BROOKLYN — After more than four years of ownership, Walmart is finally adding Bonobos to its merchandise mix. But it’s not the core men’s product. Instead, 250 stores will carry a new label, Bonobos Fielder, which the company describes as a “streetleisure” collection.
Walmart purchased Bonobos for $310 million in 2017 at a time when it was seeking to beef up its e-commerce business and branch out beyond into other categories. It has since expanded into a variety of categories and now has two outlets and 61 Guideshops, or physical stores where its products can be tried on and ordered and then shipped to customers.
Bonobos’ core customer is a well-educated guy between 25 to 54 with a household income of more than $125,000. But Fielder is zeroing in on a much younger man, aged 18 to 24, with its colorful, casually skewed assortment at a lower price point.
“It’s a brand extension of Bonobos but it’s for Gen Z at an accessible price point,” said David Meir Sasson, chief operating officer who stepped into the role of interim chief executive officer when Micky Onvural resigned from that position last month. Fielder combines athleisure and gorpcore sensibilities with streetwear references. And while it shares the same ethos of self-expression and value as Bonobos, it is “more adventurous and youthful,” Sasson added during a preview in Brooklyn on Thursday.
“Bonobos at its core is about celebrating self-expression and fueling it with confidence. Through Bonobos Fielder, we’re sharing these core values with the next generation, while also catering to its style and price preferences.”
The pieces are made with materials that are highly functional — from packable jackets to stretch convertible cargo pants — at prices that start at $14 for T-shirts and top out at $40 for a packable windbreaker.
Adam Serrano, senior merchant for Bonobos, said the first season is being called “The Great Escape” and is intended to speak both literally — clothes to wear while escaping to the outdoors or urban jungle — and figuratively “to get out of the headspace we’ve been in” since the pandemic started.
The line includes performance fleece, long- and short-sleeve pocket T-shirts, crinkle nylon shorts, cargo pants that zip off at the knee and a packable mixed media jacket. Half-zips, joggers, hoodies and a water-repellent hoodie in a variety of colors, ranging from orange and green to blue, round out the assortment.
The collection will be available in sizes ranging from extra-small through XXXL. It will also be available online at both a distinct Bonobos Fielder site as well as walmart.com.
The spring 2022 launch features artwork by Brooklyn-born Mike Perry, who won a Primetime Emmy Award for animation on Comedy Central’s “Broad City.” He created a surrealistic illustration that Fielder is using on several of the pieces as well as “critters” — a hallmark of the Bonobos brand — that also show up in various spots on the clothes, Serrano said.
Every two seasons, Sasson said, the brand will collaborate with a different artist on the collection designs.
In addition to the Walmart stores, the collection will be sold online at Bonobos.com/Fielder. “Bonobos Fielder provides us with an entirely new style aesthetic to reach young adult consumers,” said Denise Incandela, executive vice president of the apparel division and private brands at Walmart U.S. “We are confident that the brand’s innovative, quality ‘streetleisure’ styles will enable us to take more of our customer’s closet share, as well as appeal to a new type of fashion consumer.”
Sasson declined to provide a projection on how large a business Fielder could be for Bonobos, but did say that if it’s successful, it could roll out to additional Walmart stores in the future.
Turning to the Bonobos business overall, Sasson said Onvural did a great job during her five years at the helm of the company and current business is strong.
Sasson, a veteran of Derek Lam, Kenneth Cole and Elie Tahari who joined Bonobos three years ago, said that when the pandemic started, the company instituted two major changes. The first was to offer apparel with an e-waist — to accommodate the COVID-19 weight gain that many men experienced — and more loungewear for those at-home Zoom calls. Within its stores, a focus was put on interacting with customers in a safe way and Bonobos launched Guide Chat, where sales associates chat remotely with customers to help them choose the right styles and sizes.
Both of these pivoting strategies have been “really successful,” he said, and continue to be used even though stores have reopened and lockdowns have ended.
“As things opened up,” he added, “we saw the suit coming back.” In fact, sales of suits rose 58 percent in 2021 over 2020, Sasson said. Golf apparel, both during the worst of the pandemic and continuing today, “performed above budget and projections. It was the only sport people were ‘allowed’ to do, so it did well for us.”
Today, Bonobos continues to perform well, he said. “The reopening of the economy has affected us in a good way. People are back in the stores and we’re scaling back up.”
Even so, after opening two stores last year, he said there are no plans to add more units in 2022. Instead, the company will home in on its e-commerce channels and the launch of Fielder as its primary growth vehicles.