Plus-size womenswear brand Hear Us Roar expanded into the US over the weekend by way of a partnership with expansion advisory firm Decentra.
The business has built a new, localised website for the US and signed contracts with over 95 per cent of its designers to be their exclusive stockist in the US market. This will see around 30 Australian designers enter the US, its second biggest market after Australia.
“We’ve had [the e-commerce site] there as a bit of a test run for people to look at it if they want, but now we’re giving them free shipping and free returns so it means very little risk for them to get the product to their homes,” founder and chief executive of Hear Us Roar Blaise McCann told Inside Retail.
McCann says there are increased costs associated with entering the US, but the size of the opportunity makes the added effort worthwhile. The plus-size fashion market in the US is significantly larger than in Australia, she notes.
“It’s a US$25 billion market in the US, in comparison to a $1 billion market here in Australia,” McCann said.
“If you run a Facebook ad in Australia with our demographics you might get over a million people, if you’re lucky. If you run the same ad in the US, you get 88 million people. The opportunity is huge.”
McCann attributes this disparity primarily to the greater number of plus-size shoppers in the US, but she says the North American market is also more accepting of plus-size figures than Australia.
“We have a real stigma against plus-size here,” McCann said.
A unique experience
Hear Us Roar is taking a digital-first approach to its US expansion, but McCann says she is exploring a number of offline experiences to bridge the gap between customers and the brand – similar to the styling pop-ups it offers in Australia.
“Alongside our retail offering is that sense of empowerment that we offer the women [who shop with us] who probably haven’t had access to fashion like we have, and probably haven’t had access to anyone to show them how to style themselves because they can’t buy from most stores in Australia,” she said.
“It’s a unique experience for our particular customer base.”
Meanwhile, Hear Us Roar continues to evolve its styling services. It currently is hosting a pop-up on a rooftop in Melbourne in partnership with Naked Wines and Art Series Hotel Group.
The pop-up, which runs from July 15-21, aims to “bring you the best in plus-size Australian designers and Australian wine”, a promotional statement says.
“We decided we would take the best parts about our pop-ups, which is the customers that know about us and want to get styled, and put it into a more closed environment, and offer it by appointment rather than having it open-slather,” McCann said.
Customers pay $149 for the styling session, which is redeemable on product, and receive one-on-one advice on building a wardrobe from a stylist.
Hear Us Roar is not the first fashion retailer to offer styling services to its customers, but it may be the first to do so on a rooftop, and in partnership with a wine business.
“Normally we work with landlords of shopping centres and we pop up in retail spaces, but personally I think that is dying in the way traditional retail has been,” McCann said.
“Unless a shopping centre has a real pull outside of it just being a shop, it’s just not as lucrative.”
And if the concept proves to be successful in Melbourne, shoppers could soon see it in cities like New York, Chicago or Boston.