NEW YORK – Old Navy, the low-cost division of Gap Inc., is reviewing its approach to designing and marketing plus-size women, a demographic that many analysts say is underserved.
Starting last week, Old Navy will be offering each of its women’s styles in all sizes with no price difference. This means sizes 0-28 in store and up to size 30 online.
The 1,200-store chain will also be showcasing its large sizes as well as standard sizes on the showroom floor. The clothes will be displayed on mannequins in sizes 4, 12 and 18. Online, the chain is merging its plus size and standard sizes, with models appearing in all three sizes.
These measures are expected to 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, who in recent years have added more plus size offerings, and many are incorporating them alongside standard sizes. They are also adding taller models in the sales area and showcasing more tall models in their marketing.
Still, the common practice for department stores and other retailers is to have separate areas for large sizes, but they also dedicate separate sections for small sizes, says Neil Saunders, managing director of research firm GlobalData Retail.
Over the years, retailers have expanded their offerings to cater to plus size women. But analysts believe engagement has faltered and stores have never made this customer a part of the shopping experience, often leaving them out of the marketing materials.
Analysts believe the push will be long term this time around as they are under pressure from buyers to be more inclusive. Clothing retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to attract customers and are looking for new opportunities to increase their sales.
“We have entered a time when inclusion is finally extending beyond race, nationality and income level,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor at NPD Group. “That includes the sizes. We finally got there.”
“For too long, too many women weren’t included in the retail industry. That means if you were size 16 or 18, which is the average height of a woman in America, you were a very limited choice, ”said Alison Partridge Stickney, head of women’s merchandising at Old Navy. “We knew there was an opportunity to do more.”
The International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education published a study in 2016 that found the average American woman to wear a size 16-18.
Sales of plus size clothing for women and men reached $ 27 billion in 2019, up from $ 19.9 billion in 2012, according to GlobalData. Plus sizes for women represent 19% of total womenswear in the United States for the 12 months ending in May, according to NPD’s consumer tracking service. This is an increase of one percentage point from 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 US stores.
But he realized that we had to go further. To reinvent the design process, he performed body scans of 389 women to create digital avatars based on the bodies of real women and organized fitness clinics. He also looked at every design detail, like the placement of the pockets.
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 the Gap and Banana Republic teams. Another division, Athleta, showcased their designs on full-silhouette models.
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.