How will Free Assembly fit in stores?

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Walmart is taking a serious swipe at apparel and fashion. The retailer has launched a new modern-looking line called Free Assembly that is all about mixing and layering different items within the line, giving consumers the freedom to assemble a look all their own.

It’s a clever idea, one that was two years in the making, and one that has me curious how it will be merchandised in stores.

First, Walmart just announced a redesign that is decidedly easier on the eyes, where a brand like Free Assembly could have a bit of fun. The newly designed stores are going to have a more digitally enabled experience, but on aesthetics alone, the departments have bold, classier signage that all of Walmart’s private brand apparel could stand to gain from. The question will be is if Free Assembly takes on a more flagship appeal within the department or touts more exciting merchandising?

Currently, a visit to a Walmart in Skokie, Ill., displayed a massive store with more than a third of it dedicated to apparel. Throw in the footwear section, and the retailer clearly sees these categories as important.

From a merchandising standpoint though, the retailer’s private brands are pretty businesslike and uniformed with island tables and rack signage. The retailer seems to see fashion as more of a tool — and in some cases it is as the store is a bonafide headquarters for school uniforms.

Walmart’s current private brands George, Terra & Sky, Time and Tru, and Wonder Nation all have a very clean and easily shoppable presentation in stores now, but it doesn’t have the flair that maybe a competitor like Target does with its apparel merchandising.

I went to the Skokie store hoping to catch Free Assembly in stores but it wasn’t out yet and staff didn’t know when it would be coming. Walmart’s press team hasn’t responded to an inquiry on an in-store release date either. 

For now, the Free Assembly clothes are online now and the fall looks do seem more fashion-forward than its current private brands, so it will be interesting to see how the line plays in stores in the weeks ahead.

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