Call it another sign of the times: megaretailer Walmart and luxury department store Lord & Taylor are teaming up.
Following weeks of speculation, the pair confirmed today they have agreed to an online partnership that will see Lord & Taylor launch a flagship store on Walmart.com in spring 2018. Walmart — which has moved aggressively over the past 18 months to up the ante on fashion in a bid to compete with Amazon — promises to introduce a specialized online experience offering fashion brands directly from the Lord & Taylor flagship.
“Our goal is to create a premium fashion destination on Walmart.com,” said Denise Incandela, head of fashion for Walmart U.S. e-commerce. “We see customers on our site searching for higher-end items, and we are expanding our business online to focus on adding specialized and premium shopping experiences, starting with fashion. We’re excited that Lord & Taylor is part of the team we’re working with as we continue to create a new Walmart.com.”
In conjunction with the launch of the Lord & Taylor flagship store on Walmart.com next year, Walmart said it plans to evolve how customers shop fashion on its site — by “adding elements of discovery and inspiration.” To that end, Lord & Taylor will have a dedicated store on the Walmart app.
“As retail continues to change, this flagship store creates enormous growth opportunities for Lord & Taylor and our brand partners,” said Liz Rodbell, president of Lord & Taylor. “Our customers trust us to deliver high-quality fashion apparel and accessories, and we will soon be able to extend the reach of that offering to new customers through this flagship store. Walmart.com is a shopping destination that reaches a wide base of customers looking for premium fashion brands. They are a great company for us to work with as we continue to grow our digital presence.”
A report by The Wall Street Journal last month suggested that Walmart was close to inking a deal with the Hudson’s Bay Co.-owned luxury department store.
Although a partnership with Walmart — which bought high-end men’s clothing brand Bonobos along with online retailers ShoeBuy, ModCloth and Moosejaw this year — could come with some branding challenges for luxury names, some experts have suggested struggling Lord & Taylor could reap benefits from such a relationship.
The department store has experienced slipping sales for some time. HBC said in September that Q2 comparable store sales declined by 1.6 percent in its Department Store Group — comprising its Hudson’s Bay, Lord & Taylor and Home Outfitters banners. Meanwhile, digital sales in that area of HBC’s business enjoyed a 19.8 percent gain — an indication that this segment of Lord & Taylor’s business is its strongest and could be accelerated with the right partnership.
For Walmart’s part, the then-rumored deal was widely viewed as a move that could help Walmart transform itself from a discount site to an online shopping destination offering high-end items — making it a more viable force against e-giant Amazon.
While the duo has not elaborated on shipping and delivery plans, WSJ’s sources last month suggested that Lord & Taylor customers may be able to pick up online orders at Walmart stores — another potential boon to Lord & Taylor, which has only 50 doors in which to facilitate “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS). Currently, BOPIS is available only at select Lord & Taylor locations.