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Old Navy Goes for the Perfect Fit

Gap Inc.’s Old Navy division wants its sizing to be as tailored as possible to specific store locations, so it’s testing a size customization program. Having already catered to almost every area of the demographic spectrum with moms,...

Gap Inc.’s Old Navy division wants its sizing to be as tailored as possible to specific store locations, so it’s testing a size customization program. Having already catered to almost every area of the demographic spectrum with moms, teens, young adults and adult males as its designated core consumer group, it’s not surprising the unit has made such a move.

Jenny Ming, president of Old Navy, first announced at the Goldman Sachs Eleventh Annual Global Retailing Conference here in September that the division launched a pilot program this summer. The goal of the “store localization” program is to put “the right sizes in the right stores for our customers,” said Old Navy spokeswoman Tricia Link. The program affects about 80 stockkeeping units in the division’s fleet.

Link said that while the pilot affects a small number of sku’s, it is actually complex, in part because Old Navy is tweaking it, using a technology tracking program, as more information comes in, said Link.

Meanwhile, Old Navy is also pursuing what it sees as an underserved retail area: plus sizes. The plus-size business makes up about 18 percent of all women’s apparel, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group. “We know that 62 percent of the population is overweight and 46 percent of consumers say they wear a plus size in some form or fashion,” according to Cohen’s research. But plus-sized women are frustrated because their size is usually only offered in separate parts of stores. Further, they often can’t buy a complete outfit at one store because they are not a plus size in both top and bottom, Cohen explained.

“We’re going to see more and more stores recognizing the need to put the plus-sized business either right next to, or as a part of, the regular business,” Cohen said. That’s precisely what Old Navy is doing. Its plus sizes are offered in separate sections near its mainstream women’s clothing, Ming said. But there’s a reason the two sections are distinct from each other: Not every mainstream outfit is offered in plus sizes. That’s because Old Navy recognizes that not every style looks good on a plus-sized woman, said Ming.

Gap Inc., which unveiled plans in May to offer the store-within-a-store women’s plus-size concept at Old Navy, is taking plus sizes one step further by also addressing the needs of overweight children — also at Old Navy. The company came up with the idea by checking in with customers, Ming said. “Moms want their [plus-sized] kids to wear what all the other kids are wearing.” The concept, which is currently in stores, is called “husky” for boys and “plus” for girls.

Old Navy provides apparel for skinny kids, too, called “slim” in both boys and girls. Nearly all of the bottoms come with adjustable waists, said Link.

– M.D.