What’s in a name? A lot, when it comes to retail.
The Ascena Retail Group Inc. is considering renaming its Dressbarn division Roz & Ali.
Ascena came up with the name Roz & Ali more than five years ago, but it was only originally implemented on a collection of maxidresses that represented some updated styling at Dressbarn and is available in other styles, including trousers, sweaters, blouses and T-shirts. The name is inspired by Roslyn Jaffe, the founder of Dressbarn, and her granddaughter, Alexandra.
With Dressbarn and certain other Ascena divisions struggling, management is testing the Roz & Ali nameplate on 52 Dressbarn stores.
Dressbarn, selling casual, career and special-occasion apparel and accessories at value prices for women ages 35 to 55, is widely recognized. But there’s also realization within the ranks that the Dressbarn name doesn’t exactly evoke the most flattering fashion image.
Said George Goldfarb, president and chief executive officer of the value fashion segment of Ascena, which includes Maurices and Dressbarn, “As you know, Ascena is undergoing a large-scale transformation — really rethinking both our business model, investments we need to make in the future, etc. We are also deeply invested in ensuring that we are continually offering our customers differentiated fashions and an amazing experience. In that, we are testing many different ideas. One of those tests is a new concept called Roz & Ali. This is really just a 52 store test at this point.”
Ascena, which operates 4,800 doors, is also looking for growth abroad.
David Jaffe, ceo, told analysts and attendees that Ascena has hired McKinsey & Co. to help with exploring overseas opportunities, including the possibility of licensing some of its retail brands.
The company has eight different brands, including premium labels Ann Taylor and Loft. He noted that Lou & Grey, the activewear-inspired casual sister line to Ann Taylor and Loft, is for the most part housed within Loft, although there are now 11 freestanding stores.
Jaffe also noted Cacique, the intimates line at plus-size nameplate Lane Bryant, has been “performing extremely well” and is about “40 percent of the Lane Bryant business.” He said there is an opportunity to expand the line, and named possibilities such as including the collection within other Ascena brands, broadening the size range and going wholesale. The ceo said the company is “working on a business plan for this.”
But Ascena has struggled to win over investors — the company has annual revenue of $6.6 billion, but a market capitalization of just $394 million.
Ascena also operates Justice, Lane Bryant, Catherines, Ann Taylor, Loft and Lou & Grey. Ascena was originally called Dress Barn Inc. but shareholders voted in favor of the name change in 2010.
In 1962, Roslyn Jaffe, mother of three, opened the first Dressbarn store in Stamford, Conn. At a time when women were wholly underrepresented in the workplace, Roslyn dared not only to work, but also to launch a new era in women’s fashion. Designer label wool pencil skirts, sheer blouses, flares, furs and leather coats were all the rage. And Roslyn offered her customers the very latest in women’s designer styles. A year later the second Dressbarn store opened.
Soon after the inception of the business, her husband Elliot joined Roslyn and together they built the business with a reputation for quality, style, value and customer service.