Walmart Inc. is back on the acquisition trail.
The retail giant said Tuesday that it plans to acquire digital native vertical brand Eloquii, for an undisclosed amount. Eloquii’s on-trend fashion, which starts at size 14, is squarely focused on the $21 billion plus-size market. Walmart is leaning into plus-size fashion, one of the fastest-growing segments in women’s apparel. More than half of U.S. women ages 18 to 64 wear size 14 or higher. Yet despite their ranks, plus-size consumers have historically been underserved.
Other major brands have made commitments to plus-size consumers, including Loft, which added sizes 16 to 26; Ellen DeGeneres’ EV1, which is inclusive of large sizes; Universal Standard caters to sizes 10 to 28 and launched a petites-for-plus collection; Target’s Millennial brand Wild Fable, extended sizes, 0 to 26W, and Nordstrom extended its size range to 30 stores.
Eloquii will join Walmart e-commerce’s digitally native vertical brand (DNVB) portfolio, which includes previous acquisitions such as Modcloth, Bonobos and Allswell, which are led by Andy Dunn, senior vice president of digital consumer brands at Walmart U.S. e-commerce.
Mariah Chase, chief executive officer of Eloquii, and her team of about 100 employees, will continue to be based in Long Island City, N.Y., and Columbus, Ohio, and will join the Walmart U.S. e-commerce organization, reporting to Dunn.
“Eloquii has a direct connection with its customers that helps inform how products get developed, how they’re marketed, and how the brand comes to life,” said Dunn. “DNVBs are an important part of our strategy because they offer unique and differentiated products while building strong relationships with customers.”
Walmart said Eloquii will complement Modcloth, and the retailer’s own private label assortment for plus-size consumers.
“This year, we’ve made great progress adding new brands, developing exclusive products and launching new fashion partnerships,” Dunn said. “As the retail landscape evolves at light speed, we remain firm in our belief that it’s not just about selling brands, it’s also about building brands and customer relationships. As such, we are laser-focused on developing a portfolio of direct-to-consumer brands with a unique assortment you can’t find anywhere else.
“Addressing consumers’ vocal requests for fashion-forward styles is something Eloquii does incredibly well,” said Dunn, adding that the brand embraces customer feedback and requests. Recognizing that 80 percent of Eloquii clients work full-time, the brand launched a 9-to-5 kit, and more recently, The Premier Workwear Kit.
Eloquii operates five stores in Chicago; Miami; Houston; Detroit; and Pentagon City, Va. The brand is a survivor. Shuttered in 2013 by the Limited, customers demanded it reopen and it did, led by a handful of original creators. Eloquii claims to be obsessed with fit; its technical fit team is as big as its design team.
Dunn explained how brands can thrive within the retail giant. “We know how critical it is for a brand to retain its magic. When you’re inside a larger enterprise, Doug [McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart Inc.] said that a larger company can bear hug you to death. We can help build a walled garden where DNVB can remain autonomous, and if they’re independent, they continue to thrive,” Dunn said. “It’s a big statement for us that we’re making our first acquisition this year with Mariah [Chase, Eloquii ceo,] and her team. It’s important because we believe the future of fashion is an inclusive future.”
“We’ll continue to offer styling on Eloquii.com and our five stores, and hopefully more stores soon,” said Chase. “As we work with Walmart in the future, we’re going to explore opportunities for distribution through their portfolio. We have our collaboration with Jason Wu, which launches on Nov. 1 and we’ve just started leaking the photos. Collaborations absolutely remain part of our strategy and have really exciting partnerships for 2019.”
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned at Bonobos, it’s the power of the online-offline experience,” Dunn said. “We understand both parts of the strategy. We’re 100 percent supportive of Eloquii’s store expansion.”
Dunn said Walmart’s concept for acquisitions is to “go out and get brands that give us great proprietary assortments. In a world where we’re moving toward parity, where everyone has the same things, it requires great differentiation in the products and services that are offered. You have to take a pain point and turn it into joy. We’re going to take a point for an underserved consumer and turn it into joy.”