How has the retail industry become more inclusive?

It’s clear to see that retailers of fashion have become more diverse and inclusive. Clothing ranges are becoming more accommodating for all shapes and sizes. This ranges from tall, petite and maternity.

Progression in high fashion

Usually it’s high fashion and the runway that set the trends that the high street then follows. But, when it comes to plus size and diversity, it’s the high street brands that are taking the lead.

There still has been some transformation on the catwalks though. In fact, at SS18 shows, there was a record of 93 plus-size/curve model appearances and 45 transgender castings. There was more inclusion when it came to age too, as 27 models over the age of 50 walked the runways.

Meeting the demand

As there is a growing demand to meet, retailers have to step it up and become more inclusive.

PwC’s UK Plus Size Clothing Market Review 2017 statistics show that the market is worth around £6.6bn in 2017, in terms of plus size, of which women and men make up £4.7bn and £1.9bn respectively. In fact, the market has been outperforming the overall womenswear and menswear clothing market in the UK — demonstrating the increase in industry interest.

Growth is expected to continue too. In their report, PwC forecast growth of the plus size segment to be around 5-6% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2017 to 2022. What is leading this growth?

First of all, there is an increase in ‘body confidence’ among plus size consumers. This is driven by brands and plus size clothing influencers engaging with customers and encouraging them to embrace their curves and love their body. Online shopping is driving the market too. PwC identified that plus size clothing consumers have a greater preference for purchasing clothes over the internet and the rise of ecommerce has caused this market to thrive further.

Similarly, customers who may not fit into the standard sizes in other ways are also being encouraged to shop more. This has paved the way for ranges such as; wide-fit shoes, tall, petite and maternity. Although it’s predominantly in the womenswear market at the minute, some retailers have released male plus size and tall ranges too.

The revolution of social media

It’s probable that the rise in social media has led to brands becoming more inclusive too.

As we’re all aware, it’s easier than ever before for unhappy customers to make their voice heard, especially if they feel that they’re being under- or unrepresented by a company — this is then often supported by internet users who feel the same way.

Negative comments on a brand’s social media page can be highly damaging and how a company responds is crucial. Arguably, the way a business deals with an online complaint is more important than how they deal with one in-store, as it’s on a public platform for all to see. To avoid this destructive cycle, brands must be considerate of all their users.

Social media platforms, in particular Instagram, are also aiding the popularity of plus-size clothing through the encouragement of user-generated content. In the fashion world, a consumer simply needs to look through ‘tags’ of a brand or search for images that have been hashtagged with a retailer’s name to see pictures of people wearing their clothes. This allows buyers to see the products on ‘real’ people rather than models from the adverts. This again encourages people who are not a ‘standard’ size to purchase new clothes — motivated perhaps by a photograph of someone who is a similar size to them in the same garment. Many fashion retailers encourage their customers to do this by offering them the chance to feature on the page if they use their hashtag.

There is more support for inclusive fashion on social media than ever before through the promotion of body confidence campaigns. Some brands have avoided photoshopping stretch marks, cellulite and other ‘imperfections’ that are usually edited out of marketing images in fashion. This again encourages people to get involved and purchase clothing from that brands, resonating more with real models.

As we can see, the retail industry has come a long way when it comes to being more inclusive, encouraging everyone to get involved in shopping and the fashion world.

I decided against the 9 - 5 grind so I can travel around the world and share my journey. Love people, music, writing and enjoying life. Share your thoughts.