3 Big Reasons Why DSW, Target and Walmart Are Banking on Private Label Brands to Drive Growth

At Designer Brands Inc.’s investor day earlier this month, the company said its private brands would drive growth over the next five years.

Specifically, the DSW parent company predicted that owned-brands would double from 19% of the company’s revenue to almost one-third by 2026, with most sales occurring in the company’s DTC channels. DBI acquired Camuto Group, which designs and develops the Vince Camuto brand and licenses footwear for Jessica Simpson and Lucky Brand, in 2018.

The announcement came shortly after Nike pulled its products from DSW stores to focus on its own DTC channels, an increasingly common move among top brands such as Crocs and Adidas — one that has had inventory ramifications for various retailers.
In the wake of this trend, retailers that had traditionally relied on powerhouse brands are also increasingly leaning into their own private label brands. Foot Locker, which is also losing a significant amount of Nike product this year, launched Lckr, its in-house apparel line, and Cozi, its first womenswear brand in 2021. Macy’s, which saw growth in its assortment of owned brands in 2021, recently tapped a new SVP of private brands who previously oversaw this area for Target.

In addition to adapting to the brand shift towards DTC channels, private and owned-brands offer retailers the chance to achieve higher profit margins, explained Matt Powell, NDP’s VP and senior industry advisor for sports. Private labels can also fill in product white space in underserved markets, such as women’s activewear.

According to Powell, women’s private label activewear was 40% of the market in 2021. And private label activewear was 28% of the activewear market, representing the largest share in this category.

“The shift into private label may be the only way for multi-brand retailers to give customers what they are looking for while filling in assortment gaps that wholesale just isn’t able to cover anymore,” said Liza Amlani, principal and founder of consulting company Retail Strategy Group and a strategist who previously worked brands such as Ralph Lauren and Nike.

Walmart, which currently operates a slew of private brands with footwear offerings, including Time and Tru, Wonder Nation, No Boundaries, and Ozark Trail, is also expanding its reach of owned and exclusive brands.

In late March, Walmart announced that the Caleres-owned Sam & Libby brand as well as the Steve Madden-owned Madden NYC brands would now be sold exclusively at Walmart. This partnership marks a step forward in Walmart’s efforts to expand its footwear offerings with exclusive retail partnerships and owned brands.

Target is also a retail leader in the realm of private brands, with over 45 owned brands across apparel, accessories, home goods, activewear and footwear. Target’s owned brands grew 18% in 2021 and had sales of more $30 billion.

“Building a product mix that truly represents the customer, like Target has done with their private brand apparel and grocery, shows the shopper that you are truly listening and closing the customer feedback loop,” Amlani said.

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