Lane Bryant said on Tuesday that it is launching LaneStyle Studio, “an elevated in-store personal styling experience” where customers can get free styling advice during one-on-one store appointments, according to a company press release.
The women’s plus-size apparel retailer is hosting LaneStyle Launch Parties in stores offering the LaneStyle Studio Experience on July 29 (on July 28 in Atlanta).
Shoppers attending the parties will get a sneak peek at Lane Bryant’s upcoming fall collection, and have the chance to win a $250 Lane Bryant gift card given away at each event.
The plus-size arena holds much promise for parent Ascena, which also owns Ann Taylor, Loft Maurices and Dress Barn and is suffering in the gloomy apparel market. Last month the company said it would shutter more than 250 locations permanently by the end of 2019.
An additional 400 or so stores will close through landlord negotiations during the same period. In May the apparel company adjusted its outlook downward and warned that it expects same-store sales in the third quarter to fall 8% (down from its March guidance of a decline of between 4% and 5%) and in the full fiscal year to fall between 6-7% (after its March guidance of a 3-4% decline). Shares plunged 30% after the report was released.
Lane Bryant is hanging on, but the brand is facing competition as many women looking for plus sizes are becoming used to shopping online, where the category is proliferating. Its new free one-on-one styling advice is a good way to take advantage of a brick-and-mortar advantage over e-commerce.
Research firm NPD found that in 2015, the plus-size market accounted for 17% of the U.S. women’s apparel market overall. Furthermore, U.S. sales of women’s plus-size apparel, which includes plus-size/full-figure, petite plus and junior plus sizes, increased 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.
To that end, Linda Heasley (who joined Ascena in 2013 after leaving The Limited and resigned as CEO of Ascena's plus fashion segment in January) dedicated much of her efforts at Lane Bryant to destigmatizing plus-size fashion.