Online plus-size fashion brand Eloquii, originally founded by The Limited in 2011, will open a brick-and-mortar store in September in Columbus, OH, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
The retailer will open in a former space filled by The Limited, which shuttered all stores and its online operations after filing for bankruptcy earlier this year.
Seeing potential in the plus-size market, Limited employees revived the brand as a pure-play online retailer in 2014, shortly after it was discontinued by The Limited. Last year the company announced a $15 million Series B round.
With its venture into brick and mortar, Eloquii is demonstrating both the potential of the plus-size market when the fashion is right and the importance of physical stores when it comes to growth.
The brand, which offers styles at various price points in sizes 14 to 28, has offices in Columbus and New York, debuts new collections monthly and creates personalized marketing through social media and content on its own site, according to a company press release.
The plus-size market accounted for 17% of the U.S. women’s apparel market in 2015, according to market research company NPD Group’s Consumer Tracking Service. U.S. sales of women’s plus-size apparel, which includes plus-size/full-figure, petite plus and junior plus sizes, rose 5% in the 12 months ending February 2015 to $19.8 billion, and 3% in the 12 months ending February 2016 to $20.4 billion, NPD found.
Meanwhile, despite what many observers are calling a “retail apocalypse,” with several department stores and specialty retailers leaving gaping holes at many mid-tier malls nationwide, brick-and-mortar continues to be essential in retail — and the source of the vast majority of retail sales. Apparel shoppers in particular prefer the touch and feel advantages of shopping in stores.
In a survey of more than 2,500 U.S. consumers, global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney found that among those who prefer to buy online, fully two-thirds say they still rely on a physical store either before or after their purchase. “That means that when you’re buying a dress online, it’s likely that you’re going to be looking at that dress — the feeling, the color — and to do that, you leverage a physical environment prior to the purchase,” Andres Mendoza Pena, a partner in A.T. Kearney’s retail practice, told Retail Dive last year.
Along with that emotional pull, physical stores have also proven to be integral to customer loyalty, returns, fulfillment and — believe it or not — a driver of online sales. “We found 'If I don’t have a store near my house to make an eventual return, I don’t make the purchase,'" Pena said. “So let’s agree that a physical store adds value to consumers, even when they transact online.”