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Walmart Buys ELOQUII – A Smart Move to Address an Under-served Market

Walmart continues its transformation into a true omnichannel retailer with the purchase of ELOQUII, a well-positioned digitally native brand competing in the $21 billion and growing plus-sized market.

The brand will join other recent Walmart acquisitions like Moosejaw, Bonobos and ModCloth which serve their customers in both the online and offline world but find their roots squarely in the e-commerce space.

ELOQUII was launched in 2011 by The Limited but was a short-lived experiment that was shut down a mere 18 months later. The brand relaunched as an independent, vertically-integrated e-commerce business. It reaches the growing and under-served plus sized women’s market, which is defined as sizes 14 and above. This market represents a huge portion of US consumers with nearly half of American women qualifying under this definition. Yet, it remains particularly under-served by US retailers, particularly from a physical store standpoint.  While market share data is difficult to obtain in this category (primarily due to a clear definition of what constitutes “plus size”), Walmart is the largest competitor in the space by virtue of sheer size, followed by Ascena which operates several specialty formats dedicated to this customer. Others have recognized the opportunity, with Kohl’s announcing just last week the introduction of their EVRI brand.

Andy Dunn, former founder of Bonobos and now Senior VP of digital consumer brands for Walmart U.S. noted in his blog post, “We know they’re looking not just for basics, but also for on-trend pieces that allow them to express their individuality. This is a segment of the market that has been historically underserved and neglected. We believe she deserves better. Today we stand in solidarity with her by acquiring a brand whose sole focus is to exceed her expectations.” ELOQUII CEO Mariah Chase, her executive team and the company’s 100 employees will join Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce division, reporting to Dunn.

While some of Walmart’s prior acquisitions in the digital space (including Bonobos) have been headscratchers in terms of understanding the fit between their business and Walmart’s core consumer, this one makes tremendous sense. No one is better positioned than Walmart to reach this consumer and ELOQUII’s addition brings talent and a deep understanding of the target.

Again, Walmart shows that it is not standing still.

By Neil Stern

Neil Stern for Forbes

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