Ashley Stewart Vendor

Ashley Stewart Vendor

How to Sell to Ashley Stewart Stores and Become a Ashley Stewart Vendor

Joseph Sitt recognized an underserved market: high-end fashion for professional, curvier women. To meet that need, he established Ashley Stewart.

Rachel WaldenCranston, 44, finds comfort and safety among her peers at plus-sized retailers like Target. There she feels accepted and free from size-based bullying and shame.


1. Determine Your Target Market

Ashley Stewart stands apart from many retail and consumer goods (CG) companies by forgoing investments in consumer data analytics technologies for more than two decades, yet still managed to prosper by placing consumers first and treating them like “high-value people.” According to CEO James Rhee, Ashley Stewart achieved this success through prioritizing customer care over technology usage.

That ethos has guided the company, which offers plus-size women’s clothing both online and at stores in Brooklyn, from its humble origins all the way to national expansion. Although initially its customer base consisted of 70 to 80% black customers, its popularity among all women is evident today.

Ashley Stewart recognized this strength, so they launched contests and events aimed at strengthening relationships with consumers in new ways. Their #AshleyCollegeTour program sent retailers’ merchandisers to urban and historically black colleges like Florida A&M University and Temple to host financial workshops with female students. Furthermore, Ashley Stewart hosts their “Finding Ashley Stewart” competition every year where local women demonstrate their fashion sense while sharing their stories in hopes of becoming brand ambassadors for Ashley Stewart.

Ashley Stewart takes great care in cultivating relationships through social media. Their Ashley TV platform showcases trends and events while their Instagram feed showcases curvier women showing off their personal styles. Ashley Stewart has also taken an active part in raising breast cancer awareness while supporting future generations of women through its #SheDidThat campaign.

As part of their goal to strengthen their omnichannel offering, Ashley Stewart recently announced an integration with Amperity’s customer data and identity platform. This integration will allow Ashley Stewart to gain more insight into its customers, such as purchase histories and cross-channel interactions; providing personalized recommendations or single page checkout on mobile websites which reduce shopping cart abandonment rates.

2. Identify Your Competition

As part of your research, identify companies selling similar products. Review their websites, social media profiles and customer reviews to gauge how well they’re marketing themselves. Visit some stores of these businesses in person so you can witness first-hand their setup as well as products sold.

Make use of this data to compile a list of competitors. Once you have one, study each brand to understand what makes them distinctive, which can help develop and refine your own brand and improve product quality. It will also allow you to learn from past mistakes made by competitors – which may prevent you from repeating them yourself!

Your competitors could include brick-and-mortar businesses or online stores that provide similar products; or companies offering these same types of goods but outside your market area – known as potential or future competitors; it is wise to keep an eye out on any such potential or future competitors in case they decide to enter it.

Ashley Stewart recently unveiled its inaugural “extended” pop-up store at Dolphin Mall, one of South Florida’s premier outlet shopping centers. Ashley Stewart worked with Leap, an organization which provides brands with turnkey omnichannel retail platforms, to open its location.

This store will host a contest designed to identify local women who best represent its values, such as kindness, leadership and strength. Winners will be highlighted on its website and social channels.

Ashley Stewart has announced their 2020 initiatives will include The Finding Ashley Stewart Tour and #AshleyCollegeTour, in collaboration with multi-disciplinary comedian Loni Love – winner of Gracie Awards – to promote fashion collections and social activism initiatives.

3. Create a Marketing Plan

Ashley Stewart was once on the brink of bankruptcy. Its once-thriving stores were shutting down; its corporate headquarters lacked WiFi; and its online shop, an unusual effort at an otherwise cost-cutting chain, suffered under fast inventory turnover and the constant threat of insolvency that had created such an uncertain environment within their company.

Reviving this retailer is a testament to the power of loyalty and community engagement, as well as to ordinary people coming together behind values transcending ideology such as dignity, empathy and hope. When we rally behind these things, great things follow – including profits.

Even during Ashley Stewart’s most challenging moments, many women still make her brand part of their lives by visiting stores to purchase prom dresses or lunch dates with friends. Many visit weekly or daily; Newark store has even installed a karaoke machine, while Harlem hosts monthly fashion shows; in New York City there’s even an in-house beauty salon and barbershop where customers can receive haircuts and motivational talks from employees.

Ashley Stewart offers an unparalleled shopping experience at its new concept store at Springfield Avenue Marketplace in Newark, allowing visitors to explore its carefully curated assortment of brands. Additionally, it will feature a social lounge where shoppers can relax, meet fellow shoppers and watch live performances. It will also serve as the platform for an online search that will award the title “Ashley Stewart Divas 2017”, with winners to be revealed during a national tour that begins shortly after store’s grand opening and ends in September.

4. Set Up a Showroom

Ashley Stewart stores are more than just places for retail therapy; they’re experiences where customers feel welcomed and appreciated. From Newark with its karaoke machine to Harlem with its monthly fashion show, women who visit regularly are treated to an experience that balances fellowship and self-affirmation – not uncommonly seen are friends meeting up over coffee or cocktails after work or before heading out for an exciting night on the town!

Rhee says Ashleys’ culture runs deep, even into its employees: employees are known as Ashleys and encouraged to speak amongst themselves as though they were sisters. Additionally, this culture helps the brand stand apart from competitors; its 89 stores focus on selling bold and unapologetic styles – something it often urges customers to join via its social media pages.

But its revival was far from certain five years ago when it was in bankruptcy court and losing money by the millions. Past owners and leaders had lost sight of its true mission.

Rhee took over as CEO in 2013 with one goal in mind: placing black women at the heart of its narrative. That focus has manifested into financial empowerment workshops at urban and historically black colleges as well as its Finding Ashley Stewart contest, inviting women across cities including Richmond; Virginia; Newark NJ; Philadelphia PA; Atlanta and Brooklyn to compete for cash prizes and job offers.

5. Visit Stores

Ashley Stewart is a women’s clothing brand founded in 1991 that sells plus-size apparel and accessories in over 100 stores and online. Their goal is to empower all sizes of women by helping them feel strong, while supporting local and national charities with its giving back program.

Customers are invited to take part in events that promote inclusivity, such as the company’s annual Self-Love Campaign and “Finding Ashley Stewart” contests, which aim to help women lift each other up rather than tear each other down. Julianna Pillot, community engagement specialist of the company states, “Our aim is to foster pride and solidarity amongst each other – let’s lift each other up rather than criticizing.”

This weekend in Newark marks the first store since emerging from bankruptcy for CurvyKidz, and CEO James Rhee says that it serves as a concept lab. Rhee says they will leverage what made the original store successful: connecting with underserved market of curvier black women through social media and ecommerce while tapping into its original asset – connecting with curvier, black women – while using social media and ecommerce channels to reach new shoppers.

As a result, their social media following has grown by 40 percent year over year, while their ecommerce business continues to experience exponential growth. Furthermore, this retailer is experimenting with ways to make its traditional neighborhood stores more social and community orientated.

Wyng, a provider of digital customer acquisition solutions, has helped the company design a series of contests designed to encourage engagement and generate qualified leads. Within these contests, they offer prizes like gift cards and apparel items as incentives for voters who select their favorite photos as competition entries.

Step-by-step training on how to sell to major retailers

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In this training, I will discuss some of the things to think about when approaching a retailer to sell your products and become a vendor. Hope it helps! 🙂

Karen Waksman,
Retail MBA

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And…if you like this training, you will love these new short training sessions as well! Click on the links provided to watch and grow your consumer product business TODAY!

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How to Sell to Ashley Stewart Stores