Daily Insights

Chico’s Is Going Under (Your Clothes)

By: Alizah Asif Farooqi | May 13, 2019

There’s a hole in the underwear business and Chico’s wants to fill it. The brand just soft-launched TellTale, a digital-first undergarments brand. After a series of store closings and sales dips, here’s why the undertaking could be a second chance for Chico’s.

TellTale’s website comes stocked with all the trimmings of its millennial-centric competitors: a minimalist aesthetic, earth tones, and two quizzes to find your perfect fit and your personality. Browsers can scroll through the brand’s Instagram reel at the bottom of the homepage, where users can share #mytelltale if it strikes their fancy.

But looks aren’t everything in the current specialty retail environment. The onslaught of Amazon and the collective threat of longtail and disruptor brands has sent brands into survival mode. In fact, traffic to desktop and mobile sites decreased by 21% since 2017. Category incumbents including Chico’s face an increasingly fragmented ecosystem of competitors vying for customer attention, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail. Indeed, it might be best for brands to go bold or go home if they want to stay afloat. Chico’s new undertaking, which touts “cuts, bolder colors and designs” that deeply contrast its parent companies and predecessors, could be a key move in differentiating the company from the crowd.

Despite a topsy-turvy couple of years in Gartner L2’s digital rankings, it’s clear that Chico’s isn’t going down without a fight. The brand sprang 34 spots from 2017’s ranking to get to its current spot in the upper Average category and was one of last year’s biggest winners. A relaunched website complete with persistent live chat within the main menu, Online Exclusives product badging on the grid page, and a simplified single-page checkout process were just some of the steps behind Chico’s upward crawl.

But the company will have to do more than just stand out to succeed. Given that Chico’s has not been able to shake the clingy and unflattering stigmas about its status as a hub for older women, connecting with millennials might be a stretch. Still, for a brand that could just as easily give up and sell out after 36 years, starting from the inside out could be the first step to transformation.