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Old Navy Merchandising Exec: BODEQUALITY Has ‘Changed the Way We Work…Top to Bottom’

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In 2018, Edelman research saw the rise of “belief-driven buyers” — people who said they would buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue. Now, three years later and 20 months into a global pandemic, the firm has seen an even bigger shift from “Me to We.” Additionally, nearly two-thirds of consumers say they’re more attracted to brands that focus on making the world a better place.

Increasing diversity and inclusion is an increasingly integral part of these concerns, which has put pressure on fashion brands to rethink their practices. Experts agree that to be successful, brands and retailers need to embed diversity and inclusion into all operations, services and customer experiences. While some brands have made small, incremental steps toward being more inclusive, especially for plus-size shoppers, Old Navy is making bold moves — and arguably setting a new precedent — for what it means to be an “inclusive brand.”

With BODEQUALITY, Old Navy is attempting to “redefine size inclusion” by offering every one of its women’s styles in every size at no extra cost. Moreover, the retailer has completely transformed its in-store and online shopping experiences to create something that is both more enjoyable for customers and is tailored to their unique wants, body types and sizes.

“We see BODEQUALITY as a revolution,” said Alison Partridge Stickney, Head of Women’s and Maternity Merchandising at Old Navy in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We have changed the way we work from top to bottom, shifting the way we design and fit our product. We’ve streamlined our production process and now fit all products on a size 8 and size 20 fit model, side-by-side.”

All the major components of BODEQUALITY span in-store and online: Old Navy store mannequins will be in sizes 4, 12 and 18, while online shoppers can select their preferred model (size 4, 12 or 18) as they browse inventory. In both “worlds,” shoppers will see signage, imagery and content that better reflects this more inclusive mission, while also browsing one integrated assortment. In other words, no more segregated Plus section in stores or online. In this exclusive interview, Stickney walks through the mission and execution of BODEQUALITY and what the Old Navy team has learned bringing this initiative to life.

Retail TouchPoints (RTP): Old Navy isn’t just expanding its size range; it’s attempting to create a more inclusive shopping experience for plus-size consumers. What research and insight helped validate this focus?

Alison Partridge Stickney: Old Navy is a brand that believes in the democracy of style and size inclusion at our very core. We started our BODEQUALITY movement with the belief that all women should have access to the same inclusive shopping experience, which means offering all styles, in all sizes, for the exact same price. We traveled around the country and met with shoppers and really listened. Through our many conversations, we noticed that there was one common thread: women not only want equal treatment for themselves but for their sisters, mothers and friends. Size equality and price equality resonated not just with plus-size women, but with all women.

The most important data was readily available — the average size woman in America is a size 16 or 18, and more than half of women wear plus sizes. And yet all you have to do is go to your local mall or shop on your favorite sites to realize they don’t have nearly the choice that, say, a woman who’s a size 6 or a medium can shop from.

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RTP: Your online shoppers can now select their preferred models, so they can see products on women who wear sizes four, 12 or 18. Why make this change?

Stickney: Our online shop offers a fully size-integrated shopping experience for women, offering all styles in all sizes (0-30). We merged Women’s and Women’s Plus collections in our navigation menu to provide one shopping destination for all women. In addition to featuring updated marketing imagery, all products are photographed on models in size 4, 12 and 18, and shoppers can use a new size toggle feature to select their preferred default model display size.

Our new inclusive in-store experience gives plus-size women the opportunity to shop and try on product in-store. We hope to earn the trust of our plus shoppers so they can become more familiar with our product and fit, resulting in a better online shopping experience. We also introduced our updated fit. We spent years working with researchers to conduct hundreds of 3D body scans of real women to perfect our fits on real bodies, resulting in a consistent size run across all product categories.

It’s important for women to see themselves and to see what they will look like in clothing. We shopped with plus-size women all over the country and found that a common struggle, for ecommerce in particular, is that she can’t envision how a product will look on her body when the website only features a size 4 model. We believe everyone should be able to see themselves when they shop online. This is one of the ways we are letting her know that she is included.

 RTP: How do you plan to continue to improve the BODEQUALITY experience over time?

Stickney: We are always taking in customer feedback and sales data to make adjustments and ensure we are delivering the best experience and product for all women. The feedback from our customers is just as valuable as any data point, so we take it all into consideration for all decisions.

BODEQUALITY is a key part of our company’s power plan, so we’re very mindful to make sure everything is done right versus right now. Early data indicates that we are well on our way to success and that the customer is enjoying shopping at Old Navy, no matter her size. We also have history on our side, as we’ve been selling plus sizes since 2007. Before our August launch, we also conducted pilots and test runs to ensure optimal inventory at this size level.

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