There are numerous plus-size brands that have emerged over the years. But one of the pioneering names in the industry is Ashley Stewart. The Secaucus, New Jersey–based company has been providing plus-size clothing since 1991.
Ashley Stewart sells a variety of clothing pieces, ranging from dresses to jeans and shoes. But the iconic American brand was on the brink of bankruptcy a little over four years ago. Find out how Ashley Stewart is climbing its way up the retail ladder with a bright and promising new business plan.
Ashley Stewart: Iconic Plus-Size Brand Makes a Comeback
Ashley Stewart has operated more than 89 stores across 22 states for more than a decade. It was opened after investors discovered a huge opportunity in the plus-size retail market. To this day, it has remained to be a beloved brand by women everywhere.
Aside from catering to women of all sizes, the brand has also been known to be one of the most culturally aware and diverse names in the retail industry. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of Ashley Stewart’s customers are black as the store’s first outlets began to boom in Brooklyn during the early nineties.
Bankruptcy and renovation
Ashley Stewart was not always on top of its game. The company filed for bankruptcy twice, once in 2010 and again in 2014. It was not until James Rhee stepped in as CEO when things started to once again pick up pace. According to Rhee, Ashley Stewart’s renowned success is thanks to “some pretty old-fashioned things in an innovative way.”
The 90th Ashley Stewart outlet is set to open its doors in Newark. This marks as the brand’s newest store since declaring bankruptcy back in 2014. According to executives, it will serve as a concept lab that connects New Jersey shoppers with Ashley Stewart shoppers around the country through social media.
Speaking of social media, much of the company’s new strategy in branding is centered around online promotion. Ashley Stewart’s Facebook page has garnered over 700,000 followers and counting. That means it is up by 40 percent in just a span of 12 months.
“If you’re in the plus-size business in a good, strong healthy way it’s a great business to be in,” said Marshal Cohen, an apparel industry analyst with research firm The NPD Group. “They want to wear skinny, tight athletic-inspired clothes. They want to wear bold print dresses. All the trends that are popular the plus-size consumer wants to wear.”
Plus-size clothing: one of the most lucrative businesses
Cohen adds that one of the best things about plus-size shoppers is that they always remain loyal to brands that continue to show an unwavering support for their own demographic. For Ashley Stewart, sizes have and always will start at 12 and go all the way up to a 26 in stores and a 36 online. Requests to make smaller sizes have been made, but for now, there seem to be no plans to expand the line.
According to reports, the newly revamped Ashley Stewart now has annual earnings of approximately $20 million and annual sales of approximately $180 million.