Target Australia… update

My blog post about Target Australia’s plus-size department created a huge stir and an incredible response. It was very clear that it wasn’t just me that was feeling dissatisfied with what is going on there. THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to write about your experiences, it helped me create a good snapshot of feedback and experiences to present to the team.

The original blog post was published on the 1st April. The next day (Good Friday), I received an email from Target Australia addressing my concerns, apologising for how we were all feeling and inviting me to meet with the Customer Service and Women’s Department plus-size buying team and technical designer.

I took Target up on their offer to meet and in late May enjoyed 3 1/2 hours with the team in Target Australia’s Melbourne CBD store. During the meeting, I was asked by the team to walk with them through the store and speak frankly about my impressions of what was on offer. To begin with I was rather concerned about sharing my concerns and observations too frankly as I was quite worried that it would land on deaf ears. To the Teams’ credit, it became clear within minutes that they WERE listening, and more importantly ASKING for honest critique and feedback. How refreshing!

We talked about how Target is sending mixed messages with the positioning and merchandising of their plus-size department, and with their marketing campaigns.  Let’s face it, it’s just not fashion we’re seeing in Target’s plus-size department.

9215088295966I had the opportunity to provide honest critique about the range, talk frankly with the team about the perception that curvy women have about Target’s mixed messages and to listen to their plan to move forward. It was apparent to me that they were already aware of the shortcomings of their range and marketing of it, and most importantly it was clear that they were LISTENING! This is a brilliant first step towards something positive.

I had spent a considerable amount of time preparing some data, images and a bit of a presentation with my findings, and I was pleasantly surprised that we had covered 95% of what I wanted to say before I’d even had a chance to pull it out! I emailed the team a copy of my data and presentation and they have reviewed it.

CONGRATULATIONS to the Target Australia women’s plus-size team and thank you for inviting me to meet with you. It was a very constructive session, and I look forward to the opportunity of working with you further on moving the Target Australia plus-size offerings to a more deserving position for the curvy girls of our Nation.

Stay tuned ladies, I won’t let this one go!

Love your shape!

Janine x

The shift is here…extended size ranges imminent

As you know, I’m passionate about ensuring every curvy woman knows not only what looks good on her, but where to find it. In my journey to help women “Love your shape!” I’ve worked closely with Australian plus-size designers and consulted with Retailers and plus-size Brands for years, helping them to understand their target market, developing their brand and encouraging them to market realistically and identifiably for best results.

My instinct has always been to push the boundaries and deservedly position plus-size fashion where it belongs – readily available in bricks & mortar stores/boutiques across our beautiful country, online and beyond!

In my past work as a wholesale agent for brands such as 17 Sundays, I’ve slogged across the countryside, samples in tow and visited hundreds of boutiques – only to discover that boutique after boutique are stocking the same labels as their competition across the street! Where is the variety? Where is the choice? I’ve marvelled at how some boutiques have managed to make a dollar whilst offering and competing with the same product. This just doesn’t make sense to me.  And not only that, but I’ve watched curvy customers walk straight past boutique doors, as they know that there is nothing for them there. What a missed opportunity!

In October 2014, IBISWorld released their report on the plus-size Industry stating the plus-size Industry is in the growth stage of its life cycle. Annual growth from 2010-2015 stands at 3.7%!! In simple terms, it’s the only retail sector with growth!

These are statistics you can’t ignore! Time for retailers to quit their complaining about how slow things are.. and open their doors to the curvy customer who has been ignored for far too long!

Now I’m not talking those great retailers who already stock plus-size fashion and extended size ranges, I’m talking about those boutiques that you and I walk past everyday, and we walk past them because we KNOW that there is NOTHING in there for us – they stock to a size 14-18 maximum (and we all know that those are not actual true PLUS size garments – just sized up from a mainstream size block!). Sigh.

I have a solid understanding of what the curvy customer wants and equally an understanding of what retailers’ challenges and rewards are, so it was only logical to put myself to work on making a change.

Over the past few months I’ve been busy busy with United Curves, a wholesale fashion agency I created exclusively for Australian Designer brands in sizes 12-26+. Now you might ask, why start at a size 12?  The answer is simple. I wanted to attract the businesses I am talking about above, the boutiques that would benefit immensely from extending their size ranges, as well as the already converted plus-size specialists.

UnitedCurvesWesbiteImage

I spent a lot of time considering my approach, it’s was logical that I would source Australian plus-size designers, and to date I’ve built up a suite of brands including, Beyond The Sea, Hope & Harvest, huudaverti, Sonsee Woman, Lisa Kerr Designs and Plus Maternity Australia, AND I have a waiting list of over 8 more labels.

The opportunities have come at us thick & fast, which is hugely exciting. In March I sat in the Head Office of one our major Australian Retailers, talking to them about these brands.  At the table were buyers and marketing representatives, and I was astounded at how well they knew their customer. Previously the feeling was that it was all about the $’s and not about the customer (which incidentally if you get it right DOES equal more sales!), but I digress.  I nearly fell off my chair when one of the ladies, the head of marketing, said “no Janine, we’ll be photographing the garments on different sized figures”… wait, WHAT?? I was so conditioned at having to debate with these companies about realistic & identifiable representation of garments that I almost launched into my spiel, but instead I was stopped in my tracks – wow that felt good 🙂 YES!

I paused, took a breath, and then asked if she could please repeat that? and she did! My face lit up and I said “Now, that is historic!”.  There was a lot of smiles, laughs and excitement as I explained the usual dilemma I had faced in the past and my joy at finally finding a retailer who get’s it! Seriously, I have spent over 7 years talking to the major retailers about how they market their wares (this one included incidentally), how to attract the curvy customer, how to make her happy… this is the first time that any major brand (apart from the pioneers like Hope&Harvest who have been realistically and identifiably marketing on real size bodies for their designs since forever) has actually got it! There is definitely a shift, and the success of the past few months has reinforced that.

Shortly you’ll be seeing some impressive changes in where you can buy some of these great Australian designer brands, the shift is happening, retailers are opening their doors and finally understanding the benefits of marketing  to, (instead of ignoring) over 50% of the nations women – who ARE curvy…. stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled.

I want to keep this shift moving and have decided to create a campaign to invite bricks & mortar stores nationwide to open their doors, extend their size ranges and usher us, the curvy customer through the doors.

I’ll need your help too – if we can create excitement, and more importantly education, we can create change.

Please feel free to call, email, facebook or post below your ideas on how we can work together to achieve this.

Love your shape!

Janine x