Overweight vs Skinny: Lululemon, Abercrombie, Debenhams and the Size Debate
Yoga clothing retailer Lululemon was criticised for discriminating against overweight women; hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons is not good for business as customers are choosing other retailers in protest.
Abercrombie & Fitch had to rethink its sizing after customers voted with their feet (read our previous post about Abercrombie).
Providing More Choice is Good for Business
Providing clothing for larger customers (without discriminating them for being overweight or obese) is a good business decision – it's about including a variety of people and not excluding them. Critics to this type of decision roll their eyes up saying it gives obese people permission not to do anything about their weight and therefore spinning the obesity epidemic out of control.
Debenhams has introduced size 16 mannequins in their stores so that customers can see what clothes would suit their figure. Considering that the average clothes size for women in the UK is 14-16, seeing clothes on a size 16 mannequin can help sell more items as customers don't feel excluded from wearing something fashionable. Overweight women may find shopping for clothes stressful as fashion is so idealised with unrealistic body shapes.
There is also social stigma attached to being overweight, with images of low-income households perpetually obese or overweight versus the aspirational skinny figures of the wealthy. “Aspirational” retailers like Abercrombie made a very clear statement about excluding customers who were not “cool” enough, meaning not young and slim.
What we really need is variety in clothing and change perceptions.
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Words by Paola Bassanese