We’re in the midst of a retail rebirth, according to Mariah Chase, chief executive officer of plus-size women’s fashion company Eloquii.
The rebirth concept falls in line with Eloquii’s own story. The brand was originally conceived as a digitally native fast-fashion line under The Limited for women who “lapsed out of” the brand’s core size offerings — but it was killed 18 months after the operation got started. Eloquii sells fashion-forward clothes in sizes 14 to 28.
“What happened after that was a digitally driven social media-born outcry from the customer saying, ‘Hey, wait a second Limited, we have so few options to begin with and you’ve just taken away our favorite one.’ Mistake,” said Chase.
But the company made a comeback with its own web site in 2014 and no plan to venture into retail.
“When I was talking to investors at that time they would say, ‘So stores aren’t going to be part of your plan right?’ To which I’d respond, ‘Oh no, don’t worry — we’re a digital business.'”
But as a company that has a heavy focus on listening to customer feedback, when Eloquii’s customer started demanding a store, the brand listened. It opened its first brick-and-mortar outpost outside of Washington on March 1.
“If we say we’re a feedback-focused business and brand, and she is asking us for stores, we cannot just talk the talk, we’ve got to walk the walk,” Chase said. “Our job became and remains to connect and differentiate online and offline commerce in a way, in an experience such that she both needs and wants both from us.”
And even though she wasn’t originally bullish on brick and mortar, the tides have turned as multibrand retailers have started closing locations and legacy chains have filed for bankruptcy, Chase noted. “We think it’s an opportunity to be opportunistic,” she said.
Plus, the Eloquii customer wants both online and offline shopping to be available. “Having them together is her preference, the data bears that out,” Chase said.
And that has caused the original conversation with investor-types to shift — “the conversation is, ‘Stores are part of your growth strategy right?'” Chase said.
Technology plays a big role in the way that Eloquii is connecting to its customer in the store, and going forward the business’ key focuses are on mobile wallet and inventory management technologies, Chase said.
“The store associates have to be obsessed and love the technology that you’re putting into the stores,” Chase cautioned. “They are the adopters; they are the teachers and the educators.”