Athleta Pumps Up Inclusive Sizing

Athleta is revving up its inclusive sizing in a key maneuver to reach its goal of achieving $2 billion in sales by 2023.

“We are really focused on empowering active, healthy and confident women and girls. It’s been our mission since Athleta was founded in 1998. Inclusive sizing is core to our brand,” said Mary Beth Laughton, chief executive officer of Athleta, the women’s active division of Gap Inc. “It’s really critical to our growth.”

Net sales for Athleta in 2019 were $978 million.

Beginning next Thursday, more than 350 styles within Athleta’s assortment of activewear and performance lifestyle categories will be available in sizes 1X to 3X (or sizes 18 to 26) in-store and online.

By March, the number of styles available in extended sizing will exceed 500, representing about 70 percent of the styles offered in the new spring collection. Styles will be added each season, and by the end of 2022, Athleta will offer extended sizes across all of the categories it sells.

About 100 styles (20 percent of the assortment) are in inclusive sizing, and they are primarily online.

Athleta said the 1X to 3X women’s active market is growing more quickly than non 1X to 3X sizes. According to The NPD Group, 1X to 3X women’s active apparel is a $3 billion market.

Laughton said during a press conference Thursday that Athleta is “taking a much bigger step” to bolster inclusive sizing. “This has been two years in the making. We wanted to get it right. We’ve spoken to thousands of women on this journey. She really wants options and she wants choice. She wants to see herself in the product and in the Athleta imagery.”

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“We are keeping the beautiful original design intent and applying it to all sizes,” said Jolene Danielson, Athleta’s director of technical design. “We’re not creating a separate capsule collection or a collection called plus.

“There is a movement on body positivity,” said Danielson. “It really doesn’t matter what size you are. We can all be active, but there’s definitely been a frustration about the lack of inclusivity.”

Inside an Athleta store, a heightened focus on inclusivity. 

Laughton said the company is “reimagining our store experience for inclusive sizing, across all of our 200 stores. We’re investing in size-inclusive mannequins. These mannequins offer a much more accurate display of fit. They will be seamlessly incorporated throughout our stores.”

The special sizes are not relegated to a separate area in the stores, which are merchandised by category and style.

The pricing of an Athleta style is the same regardless of its size. “The old paradigm was that you would charge more” for a plus size, Laughton said.

The CEO acknowledged there may be some profit implications for advancing special sizes because of the increased costs of fabric and design modifications, but she emphasized, “We believe it will be a huge opportunity. We know we have to bring in new customers, a whole new customer base for the brand. From an overall business standpoint and overall brand standpoint, we feel really good about this opportunity.”

In addition, the 5,500 Athleta store employees will undergo training on inclusive sizing and identifying any unconscious biases toward girls and women of certain body types.

“There will be a 360-degree campaign to build awareness for our brand,” kicking off Feb. 1 with a billboard in New York City’s Times Square. It will be the first time the brand will advertise in Times Square, where it does not operate a store. The nearest Athleta store is in the Flatiron District of Manhattan.

Additionally, Athleta has formed a collective of 11 women with “active voices” in extended size community, including authors, fashion advisors and others helping Athleta in such areas as wear testing and community events, to spotlight the brand, Laughton said.

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