Collaborations | Sep 18, 2014 |
Walmart seeks star power to promote accessible collections
By Staff

When Walmart first explored the idea of bringing high-end designers to the consumer level, the main goal was to make the products stylish yet affordable and accessible, and also present them to the consumer in a totally new way.

"This is definitely something new that we are doing,” said Dana Towsey, Director of Product Development + Merchandising Innovation at Walmart. “A lot of aspects are new, like working with a designer, but even the type of content on the website is new, offering our customer a curated assortment of products as well as the tools they need to do the decorating themselves."

Libby Langdon

To chart this new territory, the company enlisted interior and product designers Libby Langdon and Cortney and Bob Novogratz—veterans who have experience in creating mass market collections with appealing results for companies like CB2—as the first to team up with Walmart for home décor collections and consumer education, which is a market into which the company hopes to grow.

"It's all about bringing affordable style to our consumer,” she continued. “There has been a void in the marketplace for affordable accessible style. We know our customer, she's on a budget but she still really cares about how her home looks and feels."

warm&inviting by Libby Langdon for Walmart

And with that in mind, Langdon’s “warm&inviting” collection launched online in June featuring living room sofas and chairs, rugs, throws, pillows and more.

“My decision to launch a line of home décor products for Walmart was a very conscious and careful one,” said Langdon. “Because it would be created completely differently than my higher-end licensing partnerships under my Libby Langdon brand, I established a separate label and trademark for Walmart called warm&inviting by Libby Langdon. The two are completely independent and marketed to different audiences.”

“From our first meeting I knew we had the same goal to offer beautiful, stylish, high-quality décor products at affordable price points (prices range from $19 for a throw pillow to $700 for a full-size rug),” she continued. “I was very up-front that I wanted to create looks that were nothing like what Walmart was offering at the time. I also wanted to add a designer point of view and share tips and takeaways to take the guesswork out of how to combine my décor products, so consumers could easily recreate the looks in their own homes. This also meant translating my vision to the way the products would be showcased online. We worked very closely with Walmart’s amazing web designers to infuse my pages with a dynamic and fresh feel that is also user-friendly.”

According to Towsey, Walmart felt that interior design was a category in which the company had been lacking—price being the primary factor. As she explained, it’s easier for brands to offer high-style to the wealthy, and not Walmart’s average consumer base.

The Novogratz family

Price and value are two forces in perpetual motion within the design industry, often dictating the outcome of an interior (and sometimes upstaging taste). With this new endeavor, Walmart is acutely aware of both, and sought the Novogratz team and Langdon who are passionate about bridging the gap between affordability and style.

"The Novogratz style is super fun and they are very dynamic,” she said of the collection that launched on September 15. “They are a family of nine, and that resonates with our family centric customers. Who wouldn't want to bring happiness, joy and color into their home? This collection brings a whole new element of style to Walmart. The partnership has been amazing."

Novogratz furniture for Walmart

The Novogratz desginers used bold colors and mixed and matched modern and vintage inspiration to create unique pieces. Much of the collection focuses on bedroom and bathroom items and was first revelaed at Clark Atlanta University in a dorm vignette created by the couple.

“We’re working with Walmart to carry our line exclusively because they share our belief in affordable style,” said the design duo. “Walmart helps design-minded people on a budget stay on top of trends, making style convenient and affordable for everyone.”

DREAM in color bedding by the Novogratz

As far as their favorite pieces go, the Novogratz chose the DREAM in color bedding while Langdon chose her accent poufs.

Langdon's warm&inviting accent pouf

"Everyone has said they are super excited and the product just looks and feels beautiful,” said Towsey. “They're pleasantly surprised to see this on our site. There's been a really great response. This is really an opportunity for us to learn and we're creating a whole new way of doing business. We definitely see this being a part of our 'going forward' strategy."

Walmart isn't the only big-box retailer focused on high-end designers. Target has teamed up with Nate Berkus, Victoria Hagan and most recently Tilton Fenwick, and Bed, Bath and Beyond has partnerships with Barbara Barry and Robin Wilson. However, what makes the Walmart partnerships unique is its effort to educate consumers by developing online content and video tips about design—from creating an inspiring dorm room to laying out a living room.

Although additional designer partnerships are in the works, Towsey could not yet share them. Stay tuned for additional information on Walmart’s designer partnerships.

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