A company you've never heard of just became the most powerful force in women's clothing
The company just acquired Ann Taylor's eponymous and Loft brands for about $2 billion.
With $4.7 billion in annual sales, Ascena was already the fifth-largest retail company before the acquisition, according to the National Retail Federation.
Adding Ann Taylor's $2.5 billion in net sales, Ascena will be larger than Victoria's Secret parent company Limited Brands.
In addition to the Ann Taylor brands, Ascena owns the inexpensive fashion brand Maurices, occasion company Dressbarn, tween retailer Justice, and plus-size clothing companies Lane Bryant and Catherines.
Ascena operated 3,896 stores at the end of 2014. Ann Taylor brings the count to nearly 5,000.
Not only does Ascena have the largest store count and sales of any womens clothing retailer, it also dominates the plus-size market.
This bodes well for the future.
To find out more about the prevalence of plus-size shoppers in America, e-commerce giant Modcloth hired Paradigm Sample to conduct a survey of 1,500 U.S. women aged 18 to 44.
The survey found that more U.S. women report wearing a size 16 than 0, 2, and 4 combined. And 80% of plus-size women said they would spend more on apparel if they could find flattering clothes.