The Queer Eye for the Walmart guy

Discussion
Photo: Walmart
Jul 16, 2020
George Anderson

There’s good news for fans of Netflix’s “Queer Eye” reality television series who also love low everyday prices. Walmart has just announced the debut on its site of an exclusive home furnishings line inspired by the show’s Fab Five hosts — Bobby Berk (interior design), Karamo Brown (culture), Tan France (fashion), Antoni Porowski (culinary) and Jonathan Van Ness (personal grooming).

The new collection includes 80 industrial-modern pieces with prices ranging from $70 to $599. A Walmart spokesperson told RetailWire that the company began working with Dorel, the manufacturer that licenses the brand, late last year with the goal of bringing the line to its customers whether they are Queer Eye fans or simply people who love “high-quality, trend-forward furniture at great value pricing.”

The spokesperson said the retailer thinks the new line “will appeal specifically to men, but we believe it’s for anyone who appreciates beautiful furniture at incredible prices. The simplistic and versatile modern industrial designs can fit a wide range of personal styles and easily fit into their homes.”

Walmart is introducing the line at a time when consumers are spending more on home furnishings as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. On the retailer’s first quarter earnings call, CEO Doug McMillon said sales of its home categories in both its stores and online “took off” as the pandemic hit with “customers looking to improve their indoor and outdoor living spaces.” He attributed the retailer’s ability to maintain margins despite a huge jump in demand partly to the increase in sales of high margin categories, including home.

The Queer Eye for the Walmart guy
Photos: Walmart

Walmart is not the only furniture seller that has seen sales tick up. In May, Wayfair reported that its first-quarter direct retail net revenue jumped 20.3 percent as its active customer base increased 28.6 percent during the period.

“Millions of new shoppers have discovered Wayfair while they shelter in place at home, and we are seeing strong acceleration in new and repeat customer orders across almost all classes of goods and across all regions,” said Niraj Shah, CEO, co-founder and co-chairman, Wayfair, in a statement.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How likely is the Queer Eye home furnishings line to be a hit with Walmart’s customers? Does Walmart have other opportunities to pursue exclusive brand partnerships on a permanent or on an in-and-out basis like Target to drive sales outside of everyday staples?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The answer is yes. If it’s cute, it will be a hit. The items pictured in this article are cute. "
"Still a ray of sunshine in the cloud over retail."
"Walmart is not stepping out or out of touch with its customers. It’s the peanut gallery that may be due for an update on Walmart’s customer base and practices."

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14 Comments on "The Queer Eye for the Walmart guy"


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Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

I think the question is: Will a LGBTQ brand work with Walmart’s customers?

The answer is yes. If it’s cute, it will be a hit. The items pictured in this article are cute.

If there’s any perceived stigma associated with where Walmart sources its goods, this hasn’t been a concern for Walmart shoppers historically.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Comparisons to Target and Wayfair miss the point. This is out-loud, in-your-face inclusion of gays. Huzzah. Look out IKEA and West Elm, you aren’t the only ones appealing to gay audiences. Cue the fundraising and outrage on social media and vandalism in stores. Still a ray of sunshine in the cloud over retail.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

So much more than a ray of sunshine, Bob!

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Frankly, much of what Walmart has traditionally sold in furniture and furnishings lacks a sense of style. It’s OK for basics, but there has really been very little cohesion to the ranges and very little aspiration. This new assortment looks to fill that gap. Sure, there may be an appeal to gays and guys because of the designers and the association with Queer Eye – and it is nice that Walmart has a narrative around that partnership. However most people will look at the product first and make decisions on that basis.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Walmart customers aren’t just the crazies you see on PeopleofWalmart.com, nor are they only low-income shoppers. Walmart customers come from every category of consumer. Walmart has really stepped up its game – I love the Queer Eye guys and I love this new line. I think other consumers will, too.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I don’t know if this will work for Walmart – I don’t think a lot of shoppers know who these guys are (I confess I really don’t know them). Plus the line ranges from $70 to $599 – I do not know a lot of Walmart shoppers that will pay $599 for a piece of furniture.

I think this works for Target with the Magnolia collection or the Nate Berkus collections. But Walmart gets credit for trying something new to bring a new audience to shop their stores.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

Walmart is not stepping out or out of touch with its customers. It’s the peanut gallery that may be due for an update on Walmart’s customer base and practices. Walmart has become much more progressive over the years and the company certainly isn’t making over-the-top moves without looking at the data first. Of course the voices of outrage are loudest on social media, and no doubt there will be some backlash. That doesn’t negate the brand partnership one bit. The Queer Eye gang is a collection of personalities and different guys resonate with different people. That’s the beauty of the brand and it will translate into sales if quality and design are on point.

Stephen Rector
BrainTrust

Walmart.com has stepped up their assortment game under the helm of Denise Incandela. Collaborations from Sofia Vergara, Ellen, Drew Barrymore and now the Queer Eye guys are attracting a new customer to the platform. The average HHI of the walmart.com customer is much higher than their in-store customer and this collection looks to appeal to those with more disposable income.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

How many short years ago would one have thought that this would have been suicide against the Walmart customer?

There are more and more companies ignoring the political vitriol and understanding where the mindset of their customers are. This is not to sell furniture to the LGBTQ community, it is to sell cool designs of furniture to the Walmart customer, that once upon a time would have boycotted the store over this and now thinks nothing of it.

And that is the important part. More and more people think nothing of it.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Yes, yes, yes! This new line goes beyond furnishings to an affirmation of love and acceptance that the country really needs. Congrats, Walmart, on your new smash hit.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust

This is interesting, since Walmart is more affiliated with right-wing consumers at a time when gay rights are (once again) under scrutiny.

I like the bridge-building, but I’m not sure it will translate into sales. How many male Walmart consumers are comfortable enough with themselves to buy furniture designed by flamboyant men? Or is Walmart trying to lure in Target and Amazon shoppers who abandoned the store as a result of its political affiliations?

I’m looking at this as a case study in cross-political retailing and I’ll be watching closely to see how the numbers pan out.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Agreed.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

So today we get to dabble in stereotypes? That Walmart claims they think it “will appeal specifically to men” almost sounds like an April Fool’s gag. Suffice it to say I have trouble picturing Joe Sixpack and his brother-in-law hopping in their 4×4 to go shopping for Mississippi Modern furniture based on the recommendation of the (remarkably unPC named) “Queer Eye” boys seems even less likely.

All of which is, in a way, too bad. Not everyone — indeed very few, I imagine in WM country — has access to an IKEA, and I certainly think there’s a market for stylish, yet inexpensive, furniture. But though I wish them all the luck in the world, my bet is this is next year’s “what were they thinking?” winner — or at least a candidate.

Allison McGuire
BrainTrust

Mid-century modern furniture is super popular in big cities where condos and homes are smaller and need more compact furniture. I expect this line and other quality partnerships will do quite well for them, despite any negative feedback they receive (and they will) on social media.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The answer is yes. If it’s cute, it will be a hit. The items pictured in this article are cute. "
"Still a ray of sunshine in the cloud over retail."
"Walmart is not stepping out or out of touch with its customers. It’s the peanut gallery that may be due for an update on Walmart’s customer base and practices."

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