Wholesale is not a critical part of Adore Me’s overall strategy this year, according to Ranjan Roy, the brand's vice president of strategy.
But that is exactly why the direct-to-consumer brand has decided to explore the distribution channel in the way it has, through its partnership with intimates manufacturer Gelmart. Instead of licensing or selling its existing Adore Me lingerie through retailers, the brand decided to create a new line that was dedicated to the type of customers it would encounter through wholesale.
Adore Me and Gelmart launched a new line, called Adored by Adore Me, exclusively with Walmart in the fall of 2022. The companies dropped a second collection for the line a few weeks ago. The wholesale line is priced between $11.98 and $29.98, making it more affordable than Adore Me’s DTC products, according to details emailed to Retail Dive.
Adored by Adore Me is available on the mass retailer’s website and in about 2,000 stores nationwide, greatly expanding Adore Me’s reach beyond the six DTC stores it operates.
“For us, [wholesale is] starting with a targeted collection, seeing what works, building on that, getting into as many stores as possible in order to really get as much data and learning from that,” Roy told Retail Dive. “The idea as a DTC brand is to be able to do this at a reasonable scale — still as a big test and experiment. That's something that can only come about from a partnership like this.”
Adore Me's push into Walmart also marks a change from its subscription-centered DTC model. The lingerie brand runs a VIP membership tier with discounted prices online and a subscription box, called Elite, for customers to try items before buying. With the Adored line at Walmart, the brand is able to experiment with a more traditional retail model.
The line at Walmart also differs in style from Adore Me’s typical offerings, catering more to the different customer preferences it has attracted, according to Gelmart Chief Marketing Officer Caroline Levy.
“Another thing that we have been thoughtful about is how we balance Adored by Adore Me being playful and sexy without going overly aggressive,” Roy said. “The Walmart customer is definitely more of a balance.”
While Adore Me sells sexier products such as crotchless underwear, Roy noted, the wholesale line at Walmart leans more into everyday customer needs while still providing fun, high-quality merchandise.
“And I think we've learned the Adored customer likes sexy, but she also likes practical,” Levy added, saying that the companies initially conducted some customer research to help inform the line’s direction.
For the lingerie brand, allowing the wholesale line to gain steam on its own provides more valuable information than conducting a marketing campaign promoting the new collections.
“What's more interesting for us is not any kind of large-scale consumer marketing campaign. It's these products showing up in 1,900 stores and people walking by them and seeing what happens,” Roy said, noting that a larger scale marketing campaign could’ve diluted the data the company hoped to gather from experimenting with wholesale this way.
“There's no better marketing than the sheer volume of Walmart, right?” Levy added. “So that's where we kind of placed our bet.”
The DTC brand began experimenting with wholesale around the same time lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret in November 2022 announced it would acquire Adore Me for about $400 million. The deal closed in January, with expectations that Adore Me would generate $250 million in profitable sales during its most recently completed fiscal year.
While Adore Me is still focused on its DTC channels, it isn’t ruling out the potential for wholesale to become a bigger part of the business.
“It can become a much bigger part of the strategy,” Roy said, noting that the slow experiment into wholesale allows the brand to be more deliberate in how it will incorporate the channel into its overall strategy. “This is a much, much more exciting way to approach it.”