Walmart to acquire plus-size apparel brand Eloquii

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 366 views 

With half the women in the U.S. wearing a size 14 or higher, Walmart has seized another opportunity to expand its e-commerce fashion offerings with the pending acquisition of Eloquii, a direct-to-consumer women’s apparel e-tailer. The deal is worth an estimated $100 million according to analysts, though neither party disclosed terms.

Walmart said Tuesday (Oct. 2) the e-commerce acquisition is consistent with its strategy of enhancing category expertise and assortment. The deal is similar to the Shoes.com and Moosejaw acquisitions made by the retail giant in recent years.

Acquiring digital brands that are unique and differentiated products and experiences is also part of Walmart.com’s plan. Eloquii joins the Walmart U.S. eCommerce portfolio which includes Shoes.com, Moosejaw, ModCloth, Bonobos and Allwell.

Andy Dunn, former CEO of Bonobos, recently was appointed senior vice president of digital consumer brands for Walmart U.S. eCommerce. In a blog post released Tuesday, Dunn said Eloquii is known for its trend-driven, fashion-focused assortment catered specifically to full-size women.

“We know they [these women] are looking not just for basics, but also for on-trend pieces that allow them to express their individuality,” Dunn noted in the blog. “This is a segment of the market that has been historically underserved and neglected. We believe she deserves better. Today we stand in solidarity with her by acquiring a brand whose sole focus is to exceed her expectations.”

Eloquii was originally launched as part of The Limited in 2011. But in 2014, Eloquii relaunched online as an independent direct-to-consumer brand. In just three years, Eloquii has tripled its sales and the brand consistently has one of the higher ratings among its loyal customer base.

“This year, we’ve made great progress adding new brands, developing exclusive products, and launching new fashion partnerships,” Dunn said. “As the retail landscape evolves at light speed, we remain firm in our belief that it’s not just about selling brands, it’s also about building brands and customer relationships. As such, we are laser focused on developing a portfolio of direct to consumer brands with a unique assortment you can’t find anywhere else.”

Walmart said Eloquii serves women who work outside the home, with 80% of its customers working full-time and seeking fashionable work wear. The company is filing a need not being met by other retailers. Eloquii CEO Mariah Chase and her team of 100 will stay on and run the company as usual under the new Walmart ownership. She will report to Dunn and Eloquii employees will remain in their Long Island, N.Y. and Columbus, Ohio locations.

ANALYST RESPONSE
Analysts said there is plenty Walmart can glean from the acquisition. That includes a stronger foothold into a growing fashion category often ignored by others, as well as a change to bring more category expertise to the Walmart and Jet.com brands. Earlier this year, Walmart launched new fashion brands which included Terra & Sky, a plus-size women’s brand with more trendy fashion elements in size 14 and up.

Walmart U.S. eCommerce CEO Marc Lore has said the retailer will continue to grow its expertise in long-tail (higher margin) categories like apparel, with acquisitions such as ModCloth, Bonobos and now Eloquii.

The benefits of the Eloquii deal are also solid, given Walmart’s supply chain expertise and connections with manufacturers around the globe. Walmart also provides a stable cable structure for the digitally native startup to continued investing and growing its brand.

“What makes a digital brand great is how it converts a pain point in the market into a source of delight for the customer,” Dunn said. “It means creating real connections with people, building a spirited and interactive following, and offering customers an experience they can’t get anywhere else. It means offering a broad and growing range of great products for that customer and fundamentally elevating how they are served both online and offline. ELOQUII allows us to do all these things. I’m so excited to welcome them to our team and look forward to amplifying the Eloquii experience even further,” Dunn said.

Walmart is not the only retailer making a move in plus-size women’s apparel. In September, Kohl’s announced its plans to launch EVRI, a new private label plus-sized brand in spring 2019. Target launched its plus-size brand Ava & Viv in 2015. Target also said this year it plans to double the number of stores in which it sells Ava & Viv to 300.

NDP Group estimates Americans spent $21.4 billion on women’s plus-size clothing in 2016, a market that is growing 4% annually.

Walmart shares (NYSE: WMT) traded higher Tuesday on the news with the stock selling at $95.16 in the afternoon session. Shares were up 75 cents on the day and volume was light. For the past 52 weeks, Walmart shares have traded between $78.25 and $109.98. Walmart stock is down 11.63% year-to-date.

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