The Montreal-based off-price flash site has gone live with My Curvy Closet, a destination site for plus-size apparel, accessible both through the flagship site and its own dedicated Web address. Plus-size items have been sold and promoted through trial events previously, but the new portal will mean a steady flow of sportswear, dresses, denim, outerwear, intimate apparel, shapewear, accessories and footwear, all at BTR’s customary discounts of up to 80 percent off.
The move follows the site’s launch last year of home decor, which now accounts for about one-third of its anticipated 2012 revenues of $180 million, and which has proven to be the site’s strongest margin generator. According to Yona Shtern, chief executive officer of the privately held firm, BTR expects to double revenues this year and to expand to between $250 million and $300 million in 2013. It also expects to be profitable for the first time this year.
“Women’s wear is about a quarter of the business now, and while we don’t expect this to be two-thirds of the ladies’ business, we do think it could be a quarter of that business,” Shtern said of plus sizes. “Like we’ve done with men’s and home, we’re looking to make this a unified shopping experience. We’ve added a senior buyer and two assistants, as well as a lot of new plus-size vendors and the plus-size divisions of other companies.”
BTR’s other offerings include men’s wear, footwear and some electronics.
Shtern cited recent data released by The NPD Group in which nearly two-thirds of women identified themselves as “special-size” customers, with about a third of the special-size wearers, or 20.7 percent of the total, designating themselves as plus-size customers. In the 12 months ended in July, plus-size and full-figure apparel generated $15.35 billion in U.S. retail sales, up 1.3 percent from prior-year levels and about 14.2 percent of the women’s apparel total of $108.28 billion, according to NPD.
Picking up on the NPD report, he noted that much of plus-size shopping is “hit or miss. That’s what prompted us to do this. It’s difficult to find plus sizes at full prices, so you can just multiply that for these size ranges. There are broken size ranges. The customer will find something, but it’s not in the right size.”
BTR’s price points differentiate it from many flash sites that are focused on high-end merchandise. “Most of the people who led the charge with flash sites are focused on luxury and cater to an upscale customer, but our average sale is $35. We do sell a bit of luxury, but in general we have a very accessible product range — like Target, T.J. Maxx or Macy’s.”
BTR expects to conduct 10 new events a week in its new plus-size department and has enlisted the help of Marie Denee, of The Curvy Fashionista blog, and Whitney Thompson, the first plus-size woman to win top honors at “America’s Next Top Model,” to put together looks and other recommendations during October.
As with other sections within BTR, the majority of merchandise for My Curvy Closet will be procured on a consignment basis. “About three-quarters of our products are taken on that basis,” Shtern said. “We’re not funding inventory, particularly obsolete inventory. We even have some drop-ship arrangements in furniture.”
Late last year, BTR completed its third round of financing, raising $36 million from a group led by Panorama Capital to bring its total to $53 million. With profitability achieved on a monthly basis and expected for the year, no new financing is planned.
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