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'A big change': Old Navy will no longer keep women's plus-size clothing in a separate section

In an effort to be more inclusive, the clothing company will implement the new changes starting Friday this week.

'A big change': Old Navy will no longer keep women's plus-size clothing in a separate section
Image Source: Old Navy PR

Clothing retailer Old Navy, managed by parent company Gap Inc., has for several years separated women's plus-size clothing from its other collections in-store and online. In an announcement made earlier this week, the brand shared that they would end this practice and instead offer all women's clothing from sizes zero through 30. The move comes as several other clothing brands take on initiatives to be more inclusive in their options. Additionally, branches will feature new mannequins throughout the store in sizes four, 12, and 18, CNN reports.


"This is a big change in the way we work," stated Alison Partridge Stickney, head of women's merchandising at Old Navy, in an interview with the news outlet. "We had a team that managed our women's business and a team that managed our plus business. So that meant merchandising, design, production." Now, a single team will manage the entire division. The changes are being implemented after conductive extensive research and receiving feedback from customers. Reportedly, hundreds of customers described a "dismal" and "excluded" experience of shopping in back sections of retail stores to find their size. To learn more about this, Old Navy also held several focus groups with women looking for extended sizes. Representatives from the company even toured stores with customers.


According to Stickney, the changes simply make financial sense. The brand hopes to reach $10 billion in annual sales by 2023, up from $7.5 billion in 2020. In order to do so, they are tapping into a vaster customer base. The company reported that searches for "plus" on its websites were up 63 percent over the past year, in addition to pointing to data from the NPD Group showing that the women's plus-size apparel market was valued at a whopping $20.4 billion in June this year.


Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, explained, "It is especially lucrative for a retailer like Old Navy which has a broad spectrum of consumers of all shapes and body types. For Old Navy and other mainstream players, I think they see an opportunity for growth in a part of the market that they don't serve too well." For example, traditional retailers such as Target, Nike, and Nordstrom have already broadened their size options. While Old Navy did begin offering plus-size clothing sizes of 16 and above in 2004, introducing specialized plus shops within 75 stores in 2018, there is more room for improvement. This is particularly true as Lane Bryant, a specialty retailer for plus-size clothing, closed more than 200 stores in recent years, leaving a void in the market.


Despite the challenges Old Navy will now have to face, such as greater manufacturing complexity and increased costs for retailers, the brand is committed to size inclusivity. Their ability to surpass fabrication expenses exists in part due to their business scale. Elizabeth Shobert, director of marketing and digital strategy at fashion analytics company StyleSage affirmed, "It certainly helps to have a healthy business and scale to do sizing properly." Starting Friday, at all 1,200 Old Navy stores across the country, shoppers will find the new inclusive sizes.

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