Growing a Plus-Size eCommerce Empire with Plus by Design’s Danielle Malconian (episode 490)

Danielle Malconian is the CEO at Vikki Vi and Plus by Design. She started Plus by Design as an online fashion store selling to the Plus size market in 2001 and took over the plus size fashion brand Vikki Vi in 2008, wholesaling to both Plus by Design and other retailers. Across wholesale and their Shopify store the combined revenue is now $1.5million annually. 

Danielle Malconian Plus by Design on eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast

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Dive in: 

[05:28] Vikki Vi brand – classic, loyal, professional, customer. 
[08:47] Customers value choice, but struggle with availability. 
[11:29] Scaling up clothing sizes requires thoughtful fit. 
[16:34] Maximizing customer loyalty through various strategies discussed. 
[17:14] Taking loyalty for granted, embracing VIP program. 
[19:31] Danielle’s Top Tips! 

Focus on Plus-Size Fashion 

Danielle’s dedication to plus-size fashion is rooted in her experience managing the plus-size department at Nordstrom, where she gained valuable insights into the unique needs of plus-size consumers. Recognizing the market’s lack of high-quality, fashionable options for plus-size individuals, she established Plus by Design to serve this underserved demographic through both direct-to-consumer sales via a Shopify store and wholesaling to other retailers. Her business model aims to provide long-lasting, stylish clothing directly to consumers globally and seeks to influence the wider fashion industry by partnering with other retailers. 

Product Quality and Right Fit 

Fabric choice and garment fit are critical to the success of plus-size fashion. Danielle selects a blend of fabrics for her clothing line, ensuring that the garments drape attractively and enhance the body shape of plus-size individuals. This meticulous attention to the quality of materials and the fit of each piece is essential, especially in an eCommerce context where customers cannot try on items before purchasing. Prioritizing these aspects boosts customer satisfaction and also reduces the likelihood of returns. This addresses common challenges in online retail and meets the specific needs of the target market effectively. 

Expanding Reach with Wholesale 

Danielle says their wholesale strategy is an important part of expanding her brand’s reach beyond direct-to-consumer sales. Key to her strategy is developing relationships with other retailers who are interested in offering high-quality plus-size clothing. She noted the importance of networking and building connections with experienced salespeople who have established relationships with stores, which can facilitate the introduction and distribution of her products. This focus on strategic networking and leveraging industry connections shows Plus by Design’s proactive approach to growing its wholesale segment. 

Online Retail and Customer Experience 

Danielle addresses the mixed impact of the shift from physical retail to online stores on plus-size consumers. While online platforms provide a wider selection of products, making it easier for plus-size individuals to find clothes that fit and suit their taste, they lack the immediacy and personal interaction of physical stores. The absence of the ability to try on clothes before buying can detract from customer satisfaction and increase the likelihood of returns. This presents a significant opportunity for online retailers to innovate and enhance their virtual shopping experiences. By improving certain eCommerce aspects, online stores can better cater to the needs of plus-size consumers, potentially increasing satisfaction and loyalty. 

Building and Leveraging Customer Loyalty 

It’s important to build and leverage customer loyalty in eCommerce, particularly within niche markets like plus-size fashion. At Plus by Design, Danielle says they use engaging content, active social media interaction, and community-centric activities to build on customer loyalty. For Danielle, it’s important to recognize and reward loyal customers. This not only strengthens long-term relationships but also enhances the lifetime value of each customer. Her approach is especially crucial in niche markets, where customized experiences and targeted product offerings can impact customer loyalty and satisfaction, ultimately driving repeat business and sustainable growth. 

eCommerce Book Top Tip

Commerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Email Marketing

Tool Top Tip

Carbon Top Tip

  • Like Plus by Design, you can reduce your carbon footprint by selling durable clothing designed to last for years, rather than seasonal items that end up in landfills. This promotes sustainability in fashion.

Interview Links

*Thank you to Jody and Mark of Inventory Planner by Sage for the guest introduction! 

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