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Inclusivity Trending Up in Retail


After years of consumer advocacy, inclusivity — providing equal access for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized — is permeating every aspect of the industry, including not only brands, but also retail, where it impacts internal corporate structures, brand portfolios, suppliers and the consumers served. A recent Coresight Research report  looks at major trends in inclusivity in retail from 2021 and presents key learnings for brands and retailers for 2022.

A few inclusivity trends to keep an eye on, per the report:

  • Adaptive retail products for persons with disabilities (12% of the population), including apparel and footwear, continue to trend up. (Adaptive apparel alone is currently a $1B+ category).
  • Gender-free merchandise has expanded across categories and retail sectors. This emerging category doubled in major launches since June 2021 and two specialty retailers opened gender-free stores, Gilly Hicks for teens and PacSun for kids.
  • The plus-size market size continues to expand with product line size extensions, category launches and designer collaborations. (The U.S. women’s plus-size market totaled $34.3 billion in 2021.)
  • Companies and retailers are including more diverse brands and suppliers which is expected to contribute to an increase in spending on inclusive categories as brands gain a foothold. (For example, Target pledged in April 2021 that it will spend $2 billion on Black-owned suppliers by 2025. As part of this effort, the company plans to add products to its shelves from more than 500 Black-owned companies.)
  • Companies and retailers are investing in mentorship and accelerator programs for diverse entrepreneurs and leaders. These programs will help to grow inclusive categories by developing the next generation’s brand owners, suppliers and leaders.

Key Takeaway: Integration of these trends has helped businesses to be more innovative and has given inclusivity more traction across retail categories, sectors and operations. Expect to see even more innovations in design, packaging and sizing, helping to expand inclusive categories into new product lines. Inclusivity is influencing long-term change within the industry, driving billion-dollar growth in multiple product categories, including adaptive apparel, gender-free designs, extended sizes, and beauty for all ages, races and genders. By understanding recent trends and establishing inclusive practices and strategies, brands and retailers can capitalize on momentum in the inclusivity space and improve brand reputation among consumers, as well as positively impact retail sales.