- Express on Thursday introduced a new direct-to-consumer brand, UpWest, according to a company press release.
- The brand will include casual apparel, loungewear and sleepwear for men and women, and will also have home goods and wellness items from third party vendors, per the release. Prices will range from $12 to $188.
- The brand will also debut a mobile pop-up concept that will travel across the U.S. to major cities, including Chicago; Denver; Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas; and Columbus, Ohio.
While a smattering of pure-play e-commerce brands are moving into brick-and-mortar stores, an increasing number of traditional retailers are starting to understand the importance of the direct-to-consumer model. DTC companies like Casper, Glossier and Allbirds have been viewed as disruptors in their various product categories, and in the process have built strong social media followings and customers that are brand loyalists.
And it's working. According to a Diffusion study that came out last year, 81% of people said they will make at least one purchase from a DTC brand within the next five years. Those lessons are now being gleaned by specialty retail as a means to drive consumers to established brands.
UpWest, a "purpose-driven lifestyle brand," as Express refers to it, may be a way for the company to diversify its offerings as so many apparel retailers struggle. So far this year, 11 of the 17 major retail bankruptcies were filed by companies that mostly sell apparel or footwear. Morgan Stanley stated that the top dozen global apparel retailers, on average, have seen earnings downgrades of nearly 40% since 2016.
Additionally, UpWest's focus on comfort may play to its favor as fashion continues to find success with athleisure brands (a rare area of growth in apparel retail) and as traditional workwear continues to evolve.
"While our primary focus remains on returning the Express business to long-term, profitable growth, UpWest brings something new and exciting to the market," Express CEO Tim Baxter said in a statement.