Eloquii CEO sees ‘true want and need” for strong offline presence
In terms of retail comebacks, Eloquii has a pretty good one.
The plus-size fashion brand was launched in 2011 by The Limited, only to be shut down about 18 months later as part of a company restructuring. But Eloquii started a new chapter — one that paved the way for its current success — in 2014, when it was relaunched by members of its original team (and an investor) as an independent, vertically-integrated e-commerce business. It has carved itself a unique niche, winning over shoppers with trend-driven styles designed from the start for size 14 to 28 customers.
Eloquii expanded to brick-and-mortar in 2017, and recently opened its sixth location, a 2,500-sq.-ft. space in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. In-store offerings include the brand’s signature complimentary personal styling program, offered at all its stores. Notably, Eloquii is the only retailer dedicated to sizes up to 28 in one of the city’s most popular shopping areas. (Additional stores are at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington, Va.; The Shops at North Bridge, Chicago; Twelve Oaks Mall, Detroit; The Galleria Shopping Center, Houston; and Dadeland Mall, Miami.)
Eloquii is headed up by Mariah Chase, who was recruited as part of the relaunch and has been CEO ever since. (The company was acquired by Walmart in 2018, and Chase, her executive team and the company’s approximate 100 employees joined the retail giant’s U.S. e-commerce division.)
CSA recently caught up with Chase, who spoke about Eloquii’s brick-and-mortar operations.
Does Eloquii expect to open any additional permanent stores this year?
We’re always exploring options that offers our customers a choice on how they want to experience Eloquii. We believe offline is an important choice.
How do the offline and online customers compare?
Many of our offline customers come to us for a free personal styling appointment where they spend an hour plus with a stylist. This is a service that’s uniquely suited to offline.
We’ve also noticed, more explicitly, the different merchandise preferences between metropolitan statistical areas and specific offline locations. Our Pentagon City customer really wants and needs a strong workwear assortment while our Houston Galleria customer demands the most fashion-forward pieces of our collections. These differences excite us about opportunities around automating micro-merchandising and allocating in the future.
How popular is the personal styling service?
It’s a steady drumbeat. The personal styling service is a complimentary offering that Eloquii offers at all of our stores. The customers who want it, seek it out and our team offers it to new customers when they visit the store so they know it’s always there for them in the future. Shoppers can sign up to experience one-on-one appointments, group styling sessions or stylist parties with Eloquii trend and fit experts.
Unique to the SoHo store location, we have an on-site technical designer that works closely with customers, trained by the Eloquii in-house design team, to advise shoppers on the brand’s expert fit technique, in real-time. We’re really excited about this new service.
What’s been the most surprising/insightful takeaway from Eloquii’s brick-and-mortar stores?
When we launched in 2014, we believed we would stay online only. What we discovered is there is a true want and need for a strong offline retail presence for our customer. Our customer has clearly voted that the offline experience is a significant part of the way she wants to interact with Eloquii. For our part, we love stores because it offers another touchpoint where we get to know her in person. We love getting to know our customers one-on-one and there’s no better place to do this over time.
As a frequent online eloquii shopper I think your strategy is spot on. I venture from Mpls to the Chicago store once or twice a year. The level of service they provide, even without a styling session fuels my purchases for months to come. Visiting your stores is an event so keep it that way. Focus on quality over quantity.