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J.Jill CEO on Getting With the Times: We Hadn’t ‘Done Our Customer Justice’

J.Jill is the latest apparel retailer striving for a more size-inclusive shopping experience.

“We did not have sizes above XL in our stores,” president and CEO Claire Spofford said in an interview. “And so, we saw an opportunity to meet an unmet need in the marketplace. In order to do it really well, we wanted to speak to a variety of customers and other people who aren’t customers [or] are less familiar with the brand, but who may be shopping in the space.”

Launched Thursday, the chain’s new “Welcome Everybody” campaign aims to narrow the gap on a shopping experience that previously forced consumers looking for certain sizes to make their purchases online. While J.Jill has long offered sizes 0-28, or XS-4X, customers visiting one of the retailer’s 249 stores nationwide will now be able to check out sizes XS-2X (0-20) in person. Those looking for 3X-4X (26-28) apparel will still have to settle for browsing

“We hadn’t really done our customer justice in terms of the way we were managing that assortment and the way we’re supporting it with marketing and letting her know that it was there,” Spofford said. 

As part of the updated experience, J.Jill now integrates straight and plus sizes instead of relegating the ranges to separate racks and areas of the store. It’s also tweaking prices so that consumers are paying the same amount for the same garment regardless of size. Consumers can expect to see J.Jill campaigns highlight models and influencers with a variety of body shapes and sizes to better reflect its offerings.

The chain will showcase models and influencers across a range of sizes and body types to better show its offerings across the main J.Jill brand as well as the elevated Pure Jill line, activewear-focused Fit, and Wherever, the travel and work-minded collection.

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“Women told us loud and clear: ‘Everyone looks good in different styles. Show me clothing that fits my body, my preferences, and my lifestyle,'” Spofford said. “These women know who they are and what they’re looking for: thoughtful designs that reflect their individuality and desire to have an impact and joy in life.”

The specialty retailer, which also offers garments in petite and tall and targets the 45-and-up consumer, didn’t think the plus-size customer was aware of her options at J.Jill, whether that was for sizing or fit.

“When we talk about inclusive sizing, we mean truly inclusive sizing. So it’s not just adding plus sizes to an assortment that didn’t have them before. We did have them, but we didn’t have [the same support that we are undertaking now in] marketing,” Spofford said, adding that J.Jill wants to make “sure she understands how great our fit is.”

Research that started last year with thousands of existing and prospective customers showed that most consumers say relatability and representation are important when shopping for apparel. The majority believe most retailers failed to meet this need, particularly among plus-size shoppers. They want retailers to use images of women they could relate to age- and fit-wise. The plus-size cohort was found to favor timelessness over trends, research showed.

The “Welcome Everybody” initiative includes a partnership with style expert and digital creator Rochelle Johnson of Beauticurve, a longtime advocate for body-positive fashion.