Addition Elle, one of several women’s clothing banners operated by Montreal-based Reitmans Canada Limited, officially launched its localized U.S. e-commerce website in September. The launch coincided with Addition Elle’s New York Fashion Week runway show, as well as a weeklong pop-up shop that the brand hosted in New York City.
“We always knew we had a strong following of U.S. customers interested in our brand,” says Roslyn Griner, vice president of marketing and visual presentation at Addition Elle. She notes that a large portion of the brand’s social media followers is comprised of U.S. residents.
The massive U.S. market presents a significant expansion opportunity for Addition Elle, which is well established in the Canadian market with 93 locations. The brand targets customers between the ages of 35 and 44, with a broad range of clothing ranging from office wear to casual wear, activewear and lingerie.
“There is so much potential growth in the U.S. market,” Griner says. “It’s one of the largest markets for plus sized, outside of Canada.”
Based on the success of the September pop up shop, the brand appears positioned to thrive in the U.S. The shop, which was located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, was stocked with every item from the Addition Elle fashion show, in every size. Customers could try on items in the store, and then make their purchase through the new e-commerce website.
“We wanted to start getting people to experience our fit, which we believe is our asset,” says Griner. The result, she says, was the highest ever level of e-commerce sales for Addition Elle. “We did the most sales online during that week of the pop up – more than we’ve ever done in the past.”
Addition Elle is not entirely new to the U.S. market. Wholesale partnerships with department stores such as Nordstrom and Dillard’s in the past couple of years have enabled Addition Elle to test the waters south of the border. A new partnership with Macy’s will expand that U.S. wholesale presence, with certain Addition Elle merchandise set to be carried in 50 Macy’s locations by the end of this year, and 150 locations as of spring 2018.
Without any standalone Addition Elle stores in the U.S., however, Griner says building brand recognition in the new market remains a challenge.
“The biggest challenge is that we don’t have brick and mortar stores there, so people can’t experience our fit on a day-to-day basis,” says Griner. “We’re competing with brands that have much bigger penetration.”
Standalone Addition Elle stores could be a possibility in the future, but before taking that step, Griner says the brand intends to monitor its online sales to identify regions where demand is strong.
“I think we need a year or two of online sales before we open up brick and mortar stores,” she says.
In the meantime, Addition Elle is focusing on boosting its profile through online and social media marketing, as well as partnerships with high profile influencers. For example, the brand has teamed up with prominent U.S. model Ashley Graham to produce several lines of intimate apparel.
North of the border, meanwhile, Addition Elle is focused on revamping some of its Canadian stores to improve the shopping experience for customers.
“We’re working on new concept stores,” Griner says.
“It’s a very modern shopping environment that really highlights the clothes, and incorporates digital into the store in a seamless way that makes sense for the customer journey,” she says.
Eventually, Griner hopes to bring that concept into the U.S. “If we move into the U.S. in brick and mortar,” she says, “we could bring a very exciting store concept that I don't think is being delivered by our competitors in the U.S. market.”
Megan Harman is a business reporter based in Toronto. She writes about topics including retail, financial services and technology. Megan covers Toronto’s retail industry through her blog Retail Realm (torontoretail.wordpress.com). Follow her on Twitter at @meganmharman.