Dress Barn collaborates with designers for new fashion-forward line

In an effort to revamp its image, Dress Barn (NASDAQ:ASNA) is teaming up with fashion designers to create new dress lines while also changing the look of its retail stores.

The Dressbar, as the new designer division will be called, will appear as shops in shops starting on March 4. It will also be sold online and in one exclusive pop-up shop in New York City.

Starting with the dresses as a number one priority—the highest market share of the company's business—the brand is working with designers Carmen Marc Valvo, Heidi Weisel and Michael Smaldone of Adrianna Papell, reported Women's Wear Daily.

Each designer is creating six to 10 exclusive dresses, priced between $42 and $70. Dress Barn considered 25 designers in total.

"We decided on those we felt understood the body of a woman in her 40s, someone who had a personality that customers could relate to and would be able to get out and connect with customers," Jeffrey Gerstel, president of Dress Barn, told Women's Wear Daily. "We wanted a connection. They will make store appearances and appear on the website, telling their stories to the customers."

In another collaboration, Tuleste is creating a line of jewelry to complement the dresses.

Dress Barn currently operates 830 retail locations and is looking to raise the profile and productivity of its dresses. The typical Dress Barn customer is in her 40s and wears a size 12. The name has not been synonymous with flattering, but the retailer hopes to change that. 

Dress Barn is owned by Ascena Retail Group, which also runs Lane Bryant, Maurices, Catherines and Justice. Similarly to Dress Barn, Maurices has been actively expanding its omnichannel initiatives, while also focusing on opening 16 new stores.

Although Ascena has had slowing profits in the way of physical retail sales, the company has been winning big with online sales. Last fall, the company reported that e-commerce, up 13 percent for the quarter, now accounts for 10 percent of the company's overall sales.

The Dressbar will start with a rollout in 25 Dress Barn stores, followed by hundreds more over time. The specific brand will be distinctive from the rest of the store and iPads will be on display to help shoppers and associates learn about products.

For more:
-See this Women's Wear Daily article (subscription)

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