Charlotte Russe Holding is sweet on young women's clothing. The mall-based retailer operates about 500 Charlotte Russe clothing stores in some 45 US states and Puerto Rico. The stores offer value-priced ($40 max) trendy apparel, shoes, and accessories for women in their twenties and teens. Most merchandise carries the company's proprietary labels (Charlotte Russe, Refuge, and blu Chic). Stores have averaged about 7,100 sq. ft. but the company is moving to a boutique-based 5,000 sq. ft. layout with several "shops" each featuring a specific trend that changes every month or so. Founded in 1975, Charlotte Russe is owned by investment firm Advent International.
Change in Company Type
Advent, a buyout firm that specializes in mid-market companies, took Charlotte Russe private in a deal valued at $380 million in 2009. Advent's other apparel retail investments include Lululemon Athletica, and the UK fashion group New Look.
Advent recruited Jenny Ming, former president of Old Navy to grow Charlotte Russe. The company began rolling out its new smaller format in late 2010 with plans to open about 30 stores a year in the near term while moving into more upscale malls. The change, along with updating the company logo and installing an in-house design team headquartered in San Francisco, is intended to simplify the shopping experience. Charlotte Russe hopes that by putting together trendy looks in separate areas rather than just having merchandise grouped by type throughout the store, its shoppers will buy more complete outfits. It is also stocking a wider range of sizes and fits to accommodate shoppers into their late twenties. The smaller footprint of the new stores will allow the company to boost its annual sales per square foot from $220 closer to the industry norm of $1,000.
The young women's apparel retailer is also looking more toward mobile and social media to connect with its clientele. In fall 2012 it partnered with Fluid Inc., a digital agency and e-commerce consultancy to revamp its website. The new site is more deeply integrated with Facebook, allowing shoppers to comment on product pages. – less