Inclusivity: The New Exclusive of Retail

Inclusivity is changing the fashion and beauty industry.

Inclusivity is more than a mere buzzword – it’s a movement, and we’re seeing it lead to huge sales results everywhere at retail. But what exactly is it, why is it affecting retail, and how can you capitalize on it?

The dictionary defines inclusivity as “the fact or policy of not excluding members or participants on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, or disability.” And until recently, the majority of brands and retailers (whether intentional or unintentional) have created exclusivity vibes through targeting narrow and specific demographic groups – primarily YOUNG, THIN, and WHITE. Sure, other niches get covered through specific brands and retailers, but you’re forced to shop somewhere else if you don’t fit into the mold of “young, white, and thin”.

Now take a moment to think about how many of your friends/family fall into the “young, white, and thin” bucket…. Clearly there is gap here, which means there is a huge opportunity for your brand and/or business to deliver an inclusivity strategy that welcomes customers from across the entire spectrum.

This week’s Insights examines the hot topic of inclusivity, who is doing it well, and what you can do to get included on building your own strategy.

Why does Inclusivity Matter?

The core principle of inclusivity in retail is bringing people together - regardless of their gender, color, body types and shapes - to deliver a relevant and comfortable shopping experience with an assortment that caters to an unbounded audience. The goal of an inclusivity strategy is to reach a new customer base and deliver an unexpected experience that solidifies a brand loyal customer. Many customers are so starved for a shopping experience that is unique to them that they turn online to find the niche brands and retailers that are “more like themselves". In turn, brands and retailers are missing out on creating a cohesive and unifying brand experience.

Inclusivity creates a diverse product assortment that captures a greater share of the consumer market - with the right strategy and branding efforts, expect significant gains. Diversifying your assortment means you’ll be able to better leverage strong performers through size, color, fit etc. and narrow in on EXACTLY what your customers want. While many wholesalers consider themselves experts within their niche categories of business, you’ll soon see how much more there is to gain when you can truly speak to not just a sub segment of the population but actually to its entirety. After so many years of going after key items and depth, it’s time, and way overdue, to put the focus back on breadth and start reaching new customers.

A strong inclusivity strategy can be a powerful tool for differentiating yourself from the competition. Offer what they aren’t and stand out to show your customer exactly your brand represents. Customers, particularly the much-coveted Millennial and Gen Z., are paying attention. They aren’t just hoping for inclusivity but expecting it from the brands they shop. They want brands that support and reflect their own values of inclusion and equality and will respond by opening up their wallets. Filling in the niches to create a brand welcoming of all will result in brand loyalty, sales, and profits.

Way to Go RiRi & Khloe

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna  has over 40 foundations colors and is leader of inclusivity in the beauty market.

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna has over 40 foundations colors and is leader of inclusivity in the beauty market.

Well just like many trends before it, the beauty industry is a huge leader for inclusion, specifically in building brands and products across a gamut of skin tones and colors. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna is focused on solving skin tone inclusivity, featuring 40 shades of foundation and bringing Rihanna’s inclusive message to the masses. This idea was considered so earth shattering that the brand was included in Time Magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2017 list. How’s THAT for delivering to your customer? Bad Girl RiRi’s sales are showing for it as she just may be on track to beat out powerhouse Kylie Kardashian’s cosmetics line this year. Beauty inclusivity is finally reaching the masses as Target just dropped 8 new beauty brands in April that will provide more inclusive price points to their customers.  

With her success in beauty, Rihanna is also leading the charge with a color inclusivity strategy across her Savage X Fenty lingerie line. Her line features a gamut of nude tones and colors, with names like “Bare”, “Tobacco”, and “Spice”, that are guaranteed to appeal to her fans and followers, ensuring Savage X Fenty is a success. 

Savage X Fenty's  range of nude colors and an example of how inclusivity is changing the fashion industry.

Savage X Fenty's range of nude colors and an example of how inclusivity is changing the fashion industry.

Another celeb leading the charge with her focus on size inclusivity, none other than Khloe Kardashian and her Good American brand. Good American launched in October of 2016 featuring mostly denim and carrying sizes 00 to 24. Its launch brought in over $1 million in its first day of business and is considered to be the most successful denim launch in apparel history…EVER.

Good American's  Women's Jeans campaign featuring models of all sizes

Good American's Women's Jeans campaign featuring models of all sizes

Good American has been so successful that one of it’s primary retailers is considering totally revamping not just their denim department but their entire merchandising and brand partnership strategy. Nordstrom is now pushing brands to add more sizes in an effort to create a holistic strategy for their entire women’s apparel category. Marketing will include models of all sizes and store design will have mannequins of all sizes, with signage signifying brands with inclusive sizing. Merchandising strategies that will essentially eliminate the antiqued “plus size” floor and instead merchandise a brand with all sizes together, providing shoppers with a better shopping experience. “With a goal that two years from now, all women’s apparel brands carried by Nordstrom will offer sizes 00 to 24”. How’s THAT for commitment?!

Where is the Love?

Even with celeb brands and innovative retailers leading the pack with proven successes, many still remain slow to adapt. For many it is the hesitancy to invest in new ideas. With strategic change like this comes investment including incremental design and fit costs, product testing, upgraded inventory management systems, and marketing and advertising costs. Executing a successful inclusivity strategy truly is an investment but with quick action will deliver a significant return. The customer is hungry for inclusivity and shows no signs of slowing down. 

How to Get Started on Your Own Inclusivity Strategy

The best advice is to start slowly. Identify your opportunities for expansion and start a slow roll out. If you are looking to expand size inclusivity start with 00, 0, 14, and 16 and grow from there. Focus on getting the RIGHT design and fit and then continue to rollout. Ensure that your retail partners are on board and push for inclusivity across marketing campaigns too. Showcase different skin colors and body sizes and shapes across all your marketing channels. Lastly get it all together!!...on the floor that is. Merchandise your brand together and nix the old school plus size department. Build an experience for your customer that encourages them to shop with their family and friends.


I truly believe that this is a game changing strategy for brands and retailers, both online and in brick and mortar. It’s a huge opportunity for brands to build excitement and emotion as so many unrecognized customers finally begin getting the attention that is so long overdue as brands create strategies and experiences that will set the foundation for brand loyalty and sales.

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