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Wal-Mart: This Fall’s Fashion Don’t

Wal-Mart has been trying to push its way into (relatively) high fashion for at least a year now. The store has invested in trend-spotting, offered lines from European designers and even made appearances at high profile events such as New York City’s Fashion Week.

The buzz during Fashion Week was that Wal-Mart’s “cheap chic” would be a hit — that fashion is about the design, not the price. Target and H&M had pulled it off, so it made sense that Wal-Mart would now get a piece of the action. But in September, Wal-Mart reported a dismal 1.3 percent rise in sales, and the retail giant cited sluggish clothing sales as the reason.

So, just blame it on high fuel prices, a downward economy and low consumer spending, right?

Wrong. Not only did fuel prices drop in September, but according to an article in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, the Lazard Retail Index for department stores rose 8.8 percent last month. A spokesperson for the firm called it the best month for department stores in a year and a half. Target posted a 6.7 percent increase in same-store sales in September.

The numbers don’t lie — they just leave people wondering, what’s the matter with Wal-Mart?

The Wall Street Journal notes that the crowded feel of Wal-Mart stores and the limited numbers of dressing rooms are not conducive to clothes shopping.

Additionally, their fashion advertising has been inconsistent, at best. Without a convincing ad campaign, people may continue to associate Wal-Mart with discounted socks and giant tubs of cheese puffs more than they associate it with designer skirts and trendy tops.

Do you think Wal-Mart’s enormous buying and marketing power will be able to overcome these obstacles? Or is fashion one industry where you can’t just muscle your way in?FCS