Inclusivity: Its rising importance in the US fitness market
Following a 19.2% increase of new-ins on a YOY basis, plus size shoppers in the US now have more choice than ever when it comes to clothing. Inevitably boosted by the rise of plus size social media influencers such as Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday, the plus size market benefits from their inspirational messages of body positivity and inclusivity; lifting these key issues into the limelight. Retailers have therefore needed to respond to these growing demands, however more needs to be done in terms of communicating and marketing this message of inclusivity.
As we can see in the chart below, specialist plus size brands are leading the way in terms of evoking a sense of inclusiveness. Instock e-commerce data shows that plus size activewear new-ins have grown 64.5% YOY; but clearly activewear brands need to do more to foster and enhance their perceptions of inclusivity.
Gaining importance across all generations, more and more consumers are demanding transparency and authenticity from brands, and can now easily spot when one is simply following the latest trend. This is why brands such as Universal Standard are setting the new standard for all plus size retailers; making size equality the heart of their business. If offering pre-made “kits” (outfits already styled and sold as one), updating blog posts, creating aspirational online edits (including activewear) wasn’t already enough, Universal Standard also offer free exchanges if their customers size changes throughout a 12-month period.
This strategy is a complete game-changer and activewear brands especially need to take note. This will motivate, confidence-build and make customers feel inspired to positively change their lives and most importantly, feel included and supported on their health journey.
Retailers also need to bring inclusivity to merchandising and visualizing products both on and offline. Many retailers that offer a plus size range won’t even use plus size models in product imagery, and this can easily deter a purchase. Earlier this year, ASOS tackled this issue by including models of varying sizes for each product, whilst Old Navy operates a “Shop by Shape” feature on their website as they understand that shape can also dictate size. These simple features are attainable by any brand and need to be adopted as a priority – enhancing the customer experience and bringing a welcome sense of inclusivity. Helping customers better envision fit and function will drive demand.
It’s no secret that consumers are turning to experiences rather than material goods – but this can work in the advantage of activewear brands with some innovative marketing. The dynamics of a girls’ coffee shop meet-up or shopping trip has shifted to a meet at the local fitness class, and this is an opportunity to capitalise on. Brands need to collaborate with gym franchises, working together to create safe, inclusive spaces for women of all shapes and sizes to feel comfortable in. Sponsor classes that help build confidence and ensure each woman leaves with a smile on their face and credentials are sure to rise.
By Emma Griffin