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Phase Eight chooses online launch for Studio 8 plus-sized range

Phase Eight has launched its new plus-sized fashion range Studio 8 through a standalone website.

This week the fashion retailer launched its new plus-sized brand Studio 8 which will start as an online initiative. The clothing line will also feature in concessions within House of Fraser, John Lewis and Debenhams in the coming weeks, but it will not appear in Phase Eight stores with the retailer deciding to sell Studio 8 purely online.

Speaking to Essential Retail, director of marketing and online trading at Phase Eight Louise Salt said there is not enough room in Phase Eight stores for the new clothing proposition.

"We’ve kept it digital for now," she said. “We want to keep the Phase Eight brand separate as we don’t really have the space in stores to do it justice.”

Salt said the retailer did not want to "squeeze" the new clothing range into existing stores, although the Studio 8 range may appear in stores in the future as part of the retailer’s strategic proposition.

She also said plus-sized clothing – similar to larger footwear sizes and maternity wear – sells well online. "Retailers find this challenging in physical stores because of space. The same with bridal and occasion wear – you can’t do everything, which is why online has become a key channel for other [clothing] areas."

The retailer worked with BT Expedite to create a completely separate website to its Phase Eight site – which was also developed by the vendor eight years ago.

Salt said having a separate website will make it easier for customers to shop. "The last thing we want is people browsing hundreds of products," she added. "We are proud of the fact it’s a brand set up by Phase Eight, but we’re doing this to make it easier to shop. And to make it easier to create a cohesive wardrobe collection."

BT Expedite has created the website in a mere three months using agile methodologies and an emphasis on making the website easy to navigate.

The website was designed to feel slightly different from Phase-Eight.com. Salt said Studio 8 has a more simplistic approach, with a black and white logo. "It’s quite contemporary and Scandinavian in feel."

The website is also responsive which Salt said was very important after it relaunched the Phase Eight website as responsive in January. Since then Phase Eight’s traffic from smartphones has gone up by 70% and its revenue and convergence on mobile has improved by 35% year on year. Smartphones and tablets now account for 60% of traffic, up ten percentage points before the relaunch, and Salt hopes Studio 8 will experience the same mobile benefits.

Phase Eight is seeing growth from offering online customers click & collect, but because Studio 8 is not available in stores the new brand will not feature click & collect as a delivery option.

"Delivery is another key focus for us and we’ve got to continue to build the proposition, and click & collect in Studio 8 I’m sure will come, but let’s walk before we can run," said Salt.

Salt also said online is completely changing the retail business. "Our customers are becoming far more multichannel and using online more than ever and we have to adapt to that."

She also said the customer is becoming much more demanding. "Customers, they don’t like queuing to pay any more, they don’t want to queue in the changing room and then at the till point, they want someone to take the payment right there."

"It’s about the web working for stores as well – not just multichannel running alongside each other."

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BT Expedite