October 05, 2021
Walmart is serious about increasing its belief in fashion. The retailer has forged a number of exclusive brand relationships and sought to improve its game with its private label lines. The case and point is the introduction of the Free Assembly men’s and women’s collections last autumn. Walmart wants to build on the momentum created by the in-house brand with the introduction by Free Assembly Kids.
The collection appears to be Walmart’s answer to Target’s hugely successful Cat & Jack line, which has annual sales of over $ 2 billion. Free Assembly Kids also appears to be designed to help Walmart compete for category dollars against Amazon.com, H&M, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Shein, and others.
Items in this first attempt, which includes 50 different styles, sell in sizes 5-18, priced between $ 6 and $ 36. The collection includes wardrobe basics with stylistic twists, including plaid and bandana prints, sherpa imitations, athleisure and monochrome coordinated looks.
“We designed Free Assembly Kids to seamlessly complement our adult collection, with many of the above trends such as athleisure, plaid and cropped silhouettes being explored in our latest drop for men and women,” wrote Deanah Baker, SVP, Men’s, Kids , Shoes, Walmart US “And just like the adult line, Free Assembly Kids is made with a commitment to sustainability – several pieces in the fall collection include organic cotton or recycled polyester.”
Brandon Maxwell, who has designed clothing for A-list clients like Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga, was hired earlier this year as creative director for Free Assembly and Scoop, Walmart’s “exclusive, upscale fashion” label. The retailer said at the time of its announcement that Mr Maxwell’s designs would first hit store shelves before the holiday season with its first full collection next spring.
Ms. Baker writes that Walmart has had “great feedback” from its customers on improvements to children’s clothing, including the launch of its exclusive Justice line this summer.
Justice, who closed all 826 of their stores last year when they filed for bankruptcy, has introduced items in multiple categories in addition to clothing, such as Bed linen and bath, backpacks, jewelry, pets, shoes, skateboards and technical accessories.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think Free Assembly and other moves by Walmart suggest it is ready to step up its fashion game? Which retailers are most likely to take a hit if Walmart’s Free Assembly and other product lines catch on with customers?
“It is high time that Walmart rethink its apparel offering beyond athleisure and basics and across multiple sizes.”