Boomer Women Get Chico-fy’d

Discussion
Apr 15, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Chico’s loves older women.

The retail chain has built its business catering to the needs of mature women and the baby boomers who shop in its stores love the attention. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Chico’s has reported an increase of at least 35 percent in profit and at least an 11 percent increase in same-store sales for 28 out of the last 31 quarters.

So what is the chain’s secret?

First, it produces clothes that are trendy but don’t make forty-somethings appear as though they’re suffering from second childhood syndrome. Everything about Chico’s is about
making its customers look and, in a quite a few cases, feel better.

Pat Murphy Kerstein, chief merchandising officer for Chico’s said, “We always say we have to ‘Chico-fy’ everything. We’re always making sure the garment is proportioned for her,
fitted for her. She never wants to look ridiculous.”

One Chico’s shopper, Joanne Byrd, told the Post-Dispatch she likes buying clothes there because most don’t require special laundering care and they are made to fit women
her age.

She also likes Chico’s sizing chart, which runs in sizes from zero to three.

“Not many people my age can go into a store and say, ‘I’ll take a size two,'” she said. “The psychology of it is just great.”

Moderator’s Comment: What are the keys to attracting and keeping female baby boomers as customers? Are there specific examples (Chico’s or others) you
can cite to demonstrate a retailer’s attention to the needs of this consumer group?

According to NPD Group, women classified as baby boomers spent $30.8 billion on clothing and accessories last year.
George Anderson – Moderator

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13 Comments on "Boomer Women Get Chico-fy’d"


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Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

From comments written here and in almost every discussion I’ve seen about the retailer, the ingredient they seem to use that many other retailers miss is a stringent focus on the customer. What kind of fabrics and designs does the customer want to wear comfortably, look good in, and take care of? A very smart retailer because everything they do, from store location, design, sales personnel personality, and in-store amenities seem to be directed towards making it easy for their customer to shop there. Someone in the chain is actually listening to the shopper and thinking like one.

Anna Murray
Guest
Anna Murray
15 years 10 months ago

I love this story. I think the clothing industry is brutal on women. It helps perpetuate an unrealistic and unachievable body image. It’s age-ist and sexist and it’s about time it changed! Hooray for Eileen Fisher, J. Jill and Chico’s. Middle aged and older women want to look fashionable, not dowdy. It used to be that if you couldn’t look good in the clothes at your average mall, your choice was granny-shoes and a muu muu.

George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
15 years 10 months ago
For many years we’ve talked about targeting a marketplace in retailing. Chico’s has done exactly that! They offer the right merchandise at the right prices in stores that are attractive and comfortable to shop. They provide great customer service to targeted baby-boomer customers who have been starved for great service from department stores, mass merchants, and other specialty stores. While Chico’s uses technology to manage the business, they don’t place technology in front of serving the customer. Let’s see if I have this right…Chico’s revenues have jumped from $155 million to $1.1 billion over the last five years with a substantial increase in profits in 28 of the last 31 quarters. Seems like they know something that a good many other retailers have missed. While some other retailers have decided to jump into the fray, I’m not so sure they will have the kind of success Chico’s has had and will likely continue to have in the future. This is a company that understands their customer and does an extraordinary job of paying attention to… Read more »
Mellanie True Hills
Guest
Mellanie True Hills
15 years 10 months ago

Chico’s makes it EASY for Boomer Women to look and feel great, with almost endless mix-and-match combinations and the accessories to pull everything together. And Chico’s clothes travel beautifully — no wrinkles, no steaming.

As one who helps Boomer women remove stress from their lives, Chico’s is on my most recommended list. Chico’s truly understands their time-starved customers.

Lyn Kenady
Guest
Lyn Kenady
15 years 10 months ago
I have been a fanatic Chico’s shopper for many years, and agree with many of the comments about their excellent customer service/attention, appropriate fashion sense, and compelling loyalty programs. Many other women’s (and children’s) retailers have jumped on the “incentive” bandwagon, offering rich discounts and savings on a monthly basis. They keep their best customers coming back again and again, spending more than they normally would to hit the next “discount” level. It is a model that works well in women’s apparel and many other retailers are now giving Chico’s a run for their money by offering richer discounts on a less expensive product selection. Having shopped at Chico’s for over 8 years, I have seen some warning signs that they may be nearing their peak. For many early Chico’s customers, one of the attractions of shopping there was being a “fashion leader,” and not looking like everyone else. Now that Chico’s is expanding everywhere, the potential to see five other women in the office wearing the same outfit is a reality. It’s not new… Read more »
Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 10 months ago

There is another good example within the retail apparel industry — J. Jill. This is a small chain that is going to have tremendous growth.

They are a “niche” retailer like Chico’s but address another subject of the women’s market — the need for more casual clothes for older women who may not be able to squeeze into the same fashions as their daughters — nonetheless, women who have money to spend and want to look fashionable. It’s a store worth watching. They also do an excellent job with their catalogs, which are mailed out quite frequently. However, the catalogs don’t exist to cannibalize store sales but to complement them and really drive shoppers to the stores.

I’d like to see someone come up with the same idea for boomer men.

Traci Ellis
Guest
Traci Ellis
15 years 10 months ago
I too love Chico’s. But, I agree with Carol that they are going to have to work on their size 3 fit in order to appeal to a broader base of women who don’t fit the “plus size” market, but still find themselves squeezed out of a lot of Chico’s styles. I’m a solid size 14 and I often find their size 3 is too small. Their customer service is superb and I love the “hip, but mature” ambiance. I don’t think Gap and others are going to be able to touch what Chico’s has created. I’m not apt to spend a lot of time shopping for my clothes in the same place my 15 year old shops and which so obviously caters to the teenage and young adult market when I feel so “at home” in Chico’s. Having said all of that, there are numerous times when I just can’t rationalize paying $69.00 for a cute pair of capris to wear to a summer barbecue, when I can get “cute” for $20 at TJ… Read more »
Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 10 months ago

Look, Chico’s has done a great job and was ahead of the curve, so their ability to capture and retain loyalty is good. There are a few other, catalog-heavy competitors who are well-positioned to give them a run for their money, such as J. Jill, Coldwater Creek, as well as the standbys: Lands’ End and Eddie Bauer. All of these have a broader range of sizes, and they are developing more bricks and mortar outlets, but again, Chico’s beat them to the retail.

The good news is that this market is, and has been, neglected for so long that I feel certain there is room for more competition without any of them suffering unduly.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

Rupa makes an excellent point (about Chico’s use of color). Their concept was right for the times before the times hit in terms of making older-but-not-“over” women feel vibrant and like there is a lot more living to do. Chico’s also does a great job of making women feel as though they are part of an exclusive club of mature-but-stylish women. The new encroachment from Gap, Abercrombie, and recently-launched private labels shouldn’t pose a serious threat since they still haven’t been able to keep up with H&M and Zara in terms of fresh and quick (in their CORE demos). Only one suggestion for Chico’s — they’re going to have to up those sizes to accommodate more women. That “3” sometimes equates to a 10-12 (rather than a 14) and I hear that is leaving quite a few women behind for their more constructed garments (not everyone is into drawstrings and elastic)!

Elly Valas
Guest
Elly Valas
15 years 10 months ago

As an industry activist, a boomer AND a committed Chico-ette, I still see clear sailing for the chain. Yes, it’s the colors, and the sizing, and the styling, and the loyalty program…but more than anything, it’s the attentive service that differentiates Chico’s from its competition.

I’ll watch the Gap and others who suddenly wake up and try to focus on us, but I doubt whether I’ll be noticed in the midst of ‘teens and ‘tweens vying for the attention of the few associates in those venues.

At Chico’s, I feel important and special every time I shop there. I buy more, spend more and leave with more accessories than anywhere else I shop.

If only their shoe selection was a little broader, I’d be in retail heaven.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

From my experience, they don’t need brick and mortar. Just a catalog. And put a shoe on the cover. Bingo! I think it works about 87% of the time. No wonder I rush to the mailbox and try to trash the catalogs first.

Rupa Ranganathan
Guest
Rupa Ranganathan
15 years 10 months ago

Bueno, Chico’s seems to be on the mark when it comes to Boomer Women. I would like to add, that in addition to their smart positioning of sizes and shapes, they also seem to have a strong visual identity in terms of color and vibrancy. And somehow, all of this echoes “ethnic chic” that offers choices in many textures and colors both suitable and familiar to multicultural women. Common sense seems to be a big ingredient in their retail marketing strategy.

Mark H. Goldstein
Guest
Mark H. Goldstein
15 years 10 months ago

Chico’s found and expanded this niche while everyone else was fast asleep. They put the money into a superb loyalty program, executed at easy to access locations and kept the merchandise fresh. In the absence of competition, if you were a ‘Chico’s lady’ there wasn’t anywhere else to go.

That’s about to change. Chico’s is about to find competition everywhere as at the same time just about every other merchant has ‘discovered’ their niche. Like the plus size business, it’s going to get a lot more competitive…Chico’s biggest challenge is in the next year. That said, because of their loyalty program, customers won’t defect as quickly, and I remain a fan!!

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