Success selling large sizes online for two years has prompted Neiman Marcus to introduce Last Call Plus Size departments in five of its outlet stores on Feb. 18.
“This customer is underserved when it comes to upscale options,” asserted Frank Crisci, vice president of merchandising at Neiman Marcus Last Call. “There is a lot of product out there but a curated assortment of Tahari, Lafayette 148, Eileen Fisher [et al] is harder to find.”
The test is indicative of Neiman’s willingness to try new strategies to turn the business around following five consecutive quarters of declining comparable-store sales.
The in-store boutiques will span 750 square feet and feature contemporary and bridge branded activewear, day and evening dresses, tops, jeans, pants, sweaters and coats sized up to 3X and 14 to 24.
Labels include Marina, Nic + Zoe, Julia Jordan, NYDJ and Marc NY Performance. About 20 percent of the goods are exclusive to the chain.
“We were really looking to elevate the assortment, to give the customer great brands on trend, in season and in her size at a value,” Crisci explained. “We’re testing it in five doors and if it does well there’s no reason we could not roll this out to all stores.”
The plus-size departments will be located in Last Call stores at Sugarloaf Mills in Lawrenceville, Ga.; Grapevine Mills, Grapevine, Tex.; Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Mills, Mich.; Miromar Outlets in Estero, Fla., and Arundel Mills in Hanover, Md.
The company has 29 Last Call doors, and Crisci has fielded numerous requests for large size fashions.
“I always have customers come up to me and say, ‘We love your jewelry. We love your shoes. When are you going to carry clothes for people like me?’” he recalled. “It struck a chord that we are not serving this customer the way we should be. It’s a huge market, and we’re not playing in it.”
More than 60 percent of American women are overweight or obese, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Further, the average American woman wears size 16 to 18, according to a 2016 study by researchers at Washington State University that challenged the widely held belief that the average size was 14.
Neiman’s will be promoting the department with the phrase “curvy chic” in the stores and via e-mail blasts.
It also sponsored the Woman’s Day magazine Red Dress Awards earlier this week in New York, noted Mimi Sterling, vice president of corporate communications and public relations.
“It plays along very well with the timing of this launch,” she said.