Wal­mart un­veils Lord & Tay­lor site

Com­pany court­ing af­flu­ent shop­pers to bat­tle Ama­zon

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - BUSINESS - BY ANNE D’INNOCENZIO

Wal­mart, long known for its “everyday low prices” mantra and as a place for ba­sics, wants shop­pers to think of it as a source for style and up­scale fash­ion as it tries to reach more af­flu­ent cus­tomers.

The com­pany is launch­ing the Lord & Tay­lor store on its web­site in the com­ing weeks with more than 125 brands like Lucky Brand, Vince Ca­muto and Tommy Ba­hama, re­flect­ing its ef­fort to broaden its cus­tomer base, drive growth and com­pete with Ama­zon.

It’s im­per­a­tive for Wal­mart to ex­pand be­yond its low-in­come shop­pers who are lim­ited in how much they can spend. But the strat­egy is not with­out risks. The com­pany needs to court higher-in­come shop­pers while hold­ing true to its core strat­egy.

Wal­mart store cus­tomers have a me­dian house­hold in­come of about $48,000, be­low the $56,000 of its web­site cus­tomers and the $85,000 me­dian in­come of Ama­zon shop­pers, says Craig John­son, pres­i­dent of the re­tail group Cus­tomer Growth Part­ners.

Over the past sev­eral months, Wal­mart has been over­haul­ing its web­site with an em­pha­sis on fash­ion and home fur­nish­ings. The home goods sec­tion, for ex­am­ple, fea­tures col­lec­tions for style cat­e­gories like mod­ern or bo­hemian, with lay­outs that echo the feel of a dec­o­rat­ing mag­a­zine.

Wal­mart also has been on an ac­qui­si­tion spree, buy­ing online re­tailer Jet.com, which ap­peals to a higher-in­come shop­per, two years ago. And un­der Jet’s founder, Marc Lore, who is now head­ing up Wal­mart’s U.S. ecom­merce busi­ness, it has also bought sev­eral up­scale online cloth­ing brands in­clud­ing Bono­bos and ModCloth.

Mean­while, Wal­mart says it has been able to at­tract high­er­in­come shop­pers through its per­sonal shop­ping ser­vice that lets online shop­pers at about 1,200 stores pick up their or­ders curb­side.

But Wal­mart’s part­ner­ship with Lord & Tay­lor, an­nounced last Novem­ber, marks a new model for the Ben­tonville, Ark.-based dis­counter.

With the launch of the L&T page, Wal­mart will have its own everyday brands and the pre­mium Lord & Tay­lor brands. In ad­di­tion to the items of­fered by L&T, Wal­mart. com’s broader fash­ion of­fer­ings will high­light watches, lug­gage and travel, sea­sonal shops and pre­mium beauty.

Lord & Tay­lor of­fi­cials said late last year that the ar­range­ment with Wal­mart al­lows the chain to at­tract new cus­tomers who are al­ready buy­ing high­erend prod­ucts on Wal­mart.com.

“Lord & Tay­lor is think­ing dif­fer­ently about the busi­ness, and this is an ex­am­ple of how we are in­no­vat­ing,” a com­pany spokesper­son said.

The com­pa­nies de­clined to re­veal financial de­tails of the part­ner­ship.

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