Walmart Admits "We're Not a Dept. Store," When It Comes To Fashion

While Walmart may currently be the most popular shopping destination in the country, it still hasn’t shaken the stigma among many clothing customers of being a place you go for cheap sweats, underwear and tee shirts. And after years of trying to remove that taint, the retail behemoth has thrown up its hands and admitted defeat.

Said a Walmart exec who probably has never bought any clothing at one of his stores:

We are going back to basics in many ways… Basics as in ‘business basics’ but also basics literally in terms of the product itself. Socks and underwear to jeans and T-shirts, that’s where we excel. We’re not a department store.

The company has really been trying in the last few years to change their image among the more fashion-conscious shoppers. Starting in 2005 with their Metro 7 and George ME by Mark Eisen lines and continuing up through the recent debuts of the Max Azria juniors collection and a line bearing the name of teen celebu-something Miley Cyrus.

But unlike its competitor Target, which had great success with high-profile partnerships with top designers, Walmart was never able to make a go of selling quality clothes at discount prices.

The move back to sweats, socks and undies is receiving mixed reviews from retail and marketing experts.

Says marketing consultant Joel Waraday:

You can’t be all things to all people… It is difficult for people to think about going to Wal-Mart for apparel when it is also where they get their 10W 30 oil.

Meanwhile, Carol Spieckerman of Newmarketbuilders opines:

I think Wal-Mart should have given its fashion foray a bit more time to take rather than going from ditch to ditch then trying to end up somewhere in the muddy middle… To say that the Wal-Mart customer doesn’t get fashion or appreciate it is reverse snobbery of the worst order.

What do you think? Could Big W ever outgrow its bargain bin shadow? Or have they made the right decision to stick with the basics?

Wal-Mart’s Ongoing Fashion Struggle [Forbes.com]