Walmart Eyes Bonobos As Fashion Resource

What might Walmart want with Bonobos? Media reports are rife that Walmart is negotiating to purchase Bonobos, a menswear specialist that promises a fun shopping experience for casual, trendy and often colorful clothing.

The focus of the brand is young men, not a group that mass market retailers have an easy time attracting, so the purchase would come with access to a new customer base difficult to access via Walmart stores or walmart.com as well as fresh consumer knowledge Walmart could tap. The purchase would complement other recent Walmart e-commerce acquisitions, such as the purchase of ModCloth, which focuses on womenswear, Moosejaw, which focuses on outdoor apparel and related products, and ShoeBuy.

Bonobos also operates 30 so-called guideshops where men can get fitted and pick out apparel that they can have shipped to their homes. The company also promises that returns and exchanges are free, as is shipping for initial orders delivered in the United States via UPS, except for those to post office boxes, military bases and U.S. territories.

At the recent ShopTalk conference in Las Vegas, Marc Lore, president of U.S. e-commerce for Walmart.com, pointed out that the company’s recent acquisitions not only increased the scope of the company’s market and expertise but gave it new operational capabilities. The management of each acquired company now operates the business segment where it has experience across Walmart’s e-commerce operation in the United States. As Jet.com management took over running the larger digital business, ModCloth management is taking over running key apparel operations, with the same being true of ShoeBuy and Moosejaw in their respective areas.

In another, related e-commerce development, Walmart has been investing to support Hayneedle, acquired by Jet before the company’s own purchase by Walmart, as the home goods-oriented e-tailer pursues initiatives meant to advance its operational goals and ultimately Walmart’s interests in the sector.

A Bonobos buy would not only signal that Walmart is exploring new business vistas but adding new thinking and management to its menswear business. Walmart has struggled when it has tried to bring fashion into its basic apparel endeavors in the past, but acquisitions allow it to take a fresh and more flexible approach to building more stylish upscale clothing operations, which partially suggests why it might want to acquire Bonobos.