Jan. 21--With new owners, Boston Proper is ready for its next journey.
On Tuesday, Fort Myers-based Chico's FAS Inc. announced it sold the business to a private equity firm based in Los Angeles.
With the sale, Boston Proper -- based in Boca Raton -- aims to get back to its roots as a strong catalog and online retailer of women's clothing, with products that are aspirational, polished, sexy and unique, Sheryl Clark, Boston Proper's president and chief merchandising officer, said in a phone interview.
The retailer will take what it has learned from being part of Chico's and tap the knowledge of its new owners to refocus the brand and to improve the product, she said.
"Over the course of the last couple of years, we got too democratic in our offerings and not special enough," Clark said.
The retailer's target market is women ages 35 to 60. It sells Bohemian-inspired fashions, as well as classy, casual and sports apparel.
"The catalog is really the marketing element for our customer," Clark said. "It's where you can see the fashions. To me the catalog transcends everything for her; it takes her away. The catalog is beautiful. It's always shot on location.'
Before it was acquired by Chico's, Boston Proper was valued because what it sold was so different from what could be found in department or specialty stores and its customers could wear their clothing and accessories confidently knowing they were unique, as well as trend and fit appropriate, Clark said. Often, customers would get asked where they got their outfits.
"In many cases, she really didn't even want to tell the secret," Clark said. "We really considered ourselves fashion's best-kept secret for a long time."
While Boston Proper may not be as much of a secret anymore, it can still be as special and even more successful with the expertise of its new owners, Brentwood Associates, which has helped other niche retailers it has bought into become brand leaders, including J. McLaughlin, Soft Surroundings and Sundance.
"They have been a loyal and long-standing fan of the brand and definitely a fan of the management team. So I just think this was destiny," Clark said of Brentwood.
Now that Boston Proper is no longer part of a public company, it will open up possibilities to do business with new vendors, to find new sourcing channels and to build new partnerships, she said.
Boston Proper's merchandising team began working on changes months ago, knowing a sale was imminent.
"We have been working on this journey for six months now," Clark said. "So hopefully we get a start on it in the spring season. The whole vision for the product could be complete for the fall."
Going forward, pricing is expected to be less promotional, with fewer discounts.
Chico's acquired Boston Proper in 2011 as an online and catalog-only brand, then launched the brand's first boutiques in 2013, with plans to eventually open hundreds of stores around the country.
Though Chico's closed all of Boston Proper's 20 stores, from Las Vegas to Miami, it doesn't mean the brand won't open stores again one day.
"We actually see stores in the future, but we feel like we have the opportunity, with all the learning we had with the 20 stores, to really go about it a different way," Clark said. "And I think in a different time period."
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