has sold premium brands to Walmart, but not to the extent that walmart.com gets with the addition of Premium Brands from Lord & Taylor. Walmart will roll out a big marketing campaign to bolster the strategy.
“This is a major milestone for Lord & Taylor. It’s a completely new model that catapults Lord & Taylor’s digital footprint and demonstrate our commitment to innovation,” Cilley said. “We are thinking about business differently.”