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Nadia Boujarwah, CEO of Dia&Co: Plus-size shoppers were first movers on buying clothing online

“The overwhelming feedback we hear from our community is that brick-and-mortar is a place of anxiety.”

Dia&Co CEO Nadia Boujarwah onstage at Code Commerce Keith MacDonald

In the face of constrained supply and few distribution channels, plus-size women were quick to move online to shop for clothes, according to the CEO of plus-size e-commerce company Dia&Co, Nadia Boujarwah.

“This is absolutely a digital community,” Boujarwah said at Recode’s Code Commerce event in New York City. “The plus-size shopper has been online for a long time and moved into e-commerce for apparel much more quickly than straight-size women did because most options are online. Even for most traditional retailers, the vast majority of assortments for plus exist online only.”

Dia&Co works with hundreds of brands that offer plus-size clothing either through a subscription service or a la carte. While the company provides a distribution channel for retailers, Boujarwah said she also teaches them how to engage with that customer base.

“The supply in the space is incredibly constrained,” she said. “I think there are a lot of retailers that are still struggling with how to engage, how to do it well, how to be successful in speaking with a customer that’s been outside of their core customer for so long. That’s what we’re here for.”

That includes things like how clothes fit and how to speak with first-time customers, she said. Interacting with those customers can be a particular challenge for retailers that have typically only engaged with them in a brick-and-mortar capacity.

“I’ll tell you that the overwhelming feedback we hear from our community is that brick-and-mortar is a place of anxiety,” she said.

Dia&Co is operating in an increasingly crowded space as subscription companies like Stitch Fix gain popularity. But Boujarwah said she doesn’t consider Dia&Co to be a subscription service — particularly since not all of the company’s customers participate in the subscription product.

“The truth is, our category is defined as plus-size apparel, not subscription commerce,” she said. “So really thinking about what it takes to build a business that not only can participate in the space but truly to architect a category is what we’re in the business of doing.”

“The plus-size market exists in a way where demand so meaningfully outstrips supply,” she continued. “Plus-size women — which is a 100-million-women population — spends 20 cents a dollar what women in smaller sizes are spending on apparel. When we look at the impact that we want to have on the market, creating that $80 billion in latent demand that’s not being spent is where we’re focused. And that really is how we define the opportunity we’re going after in the category we play in.”

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