Old Navy will no longer keep plus size clothing for women in a separate section

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NEW YORK (AP) — Gap Inc.’s low-cost division, Old Navy, is revamping its approach to designing and marketing to plus-size women, a demographic that many analysts say has been underserved. .

Starting Friday, Old Navy will offer each of its women’s styles in all sizes at no price difference. This means sizes 0 to 28 in store and up to size 30 online.

The 1,200-store chain will also display its plus sizes as well as standard sizes on the floor. Fashions will be shown on models in sizes four, 12 and 18. Online, the channel is merging its plus size and standard sizes, with models appearing in all three sizes.

The measures announced Wednesday should help Old Navy reach $10 billion in annual sales by 2023, up from $8 billion in 2019, company executives said.

Old Navy joins Target, Nordstrom and others, which in recent years have added more plus-size offerings, and many are integrating them alongside standard sizes. They are also adding plus size models to the sales floor and showing more plus size models in their marketing.

Still, common practice for department stores and other retailers is to have separate areas for plus sizes, but they also dedicate separate sections for petite sizes, says Neil Saunders, managing director of research firm GlobalData Retail. Walmart, for example, has a separate store for plus sizes on its clothing floors.

Over the years, retailers have expanded their offerings to meet the needs of plus size women. But analysts say engagement has wavered and stores have never made this customer base feel part of the shopping experience, often leaving them out of marketing materials.

Analysts believe the push this time around will be long-term as they come under pressure from buyers to be more inclusive. Apparel retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to attract customers and are looking for new opportunities to increase sales.

“We have entered a time when inclusion is finally extending beyond race, nationality and income level,” said Marshal Cohen, senior industry adviser at NPD Group. “That includes sizes. We finally got there. »

“For too long, too many women have not been included in retail. That means if you were a size 16 or 18, which is the average size for a woman in America, you had a very limited choice,” said Alison Partridge Stickney, women’s merchandising manager at Old Navy. “We knew it was possible to do more.”

The International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education published a study in 2016 that found the average American woman wears a size 16 to 18.

Sales of plus size women’s and men’s apparel reached $27 billion in 2019, up from $19.9 billion in 2012, according to GlobalData. Women’s plus sizes accounted for 19% of total women’s clothing in the United States for the 12 months ending May, according to NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service. This is an increase of one percentage point compared to the same period last year.

Old Navy began offering a limited plus-size collection in 2004. In 2018, it launched plus-size boutiques in 75 stores across the United States.

But he realized that he had to go further. To reinvent the design process, he performed body scans of 389 women to create digital avatars based on real female bodies and held fitness clinics. He also considered every design detail like pocket placement.

Old Navy also incorporates its design process for standard and larger sizes; previously there were two teams. Company executives say they share their knowledge with teams at Gap and Banana Republic. Another division, Athleta, highlighted its designs on full-figure mannequins.

Saunders of GlobalData Retail, says the price disparity between standard sizes and plus sizes – between 5% and 15% according to his estimates – is no longer a common practice in stores. Analysts say the reason for the discrepancy is due to economies of scale, as it costs more to produce a smaller collection. Also, more hardware is involved.

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