Retailers today are battling for customers who are increasingly picky about their shopping experience. At the 2019 Wharton Women Annual Dinner, the SVP for Walmart Fashion and Wharton alum shared her 3 strategies for successful brand expansion.
Wharton Women President Jordyn Wilson, W’21 and Denise Incandela.

On September 18, undergraduate women gathered for a night of networking, recruiting, and learning at their Annual Dinner, “Chaos to Couture: Disrupting the Retail Industry.” The event was co-hosted by Wharton Women and The Baker Retailing Center.

The night began with an exclusive career fair where students had the opportunity to discuss internship opportunities with Wharton Women company sponsors. After, students were split by industry, ranging from retail to banking and consulting, and seated amongst recruiters for the remainder of the dinner.

Keynote speaker Denise Incandela, WG’92, SVP and Group General Manager of Fashion for Walmart e-commerce, recalled that when Walmart approached her for the position, she accepted, recognizing the challenge in the opportunity. Since then, Incandela has leveraged her department store and luxury brand background to transform Walmart’s fashion department from the ground up.

Here are three of her key strategies:

1. Look stylish

After joining Walmart, Incandela first noticed a problem with the company’s online clothing platform. The listings were in an unappealing, uniform format on the website. While that style worked for products such as TVs or iPads, it was ineffective for clothing, which requires a visually appealing presentation. She renovated the website to resemble other fashion retailers, altering the listings to be more individualized and attractive to customers.

Partnerships are another way to gain market share, so Incandela pursued partnerships that represented Walmart’s core brand while also offering appealing and unique options for customers. Sofia Jeans with Sofia Vergara, EV1 with Ellen DeGeneres, and the Scoop line were popular collaborations that leaned into current trends. By offering these options, Incandela married an elevated taste level to attractive price points.

Denise talks to a student at the table.
Denise Incandela speaks with students during the dinner portion of the event.

2. Build credibility

Although Walmart is an established brand, fashionable clothing is not their main product offering. “We needed to establish ourselves as a credible destination for fashion,” said Incandela.

She cited the importance of moving beyond traditional marketing methods to appeal to a younger customer base and gain their trust. For example, social media influencers were an effective way to increase credibility and generate positive exposure. With tens of thousands of followers, influencers can produce an impactful ripple effect.

3. Be convenient

With Amazon and other companies moving towards shorter shipping times, convenience is necessary to remain competitive. Incandela highlighted how building upon foundations and working with a company’s core brand are integral components to the success of a new venture. Walmart’s impressive omnichannel portfolio, with its brick-and-mortar locations, online shopping platform, buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPUS) and ship-from-store options, provide an accessibility advantage.

Two students hold pamphlets and speak to a recruiter.
Undergraduate students talk to recruiters during the networking portion of the Wharton Women Annual Dinner.

Incandela believes that Walmart’s new fashion direction is the epitome of the brand’s tagline of ‘Save Money, Live Better’. “I was excited at the opportunity to have a higher purpose by providing great clothes at an exceptional price point,” she said.

— Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: October 15, 2019

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