For years, sports companies have marketed their products to the choir - the skinny people most likely to wear them to the gym. Their advertising was flush with slim, toned people, jogging for miles, water bottle in hand, looking like they could conquer mountains.
But, of course, that’s a long way from the real world. While Nike and the others sell to fit people, they also sell to a whole raft of other individuals who would like to get active but have a long way to go. Yet, until recently, they ignored that sizable constituency.
That, however, is changing. Sports clothes companies can no longer ignore the fact that the vast bulk of their customers are on the heavier side. And they can’t resist the cultural shift in the direction of being more inclusive and making everyone feel as if they can enjoy exercise. The marketing would have you believe that we were still in the 1950s when practically everyone was slim and toned. That world no longer exists.
So what’s changed? Well, recently, Nike opened a store in London called NikeTown. As well as all the usual marketing material, the store featured large female mannequins, deliberately designed to show what the company’s products look like on bigger women. And we’re not just talking about slightly bigger either. These mannequins are at least triple the size of the regular variety and depict realistic excess fat distribution.
Part of the push in this direction comes from the fact that Nike wants to be seen as supporting the current increase in female sports popularity. Women’s football has taken off in recent years, as has the idea that women should be at the gym with men, toning their bodies and increasing their strength.
Nike, of course, isn’t the first company to take this tack. We’ve seen other brands, such as Old Navy and Debenhams, take a similar approach, placing plus-size mannequins alongside the regular variety. But this is a big turnaround for a brand that has traditionally associated itself with the body beautiful.
How this change will impact health and female participation in sport remains to be seen. Currently, its popularity is on the rise, but whether Nike is upstream or downstream from that isn’t clear. What is obvious, though, is that the clothing industry is going to have to change. Customers no longer want to feel as if they have to fit into a particular mold. They want brands to represent them and provide them with just as many opportunities to buy clothes as their slim counterparts.
Retail can’t afford to miss this opportunity. The high street is shrinking, and we’re seeing more clothing companies shift online. COVID-19 will probably accelerate that process even faster. Stores, therefore, need to take whatever steps they can to appeal to their entire customer base. They might have aesthetic preferences for slimmer people, but the reality is that most buyers are either overweight or obese. Only a small fraction of the population can identify with super-toned models wearing skin-tight clothing.
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Author - Chris
Author, Editor, Creator of Learn Develop Live