Walmart and Amazon are doubling down on fashion, setting the scene for their next big battle

Facebook/’s new fashion collection.
  • Walmart is doubling down on its apparel offerings. It revamped both and to create a more stylish shopping experience, and it’s partnering with new brands.
  • Walmart was the leading US apparel retailer in 2017, but analysts are expecting it to be unseated by Amazon by the end of 2018.
  • Amazon is making moves to dominate in this space. In the past year, it has accelerated the growth of its private-label apparel brands and expanded Prime Wardrobe, a try-before-you-buy service.

Walmart is firing up its fashion business to compete with Amazon.

“We are leaning into fashion,” Denise Incandela, Walmart’s head of online fashion, said in a presentation at the WWD Digital Forum in New York City on Wednesday.

To do so, the company has improved the shopping experience across its websites, broadened its fashion assortment, and partnered with new brands.

“While we know we are servicing the customer well on consumables, we haven’t had that offering on the fashion side, and our customers are asking for it,” Incandela said.

Incandela, who has more than 20 years of experience working in luxury retail at Saks Fifth Avenue and Ralph Lauren, was hired by Walmart to grow its fashion business in 2017.

The big push into apparel comes as its biggest online competitor, Amazon, is making strides in the space. While Walmart was the leading US apparel retailer in 2017, analysts are expecting it to be unseated by Amazon by the end of 2018.

With the two rivals almost neck-and-neck in terms of market share – Walmart had 8.7% of the market in 2017, compared to Amazon’s 7.9% – it’s likely that Walmart is doing everything it can to protect its position as market leader.

Walmart’s new look

Both and have had a complete overhaul in the past six months. Walmart now has a sleek new design and more stylish imagery that features people rather than just products.

“We have been very focused on making a beautiful shopping experience, because whether the dress is $US15 at Walmart or $US200 at Jet or $US2,000 at Saks, it should look beautiful,” Incandela said.

“We haven’t necessarily had a beautiful shopping experience in the past.”

Incandela said that styling advice is one of the key components missing from the experience of shopping for lower-priced clothing online – it’s something that is generally reserved for luxury retail. Offering fashion advice by using better imagery and suggestions is one of the key changes to, she said.

The sleek design is also more enticing for brands, providing a key way for Walmart to win exclusive partnerships over Amazon.

Incandela said that 1,1000 new brands have launched on Jet since April. Walmart acquired Jet for $US3.3 billion in 2016 and focused it on the urban-dwelling, higher-income shopper. Nike will join its roster in October.

Walmart itself has been expanding its assortment and reaching a new type of customers with its “premium” clothing platform via a new partnership with Lord & Taylor. Last month, it also announced that it would be launching an exclusive and affordable clothing collection with Ellen DeGeneres.

Amazon, on the other hand, is doubling down on apparel by accelerating the growth of its private-label brands; expanding Prime Wardrobe, a try-before-you-buy service; and by bringing on new brands, including Nike, Calvin Klein, and most recently J.Crew.

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