Why This Swedish Retailer Decided To Bring Only Its Plus Division To America
By Liz Black, blogger, Refinery 29
For many retailers, plus-size clothing is often considered an afterthought. Specialty stores aside, most brands cater solely to those who wear a size 14 or smaller, maaaaybe promising to expand their size ranges down the line. Or, more likely, not at all. But one European brand took a different route with its expansion into America, choosing to extend its brand to the U.S. for plus sizes only.
Technically, Swedish brand Ellos’s U.S. site carries sizes 10 to 34 — whereas plus sizes are typically considered sizes 14 and up — but let’s not split hairs over this first-of-a-kind brand expansion. In Sweden, Ellos is like your typical big-box retailer and offers a little bit of everything (women’s, men’s, kids’, and home). But the brand has appropriately focused on one of the fastest-growing markets in the U.S. for its American debut, and it has a lot to do with the unmitigated success of online plus-size retailer Full Beauty.
Full Beauty is best known as a fashion aggregator for plus clothing, stocking in-house brands like Roaman’s and Woman Within, as well as well-known contemporary plus brands like Torrid and Fashion to Figure. Its partnership with Ellos began back in 2000, but two years ago, Full Beauty began incubating Ellos’s plus-size pieces on the site in order to gauge American interest in the Swedish style. That success was all Ellos needed to be convinced to expand its plus offerings to the U.S. “At Full Beauty, our expertise is really in plus,” explained Michele Parsons, SVP, general brand manager of Ellos. “In terms of getting this off the ground, in terms of what our initial immediate opportunity was…we wanted to really be clear and focused and look at addressing a new plus customer — younger, more fashion-engaged. That’s where we wanted to start, because that’s our area of expertise, our fit expertise. And certainly as a launching starting point, it made the most sense.”
Due to its speedy launch, however, the Ellos U.S. site had to be stocked with its Swedish imagery, meaning that many of the product models appear to be smaller than the sizes the U.S. site offers. “I think we can say we would love to frankly have more plus-size photography,” said Stephanie Schwab, vice president of e-commerce and marketing at Ellos. “It is definitely something that we want to work on so we can represent our customers. We’re using existing assets from Sweden, which aren’t necessarily plus, [because] we wanted to go to market as fast as we can. We’re super excited, and what you will see in the coming catalog and also online, you will see a gradual shift, but we need a bit more time. That is something we want to address.”
Full Beauty might have been the catalyst for Ellos’s U.S. expansion, but Ellos is banking on its cool Swedish style to pull in those plus-size dollars. “If you think about what’s happening in Sweden from a fashion perspective right now, you look at brands like H&M, or on the higher end there is Acne,” Parsons told Refinery29, “it’s definitely more modern, sleek, and clean. There is kind of a no-fashion fashion piece to it.”
Ellos does plan to eventually expand its American offerings to all categories, but for once, if you’re not plus-sized, you’ll have to wait.