As the retail community prepares for the upcoming holiday shopping season, online women’s retailer Dia & Co. is mobilizing the nation’s plus-size boutiques to serve a customer who’s been left out in the cold.
According to co-founding CEO Nadia Boujarwah, plus-size shoppers have been disproportionately impacted by this year’s widespread retail lockdown. With many physical stores shuttered or operating at limited capacity, consumers in need of a wider array of sizes have been faced with fewer options than ever. Internal tracking and analysis at Dia, which sells women’s accessories and plus-size clothing in sizes 14-32, reveals that nearly 30 percent of national specialty retailers serving the plus-size market have been closed since the pandemic struck. Smaller stores have likely faced similar fates, or worse.
As the fashion sector gears up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday—traditionally the biggest shopping holidays of the year—Boujarwah is bringing together brick-and-mortars from across the country for a web-based event dubbed the Dia Holiday Market. “It’s a program for small businesses in the plus-size community—true independent boutiques like the mom-and-pop shops on Main Streets across the country,” she told Sourcing Journal.
The event will allow retailers to present their products and tell their stories through their own online “shops,” selling to consumers across the U.S. during a time when local foot traffic is limited or non-existent. “We want them each to have their own unique look and feel,” she added.
“It’s an incredibly challenging time to be a business owner—and certainly a female business owner who serves an underserved customer,” Boujarwah said. The marketplace is an opportunity for her company to “pay it forward.”
Dia & Co. began taking applications from boutiques last week, with submissions officially closing on Friday. So far, the group has received more than three dozen inquiries. The Dia Holiday Market is set to open its proverbial doors on Nov. 17, a week ahead of the month’s biggest online and in-person sales. “We certainly want to start before Small Business Saturday and in time to really give them as much of the holiday selling season as possible,” Boujarwah said. The platform will remain open until the beginning of January.
A wide range of clothing and accessories will be available from boutique partners, who will each be tasked with fulfilling their own orders. While Dia & Co. has not mandated that retailers adhere to specific promotions, she expects to see competitive pricing across offerings as partners look to recoup revenue lost this year.
While Boujarwah said that many plus-size shoppers historically prefer the experience of shopping in person and trying on clothing before buying, “there are a lot of benefits to her shopping online,” especially amid the current retail climate. There’s the issue of safety from infection, along with “selection, price transparency, and the simple logistical reality of the fact that a lot of women don’t live in places where a brick-and-mortar experience possible.”
As an online-only player, Boujarwah said that Dia & Co. has seen the shift toward e-commerce coming for a while, which is why she and partner Lydia Gilbert banked on starting a web-based business in the first place. “I do think the last year in particular has been pretty stark,” she said. “I think the sum total of it is a fairly dramatic channel shift.”