Apparel caught up with Celia Clancy, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for Wal-Mart, at the annual convention and business development forum of the International Mass Retail Association (IMRA) in mid-September. Here is what she had to say about the apparel category.
Apparel: How do you see the apparel category evolving in the next few years at Wal-Mart? What are some of your key strategies?
Clancy: We want to grow sales and share, just like other businesses within Wal-Mart. We want to grow both branded business and private label business.
Apparel: Is there a mix that you see as the optimal mix of branded and private label goods, or does it vary depending on the type of product?
Clancy: It really varies by category.
Apparel: As far as your greatest competition in the apparel space, is it coming from within mass retail or from specialty and department stores, etc.? Price competition is so tough everywhere, and you've got big brands selling for next to nothing at department stores when they're marked down.
Clancy: On the apparel side, I think all retailers are competition at this point because there is so much promoting going on and because the customer is cross-shopping. I think our customer is very, very smart and is shopping department stores, mid-tier mass market and specialty, and dollar stores.
Apparel: What are some problems in the apparel space, some hurdles that you have identified at Wal-Mart that you are trying to find some solutions to internally and also maybe working with your vendors to find solutions for?
Clancy: We're working on improving our quality. We have a name for that initiative: PlusOne. It's about adding quality features each and every season to our garments because we think, and our customers tell us, that our quality is not where they want it to be, as consistently as they want it to be there. We're also working on focusing, or reducing our brands.
Apparel: The "less is more" approach?
Clancy: Yes, less is more. And we want the profile of each brand to speak with more clarity to the consumer.
Apparel: Not as many things in that space?
Clancy: And we're working on focusing, or reducing, the assortment.
Apparel: How about turns? Are you looking to increase those turns of the merchandise?
Clancy: We always are looking at how to increase turn because of our high traffic paths, and because we have to grow our comp business, and the space doesn't increase, so yes, we are looking to grow our turns.
Apparel: Any thoughts on apparel e-tailing and what the future might hold for Wal-Mart in that area?
Clancy: We're working on it. I think that's a "TBD." We have lots of requests from our customers.
Apparel: Is there anything you'd like to add about that apparel space and your partners in it?
Clancy: Yes. I talked about product. We're also working on our shopping environment and our presentation. We're working on improving our shopability. We want it to be easy to shop and easy for our associates to stock. And we think we have tons of opportunity in apparel, so we will aggressively drive that business. That's where we're at.