Wal-Mart's Latest Fashion Fail Proves Again That It's No Target

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Wal-Mart's Latest Fashion Fail Proves Again That It's No Target For years, Walmart (WMT) has been out to prove it could provide some substance for stylish wardrobes, but the idea of Walmart exuding much, if any, fashion sense elicited more than a few smirks from cynics. Now we know that Walmart's high hopes to emulate Target's (TGT) "cheap chic" reputation have failed. It's shutting down its Manhattan apparel office and sending it back to home base in Bentonville, Ark.

Walmart has a significant timeline of failed attempts to woo cheapskate fashionistas. For example, five years ago, it launched a fashion line called Metro 7 and even shelled out to advertise it in high-fashion Vogue. More recently, Walmart offered labels with celebrity clout like Norma Kamali, Miley Cyrus, and Max Azria, to no avail.

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As far as fashion sense goes, over the years Target has regularly outdone Walmart. It has a long history of convincing well-known designers to slap their names on its reasonably priced wares. Isaac Mizrahi was an early Target partner and stayed hooked up with the retailer for five years before moving on to a gig at Liz Claiborne (LIZ). More recently, the limited-edition Missoni for Target line was so popular it not only resulted in sell-out crowds at stores but also crashed Target's website.

In the last year, Walmart has been paring down its apparel offerings to focus on staples like jeans, socks, and underwear. Such offerings do not inspire much additional excited spending from customers, and certainly don't foster the kind of enthusiasm that crashes websites.

Walmart has been struggling mightily to boost its U.S. sales, and clearly that isn't going to come to pass through feeble attempts at affordable high fashion or socks and skivvies. Whether Walmart's going to have some better ideas coming down the runway remains to be seen.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walmart Stores. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Walmart Stores. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Walmart Stores.


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