Walmart exec explains latest play in fashion destination plans: kids’ brand-name clothing subscription box

Kids’ brand-name clothing subscription box 

Walmart.com is further burnishing its ambition as an affordable go-to fashion retailer by embracing the e-commerce trend of customisable subscription boxes.

But instead of elbowing into the crowded women’s apparel subscription arena, the discount giant is delivering upmarket kids’ clothes – such as C&C California dresses, BGBG trousers and Puma hoodies – through a partnership with Kidbox, announced earlier this week. 

“We’ve been working very hard to make Walmart.com a destination for fashion,” Denise Incandela, Walmart’s head of Fashion Group for US e-commerce, tells Fortune. 

Consumers can receive four to five kids’ clothing items for $48 a box, up to six times a year. A stylist, without charge, picks the clothes based on results of a child’s Kidbox personality quiz, as well as their favourite colour, aesthetic preferences, time of year, location and size (0 to 14 for girls and 0 to 16 for boys). Kidbox is bringing a roster of 120 designers to the partnership, some of which overlap with brands Walmart.com already carries, but many of which are new to the retailer’s offerings. 

In plotting Walmart.com’s fashion renaissance, “we started with women,” says Incandela, who joined the company in autumn 2017, bringing high-end fashion credentials such as president of Ralph Lauren Global Business and its consumer insights management, and earlier as EVP at Saks Fifth Avenue for marketing and president of Saks Direct, launching Saks.com. 

Incandela began tapping into the influencer market, introducing online shoppers to hundreds of new brands through partnerships with companies like Lord & Taylor or new, exclusively online clothing, such as Sofia Vergara’s recent denim launch. 

“Now we are leaning into kids,” she said. 

And while Walmart.com’s fashion overhaul is similar to what the company has undertaken at its stores to attract more fashion focused, middle-class shoppers, Inclandela noted, the online “objective is to materially expand our product assortment beyond what we offer in the stores”, which is better known for having value items. 

“Because we don’t have real-estate constraints online, we can go well beyond the value product into the good, better, best,” she said. “And our customers have told us that they are open to those good, better, best price points.” 

Winning the kids’ fashion frontier 

Why kids? 

“Kids make sense,” says Marshal Cohen, The NPD Group’s chief industry adviser for retail, in an email to Fortune. “They always outgrow or out wear their clothes a lot faster than adults.” 

Kickbox started in 2015 and its first apparel season was back-to-school 2016. It’s received $28 million in venture capital funding as of April 2018. 

“Even in the day of smartphones and Xboxes, kids still love to receive things in the post,” Kidbox CEO Miki Berardelli explains to Fortune. “And millennial consumers [parents] are very much an on-demand consumer.” 

The market for children’s clothing, like other apparel, is exceedingly competitive, even more so since Gymboree’s January bankruptcy and closing of its 900 stores. That’s left a market gap for big box retailers, e-commerce giants and niche markets to fill. 

“With Amazon pushing to become the leading apparel retailer, Walmart is responding by continuing their drive to acquire the customer segment focused on kids’ apparel,” said Tyler Higgins, retail practice chief of consultancy AArete, in an interview with Fortune. 

“With Walmart’s competitive position of low price, they are now able to add brands kids and parents know, along with style advice, to gather greater market share,” Higgins says. “The dynamics are quickly changing as parents continue to trust clothing from retailers such as Target and Walmart, and are finding themselves not needing to make special trips to youth-focused retailers for clothing alone.” 

Kidbox’s regular subscription costs $98, which is $50 more than at Walmart.com, but it includes more items – seven to eight instead of four to five from the retailer – and allows customers to try on the items prior to paying. 

Berardelli said that Incandela “knows her customers” and the $48 Kidbox price for Walmart.com was the right threshold to test the concept. 

However, Incandela said Walmart.com’s Kidbox apparel could eventually have a $98 price range on Walmart-owned Jet.com.