Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) vs. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT). As Georges Yared wrote in our Battle of the Brands special, Wal-Mart is the behemoth, and Target is a rising titan that could pose a substantial threat to its dominance. I've always thought of Wal-Mart as being the better logistics company, and Target is better at retailing and merchandising. Target's runaway success in fashion, and Wal-Mart's dismal failure provide evidence of this.
In March, I wrote about Target's hottest couture showing up on eBay, often at several times its retail price. Well Wal-Mart's latest foray into fashion won't be showing up on eBay, but you might be able to find it at your local dollar store sometime soon, as several hundred of the stores that stocked its Mark Eisen line have pulled it due to lack of consumer interest. Part of the problem was a lack of promotion, and most Wal-Mart shoppers don't know who Mark Eisen is. As portfolio manager Patricia Edwards told the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), "Wal-Mart is so good at providing things based on price that I'm not certain they've yet grasped how to promote items that aren't solely based on price."
One of the problems I think Wal-Mart's having is that, without brand recognition, the products just aren't that great, or even that cheap. I don't buy clothing at Wal-Mart, but not because I'm a snob. You can usually get nicer stuff for less money at TJMaxx or Filene's Basement if you're willing to look around a little.
Target was able to come up with looks that were stylish and weren't available elsewhere. Wal-Mart's trying to compete on price in the fashion industry, and I think it's probably destined to fail.