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Wal-Mart Needs to Strike Balance Between Basics And Glitter

Wal-Mart says it has listened to its customers and thinks that it finally has a fashion team in place that will give them what they want. Based an announcement it made last month, that would appear to be the basics: underwear, socks, T-shirts and jeans.

"Wal-Mart has suffered from not knowing who they want to be," Allen Questrom, the former CEO of JC Penney Co. who recently left Wal-Mart's board, tells Ann Zimmerman. "They're either trying to be too fashionable or too basic." And basics have with low margins, he points out, and don't drive traffic.

Dottie Mattison, who was supposed to bring a fashion-for-the-masses appeal to the stores, was replaced as chief fashionista last week by Lisa Rhodes, who joined Wal-Mart in January after serving as chief merchant at the Dress Barn's Maurices chain of teen clothing stores.

Critics say Mattison's penchant to embellish clothing with rhinestones and sequins failed to make the garments look trendy. "It just made them look cheap," says Deutsche analyst Bank Bill Dreher. Rhodes's challenge, Zimmerman writes, will be to navigate "the fine line between boring basics and overly glitzy."



Read the whole story at Wall Street Journal »

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