When retailers seem to be closing up shop at an alarming rate (including The Limited), Eloquii is headed in the opposite direction. The women’s retailer featuring styles in sizes 14-28 is going from the pages of e-commerce to the bricks of retail storefronts.
Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer Steve Zawada says the “clicks to bricks” retailer is still digital first, “and stores will complement our digital business,” but Columbus is the latest market where Eloquii is exploring a brick-and-mortar presence with a pop-up shop at Easton Town Center.
The retailer splits its headquarters between New York and Columbus, where it was originally founded under The Limited. The brand began as a way to attract The Limited lapse customer – she no longer shopped at the chain, but why? She may have sized out of the store’s line.
When Eloquii launched online in November of 2011, Zawada says they quickly found out that, “Yes, there was definitely a need for fashionable, plus size clothing, but it wasn’t necessarily The Limited’s lapse customer.”
She was younger and more fashion-forward, pivoting the Eloquii brand to more relevant, fast-fashions.
When parent company The Limited failed to meet projections, the Eloquii brand, as well as other pieces of the business, were seized in February of 2013. However, Zawada, Co-Founder & Chief Merchandising Officer Julie Carnevale and Creative Director Jodi Arnold weren’t ready to say goodbye. The trio came together to keep Eloquii going as an independent retailer.
From their relaunch in February of 2014 as an independent entity, Eloquii has doubled sales year-over-year with a brand that brings fast-fashion to plus sizes. The company used insights it learned while under The Limited to develop a better picture of their customer: she’s a fashion-forward woman who wants the latest trends.
Carnevale says there’s often a lot of preconceived notions in the fashion industry about what a woman wearing sizes 14-28 wants. Many pieces are, “Almost designed with a mindset of who people think she is,” Carnevale says – dark colors, boring prints, boxy, unstructured fits, etc. “We realized that it wasn’t anything like rocket science, she just wants what the trends are.”
Eloquii kept fashion-first in their DNA with their independence, growing from about 100 styles when the site first launched, to more than 1,300 now. And, each and every design and print is exclusive to the brand, not purchased from any other market.
Styles come and go from the site almost daily, “It’s definitely a different experience for her everyday she comes on the site,” Carnevale says, and two new collections drop every month, bringing in a line of items with a clear point of view.
If you would have asked Zawada even just 18 months ago if customers would have been been able to try those styles on in a select number of stores, he probably would have said, “No.” For several reasons. First, the expense. Being a privately held company, it takes a lot of capital to open a store.
“We also thought we could get much bigger reach by being online first,” he says.
There was also the state of retail, with no better example than the company they were once attached to.
But, “It was out of our customers asking us to open stores,” Zawada says of their move into physical locations.
They wanted a styling experience. They wanted to come into stores and feel pampered.
The first Eloquii pop-up operated from from March to June in Washington, D.C., the brand’s second market behind New York City. Thanks to the pop-up’s success, Eloquii made it permanent with a location at the Pentagon City Mall. A year-long lease in a storefront along Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue is the address for Eloquii’s second brick-and-mortar (and their third highest-selling market).
Eloquii’s third brick-and-mortar pop-up at 4055 The Strand West, is not in brand’s fourth or even fifth market, but its 25th. Zawada saw a disconnect – how is Columbus the 14th largest city in the U.S. but over 10 spots lower on Eloquii’s list of top markets? That’s a question the pop-up will seek to answer, with performance determining what happens after the store ends its run post-holidays.
While unexpected, physical storefronts will continue to be a part of Eloquii’s strategy.
“We’re never going to be a 200 store chain, nor do we want to be, but we do believe that you have to be omni-channel to be successful,” Zawada says.
Elquoii also reaches its customers through a third channel: catalogs – again, prompted by customer requests.
“Constantly we are listening to our customer and we are doing what the customer wants us to do,” Zawada says.
That makes the question of “What’s next?” harder to answer, but, “Each of those three channels will continue to grow – catalog, web and stores – but it’s really going to depend on what the customer tells us she wants next,” Zawada explains.
For more information, visit eloquii.com.
All images provided by Eloquii.