A couple of weeks ago, Walmart made waves for the first time since it opened its first store in America by announcing that it would be adding women’s apparel and clothing to its existing retail business.
In the process, it unveiled an assortment of new women’s clothes and accessories for men, including dresses and skirts.
Walmart has been a pioneer in the women’s department since its debut, opening its first women’s store in Los Angeles in 1995, which was followed by stores in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle.
But the retailer has always struggled with women’s shopping habits.
In 2014, for instance, Walmart’s largest U.S. store was a mere two miles from a women’s shelter in Brooklyn, Brooklyn, where more than 200 homeless women were housed.
The company’s sales declined as more women were forced out of Walmart’s workforce, leading to the closures of its largest stores in 2012 and 2013.
At the time, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told a congressional hearing that the company needed to be more proactive with its outreach efforts to women.
But while Walmart has made strides in improving its female shopping experience, it’s still a long way from women’s empowerment.
“Walmart is a company that’s had a pretty difficult history with women, with women of color, and women of all backgrounds,” Margaret Behar, who runs the non-profit group Everyday Feminism, told the Huffington Post in January.
“And I think Walmart is really going to have to do a better job with women and people of color and women.”
In January, Walmart also unveiled a line of accessories for women called the Women’s Fashion Collection.
The collection was designed to be “inspired by a global collection of women’s accessories, featuring high-end and affordable pieces,” Walmart said at the time.
Walmart added a line for men and women that includes leather and lace shoes, dresses, and hats.
Walmart, for its part, also announced plans to start a women-focused fashion and lifestyle retailer called ShopYourBeauty.com in 2018.
Walmart was also criticized by feminists after the company’s women-led strategy to help women transition into their 20s was seen as a way to limit their options.
The women’s rights group Everyday Sexism is urging Walmart to make strides in gender-neutral products.
If Walmart can’t find the right women’s products for its female customers, Everyday Feminists said, it will “end up looking like the retailer that has the worst experience with women.”