Roaman’s Execs Share The Reinvention of Brand

May 26, 2011 1:44 AM  By

It’s hard to be hip when you’ve been around for 105 years. And if your brand specializes in plus-size apparel for mature women—historically not known for its fashion forwardness—it’s particularly challenging to stay relevant.

That’s why Roaman’s, part of the Redcats USA stable of catalogs, underwent a rebranding earlier this year. Blanca Vera, Roaman’s senior vice president/general brand manager, and Sue Beckett, vice president of marketing, shared the story in a keynote during the MCM Live show in New York on May 4.

Though financially strong, the $200 million merchant “had no part of the younger demographic,” Vera said. It needed to modernize—without alienating its core buyers.

To determine the future strategy of Roaman’s, they looked to its past—namely, company founder Evelyn Roaman.

An early catalog president’s letter from Roaman assured customers “Yes, I do know your problems…” The company promised fashions that were ladylike, stylish and creative.

Messaging in a 1956 catalog boasted of “50 years of service to the larger woman,” and “summer glamour in your size, priced low.” Roamans’ brand proposition was clear: “Evelyn promised customers they would look slimmer and save money,” Vera said.

To make the brand more appealing to younger customers, Roamans’ updated its logo and revamped the creative. For instance, it’s shooting the models and products a little differently to make the products seem trendier and sexier.

Specifically, Vera said, “we went after the hair and makeup” and posed models more seductively. Roaman’s also added some plus-size models—about 25% of its models are now in the size 12-16 range.

Messages such as “The tops you need to own—save $10” marry the fashion voice to value, says Vera. And leveraging customer content in the catalog has resulted in better conversion rates, she said. (As a nod to its mature customers, copy appears in a sizeable font.)

Roamans’ strength was its catalog, Beckett noted, but the company had to get on board with new and emerging channels, such as social media and mobile. The company had started a mobile program two years ago, but “it really wasn’t good—it wasn’t the same experience” as on the website,” she noted. So Roamans’ relaunched its mobile channel in late April, Beckett said.

And it’s embraced social media wholeheartedly. Through its Facebook page, Beckett said, Roaman’s can communicate in the brand’s voice, while a new blog includes content that “addresses the brand attributes of style and value.”

Roaman’s has also been improving its videos. It began doing videos in the fall of 2009 starting with the “behind the scenes” footage of fashion shoots and shows, Vera said, but those did little to enhance the product presentation. When it went to the runway format with the videos, “suddenly shoppers could see the back of an outfit and how it moves.”

The next step, Vera said is “understanding video content and its role in conversion and brand recognition.” Roaman’s is also “screen testing people in the company to be style experts and the face of the brand,” she noted.

The changes have boosted Roaman’s web business: As a percentage of sales it’s seen a 9% year-over-year increase, Beckett said. The average order value is up, thanks to trendier shoes and accessories.

The plus-size market has come a long way in recent years: The conventional wisdom in the fashion industry used to be that plus-size women can wait a year for on-trend fashion. “Well, she’s not waiting today,” Vera said.