Justice, the tween apparel banner in Ascena Retail Group’s stable, on Tuesday announced the launch of a new entertainment division dubbed Justice Studios.
The new entertainment arm will create original content including graphic novels, video series, music, documentaries and more, in partnership with Columbus, Ohio-based entertainment and production company Elevate Pictures, according to a press release from the companies emailed to Retail Dive.
The companies say they already have three projects in the works: a graphic novel series, "Ultra Squad," by bestselling young adult author Julia DeVillers; a documentary, "Finding Clara," a behind-the-scenes look at four young dancers in a Nutcracker production; and a reprise of their "Live Justice" Awards, which they’re expanding into a year-round platform to empower and honor "remarkable tween girls who are making a difference."
Justice is easily the most successful banner in Ascena's stable, and, in creating content around it, the company is taking full advantage of the loyalty it enjoys from tween girls and their parents.
"We continue to look for unique ways to engage our audience outside the store, and we view Justice Studios as the next step in our retail evolution," Justice President Lece Lohr said in a statement.
In its most recent quarter, Ascena posted its first enterprise-level positive comp since the second quarter of fiscal 2015, thanks in large part to its youth brand. Justice same-store sales rose 15%, as premium brands Ann Taylor rose 1% and Loft rose 7%; discount brands Maurices rose 1% as Dressbarn fell 5%; and plus size brands Lane Bryant rose 2% and Catherines rose 3%.
Justice grew out of the Limited Too brand for tween girls that was once part of Les Wexner's Limited group. It's "the only concept that has hope," according to Jane Hali, CEO of investment research firm Jane Hali & Associates. "Tween girls are always looking for fashion and to appear more grown up," she told Retail Dive earlier this year. "Justice does a great job of keeping the fashion exciting to the tween and acceptable to the mom."
In fact, Justice serves as a guide for the entire company, according to GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders. "It needs to replicate the thinking it has employed with Justice to the rest of the business and use this to create a much clearer and more compelling proposition across all of its brands," he said in comments emailed to Retail Dive last month regarding its fourth quarter.
The company may be doing just that. Andrew Clarke, who since last year had been merchandising chief at Justice and has two decades of retail experience, in August was named Loft president. But his success there may not translate to Loft, considering the tween brand's unique position, Hali warned.