The Hottest Brand in the US? Hint: It Ends with “Barn”


What are the hottest brands in the US? A recent survey from the National Retail federation’s Stores magazine found some interesting answers. Tech-forward brands like Amazon and Apple were the first to come to my mind, and they have prominent places on the top ten list. However, most of us would never guess the number one: Dress Barn.

To be specific, the top-ranked brand is Ascena Retail Group, which was until recently called Dress Barn. It still owns Dress Barn, along with well-known clothing stores Maurice’s and Justice. An interesting aspect of Ascena is that it offers clothing and accessories for women throughout almost their entire lifespan; Justice markets to tween and young teen girls, while Maurice’s carries items from young women and Dress Barn aims for a more mature female audience.

Dress Barn, despite being the hottest retail brand in the United States, has recently been rebranding. A new logo design was introduced some time ago, with the name of the store in a single, lower case word (“dressbarn”) in friendly pink letters. This is an attempt to be a little more modern and hip, catering to the many 35- to 55-year-old moms who think they are still a little cool.

Sister brands Justic and Maurice’s similarly have clothing designs that were created to appeal very specifically to a small group of females, narrowed not just by age and gender, but by income, preferences, style and more.

Why are these brands so successful? Many marketing experts point to their highly specialized markets. Instead of trying to appeal to a wide variety of shoppers, a strategy seen in less popular retail stores such as JCPenney, the Ascena Retail Group has a very narrow and specific audience that receives their full attention. All of the stores’ products and all aspects of their branding and marketing are targeted directly to this market. This approach has proven to be very successful in modern retail. Indeed, the magazine acknowledged that focusing on a narrow and specific part of the market is a major marketing strategy for almost all of the groups that made it onto the Top 100 list.

The stores on the list that have a broader market are the ones that are slipping. Take, for example, Amazon. You tend to think of this online retailer as being “bigger” than Dress Barn. However, Ascena Retail stores saw almost 60% growth in sales, while Amazon’s slowed. This is how Amazon landed in the number two slot after being number one last year. Indeed, this is first year since the media-dispensing giant was opened that they have lost position on the list instead of gaining.

How does your business’s marketing strategy measure up? Are you still trying to be “everything to everyone” or have you developed a narrowed market and began marketing specifically to them. Your business needs to change along with the rest of the business world. If you are unsure about how to identify and pinpoint the precise group that is looking for your products, talk to a branding expert today.