What incredible news for the plus universe. Headlines are reading “Walmart Buys Plus-Size Brand Eloquii For A Reported $100M” which puts ELOQUII at a huge advantage in the plus game, their value being quantified at such a high level.
Walmart has bought the digitally native, plus-size fashion brand Eloquii. which is huge for both retailers. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Recode reports the number to be $100 million.
Eloquii joins Bonobos and Modcloth as part of Walmart’s e-commerce business and several of its executives will report to Bonobos’ founder Andy Dunn, now senior vice president of digital consumer brands.
This is definitely a smart move for Walmart, which has been trying to build an apparel business complete with more fashion-forward merchandise. Apparel is particularly challenging for the mass merchant, which has tried and failed to up the fashion ante in its supercenters for decades now, always coming up short against rival Target and its “cheap chic” prowess and reputation. At one point several years ago, an executive confessed to me during a store tour in Arkansas that apparel was a category the company had ceded to the competition.
Since acquiring Jet.com for more than $3 billion in 2016, Walmart has been on an acquisition tear, buying Bonobos, Modcloth and Moosejaw in quick succession. And in February, the retailer launched four new brands: Time and Tru and Terra & Sky for women, Wonder Nation for kids and George for men. (George is a relaunch, having been acquired along with ASDA in 1999. It was initially positioned as a fashion brand in the U.S., but it never took off.) While the plus brands aren’t valued as highly as some of the other assets purchased by “The Mart,” this is a great step for them!
“The goal is to bring new life into the fashion statement,” Sarah Veit Wallis, Walmart’s global e-commerce vice president and general manager of lifestyle, said during a session at eTail West I attended last Spring as editor of Retail Dive. “To bring in on-trend clothing while continuing the retail ethos of fabulous quality and fabulous value.”
That’s an ethos echoed by Eloquii CEO Mariah Chase. “It’s a huge opportunity that we’re trying to attack by serving up fashion in an under-served market,” Chase told attendees at the IRCE conference in Chicago in June. I met with Chase earlier in the year and the brand’s story of resurrection from a Limited castoff to a $100 million star is a compelling one.
Limited, which once owned Lane Bryant, killed Eloquii in 2011, and its assets were acquired and relaunched in 2014. There are five stores today and Chase’s teams uses these as learning labs to test new product and services, including the use of stylists to help shoppers in store and online, and dynamic pricing to improve profits on popular or seasonal items. These tech-savvy moves gel nicely with Jet.com’s algorithms and focus on emerging technology.
Whether or not Walmart will ever be viewed by consumers as a source of real fashion, this strategy of acquiring niche brands with an avid following are helping build a stable of unique properties and offerings. Eloquii in particular is a leader among plus-size brands, a growing category and one that will resonate with Walmart’s existing shoppers.
Roughly 67% of the U.S. population falls in the plus-size category, representing close to 20% of all apparel spending, according to Chase. And the $21 billion category is growing twice as fast as what she terms the “straight-size” market. We knew this, and we’re so glad others are citing it.
Expanding the assortment of extended size lines is a priority among mass merchants. Target, Meijer and JC Penney have all made moves to do so, including new merchandising in stores that either better display the new brands or group extended sizes together with those in the lower ranges, to improve the shopping experience for these customers.
There’s one more beneficiary of this deal: Reese Witherspoon. The actress helms growing lifestyle brand Draper James and earlier this year launched a line in collaboration with Eloquii. This could put Draper James into thousands of Walmart stores and online (although there are no plans for Eloquii to be sold in stores at this time), a big win for Witherspoon, who actually hosted the Walmart shareholder meeting in 2015, proving patience really is a virtue.
What do you think? Does this purchase help or hurt high end brand Eloquii? We are excited to read more!
DISCLAIMER- We could not find free images of the ELOQUII Logo or dresses, models, etc. New day… same story… we’re still working to change it! Be bold!