retail

All posts tagged retail

Ashley Nell Tipton and JC Penney – Still Smashing it Out of the Park

Published September 2, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

I was in the process of writing about Melbourne Fashion Week Plus, but then I saw these videos and it was just a matter of “Dammit, I’ve got to get this out there!”  So the MFW+ stuff will be following over the weekend sometime.

Have you seen these yet?  The three promo videos about Ashley Nell Tipton working with JC Penney to bring out her new line?  No, well here you go…

THIS.  As well as the actual clothes being as cute as hell and totally my aesthetic, this is the way I want to be marketed to by the big box businesses.  This is what I want to see from major department stores.  This is what I want to see from the big businesses around the world who have got the lion’s share of the brick and mortar plus-size clothing market.  I want to see them using actual fat women in their marketing, positive, aspirational messaging that doesn’t shame fat women as though our only focus is getting or looking thin.  Marketing that shows a competent, talented fat woman doing her job and doing it well.  Clothes that are designed BY a fat woman, FOR fat women.  And a business that is PROUD of their upcoming plus-size range and putting some marketing money behind it.

I’m going to speak to the Australian businesses, but I’m sure that the ones overseas should be doing the same thing.  Where are you Target Australila, Myer, David Jones, Big W…?  I’ll add you Specialty Fashion Group – Autograph and City Chic.  Where are you right now?  Still streaming out a pile of boring, dark coloured sacks that look like something fat women would have worn 20 or 30 years ago?  Still offering half a page in a catalogue to show off your dull, dull, dull t-shirts and leggings?  Still not putting any actual fat women in your marketing material, just the same three boring size 10-12 models with no fashion styling or decent make-up, hair or photography?

It’s time to get your shit together and realise that your customers are fed up with your out-dated, poorly planned buying and marketing strategies towards plus-sizes.  It’s 2016.  You want your customer to spend money with you?  Then learn from those that are doing it well and step up your game.

 

Major Retailers – You Have No Right to Complain

Published September 27, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

I don’t know about you all, but I’m REALLY sick of businesses complaining that they’re not making enough money, or that their stock doesn’t sell.  Let me give you an example.

Two and a half years ago, after raising the issue on their Facebook page, I met with the buyer and a marketing exec from Target Australia.  It wasn’t the first time I had been in contact with them or the first time they had responded what I felt at the time was favourable, I’d had a go four years ago as well.  At this visit, we had a very detailed discussion about the state of their plus-size stock and the marketing of it.  The two women were both enthusiastic, well engaged and keen to get it right.  They went back to head office to see what could be done.  To their credit, they kept in touch with me for about 12 months, but sadly, neither the stock options nor the way it was marketing changed at all and then I stopped hearing from them.  In the meantime, I kept letting Target Australia know via their Facebook page which straight sized garments I would like to see available as plus-sizes.  I had also posted again on the topic here, about the disparity between straight sizes and plus-sizes.

Earlier this year, they contacted me again.  They said, we have a new buyer and designer for our plus-size range.  We’d love to talk to you.  I gave them quite a lot of my time and energy explaining that a) many plus-sized women are not ashamed of their bodies and really just want to wear the same things as straight sizes do, though that wasn’t a request for them to get rid of any of the existing stock, because like everyone else, fat women have varied tastes, and b) when their plus-sizes are not represented adequately in their marketing, it feels like they’re ashamed of it or are ashamed of fat customers.  Besides, how can we know about their product if they won’t market it?  Again, both the buyer and the designer were enthusiastic and well engaged, and they told me to wait until about August/September because it takes about six months for new stock to come through.  I keep letting them know via their FB page and their customer feedback surveys.

In that time, they send out an email bemoaning that they did not make the profits last financial year that they believed they should have, and offered another survey asking how they can make it better.  I diligently filled that one out too.

Fast forward to this month, and I’ve got a nice cheque from a writing gig I recently did, and I’d like to spend that windfall on clothes.  I go over to the Target Australia website and look up dresses.  Over 120 dresses available, but let’s filter that down to plus-sizes.  ONE.  One dress.  It’s a dull, drab, dark blue shirt dress in plus-sizes.  In a sea of pretty party frocks, floaty maxi dresses, cute skater dresses, professional shifts and elegant evening dresses in straight sizes.

It is so dispiriting, so depressing to time and time again have them ignore what we are looking to spend our money on, as if our money is not as good as everyone else’s.  So, I thought, constructive feedback is good for businesses to hone their product and service.  So, I left them the following post on their FB page:

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 12.41.41 PM
This was the response I got:

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It is so frustrating and so insulting to have a business, one of the very few that even offers my size, so clearly not want my money, and that of many other fat women who would LOVE to be able to shop.  It’s insulting that they claim that plus-size stock doesn’t sell, when they won’t listen to their customers and won’t market what stock they do have in the same way that they do straight sizes.  It’s insulting that they put so much effort into a petites range which is a tiny percent of the population, but ignore what is statistically the majority of women in the country.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 12.42.16 PM

As you can see, I’m not the only one who feels this way, by the likes on my response.

My friend Sonia responded to my post on FB by demonstrating just how ridiculous the “we can’t make the same clothes for plus-sizes as straight sizes” line is, with the following screen captures:

target
Sadly, most other brick and mortar mainstream retailers are the same.  Autograph Fashion has been a sea of dull black and grey for months, and don’t seem to be interested in livening up their stock to something a bit more, you  know, fashionable.  Kmart only stock plus-size sacks made out of the cheapest, nastiest fabrics.  City Chic, Millers, Crossroads all cut off the upper sizes of plus-sizes.  Big W to their credit does have a little better stock, but they hardly market it at all.

I am pretty sure it’s the same in most of the rest of the western world, but brick and mortar businesses are doing a whole lot of complaining that customers aren’t shopping “Australian” and that we’re taking our money to online businesses.  Almost every week one of the current affairs shows has complaints from Australian retailers about the amount of money leaving the country for online shopping for overseas businesses.  I don’t know about you, but my current thoughts on this is “Tough titties.”  If you won’t put effort into providing the products that we want, and you won’t market proudly the stock that you do carry, what do you expect?  Why should we have to do all the work when it comes to finding suitable clothing?  That’s genuinely what they expect, for us to visit their store every week in the vain hope that something has changed.  If you want me to spend my money in your business, you’d better be a) providing something I want and b) promoting it so that I know it’s there.  It’s the basic principle of retail.

I don’t have any qualms at all about sending my money to overseas/online businesses while local brick and mortar ones are treating their plus-size customers as second class citizens.    They’re disinterested and full of excuses.  You can’t ignore a whole group of your customers and/or decide it’s “too hard” and then complain that they take their shopping dollars elsewhere.  I have offered countless times to give them my time and energy to help them do the one thing they’re supposed to want to do – make their customers spend more money, yet all I and others get are insincere platitudes and empty promises.

The offer is still there for any of those big brick and mortar retail businesses.  I’m more than happy to give my time and energy to any business that wants to win plus-size customers.  Prove that you want us as your customers, and we’ll come back.  We WANT to shop in store, to be able to shop with our friends, try things on, buy whole outfits with shoes and accessories, shop on our lunch breaks and buy local.  But if you’re not going to provide it, don’t complain that we take our money elsewhere.

*Note, I have just had a look on Target’s page again (the screenshots above were taken two weeks ago) and they now have 3 dresses out of 111 in plus sizes.  One of which is actually kind of cute!  Still not good enough though.

Shopping As It Should Be

Published September 20, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

Last month I was lucky enough to take a road trip with my great friend Kerri, and we went down to Newcastle to visit the lovely Bek of Colourful Curves.  Of course, Bek being a fab fatty like myself, we just had to have a shopping day.  Check us out, look how cute we are!

Too much adorbz for one photo.

Too much adorbz for one photo.

So Bek took Kerri and I to a lot of her favourite shopping haunts and the most awesome café I have ever been to, Frankie’s Place for lunch.  It’s a funky, quirky kind of place that has original food ideas, lovely atmosphere, good quality basic dishes and I ate a salad so amazing that I thought I had been transported to paradise.

The world's most delicious salad.

The world’s most delicious salad.

They serve their drinks using old children's books as trays.

They serve their drinks using old children’s books as trays.

After lunch, we wandered up Darby St until we came to a very fab retro-style shop called Ramjet Assortments, run by the wonderful Michelle.  Bek had mentioned that they had awesome accessories, which, as a fat chick, is something I’m always looking for to jazz up otherwise boring plus-sized clothes.  Michelle asked us if we were looking for anything in particular and when I said “It’s OK, you wouldn’t have anything to fit me anyway.” gasped in horror!  “Of course I do!”  She then proceeded to enthusiastically fling dresses at all three of us, asking rapid fire questions about our tastes and style.  The minute we squee’d over a print or a colour, she found something that she thought we might like in something close to our size.  She had all three of us trekking back and forth to the fitting rooms, Bek and I swapping dresses between the stalls to try on.  Even had Kerri who is not a shopaholic by any stretch of the imagination, happily trying on all sorts of frocks.  I’m a size 26 – 28 AU, and she had up to my size at least.

Michelle was enthusiastic, attentive and fun, without once being pushy or overwhelming.  She never made any mention of “flattering” or “hiding flaws” – just listened to what we liked and paid attention to our reactions to things she suggested.  Even when Bek and I told her we preferred to identify as “fat” rather than “curvy”, she took it totally in her stride and accepted our preference.  She was so positive and her enthusiasm for her stock was really infectious.  All three of us walked out of there absolutely beaming with a frock we totally love.

Look at the print on my dress!

Look at the print on my dress!

Astonishingly, once we’d come down from the high of such a fun and fruitful shopping experience, I actually had a little cry.  A couple of little cries over the next 24 hours in fact.  Because the realisation had sunk in that as a fat woman, I had never had a shopping experience like that.  I had never been in a store and had the staff/owner pay positive attention to me and be genuinely enthusiastic about helping me find something I love, without once suggesting I had to flatter or hide my body in any way.  In fact, I’d never had that in a completely dedicated plus-size store, let alone one that had sizes starting at size 6!  Michelle’s approach was the same towards Bek and myself as super fats as it was to Kerri who is much smaller, and when we popped back into the shop a few days later, she was giving the same enthusiastic, friendly service to a young woman who looked fresh off the pages of a fashion magazine, as well as an older couple who were looking for a gift for their daughter.  We had decided to get Bek a gift for being such a wonderful hostess while we were in Newcastle, and realised that a gift voucher for Ramjet Assortments would be something that she would really love, rather than something generic like a department store or a supermarket.  Michelle greeted us with glee when we walked in the door, and was delighted to hear how happy we were with our purchases of the previous visit.  As well as buying our gift for Bek, I splurged on a pair of seriously cute earrings to go with my sweet new frock.

Earrings of fabulousness.

Earrings of fabulousness.

Fat women just don’t get service like that.  We’re normally treated as though we’re an inconvenience, or as if we are a challenge to “flatter”.  We’re either ignored, told there isn’t anything in our sizes, or get the hard sell on something that doesn’t fit or isn’t to our taste.  When I mentioned to a straight sized friend of mine that this was the first time I’d ever had that experience, she was absolutely astonished.  She said “Don’t they want you to buy their stuff or something?”  The answer, it seems to me for most businesses, is no, they don’t.  Very few businesses actually want a fat woman’s money.  No matter how hard we want to give it to them.  Some of them don’t even promote their product, and actively try to suppress it being promoted by others.  Yet then they complain that their product doesn’t sell.

So when a business as fabulous as Ramjet Assortments, and a person as passionate about her stock as Michelle comes along, I believe it’s important that we promote them.  If you’re in Newcastle, get yourself down to Darby Street and go inside of Ramjet Assortments.  Say hello to Michelle.  Tell her I sent you.  Ask her to show you some fab frocks to fit you.

If you’re not in Newcastle, Michelle will sell via mail order.  She has a Facebook page.  Drop her a line, ask her what she has in your size.  Follow her Instagram where she posts new stock with it’s available sizes listed.

What?  You want to see the frock I bought?  Well, alright, since I love you all… behold, Spooky Cats!

SPOOKY CATS!

SPOOKY CATS!