For Gap Inc.’s Old Navy, Alison Partridge Stickney made “inclusivity” a realization, rather than just a marketing buzzword.
In August, the company’s vp of women’s and maternity merchandising, saw the results of her three-year project come to life across Old Navy’s more than 1,100 stores and e-commerce site. Dubbed Bodequality, it made all the brand’s styles available — at every sales channel and on every rack — in customer-tested sizes 0-30 or XS-4X. It also put the design and technical design of styles under the same teams, and the production of styles on the same lines. In addition, fit models in sizes 8 and 20 were incorporated into the production process, and models in sizes 12 and 18 were added to online product pages.
Prior, as has long been the industry standard, the company’s 14-year-old plus-size offerings had been restricted to select styles. They made up a “small percentage” of the total assortment and were displayed in a unique section of stores — they only entered stores in 2018. Plus, their proportions were determined by scaling-up measurements perfected on size-4 fit models.
“It was our opportunity to do right by women of all sizes and include them in the joy of all shopping at one place,” said Partridge Stickney. She pointed to data showing that a majority of women wear a size 14 or larger.
The road to Bodequality kicked off when Sonia Syngal, now CEO of Gap Inc., challenged Patridge Stickney to “figure out plus,” Partridge Stickney said. That ignited an in-depth analysis of the market, which showed the extreme lack of extended-size offerings available. Partridge Stickney and her team then connected with customers wearing sizes 16-30, in cities from Miami to Chicago, to shadow them on shopping trips or inquire about their shopping habits. They took a “grassroots” approach to finding this focus group, which included scouring Facebook groups and taking up offers to talk with friends of friends.
Eventually, trials of Bodequality were run in stores. The program officially launched with an “intensive marketing campaign” involving a commercial with “SNL” star Aidy Bryant, billboards in Times Square and takeovers across social media channels.
Thus far, Bodequality, which took “total buy-in” from the company, has resulted in greater efficiencies across company operations, as well as improvements in customer sentiment scores, going from 68% pre-Bodequality to 90%. Widespread social media buzz included getting influencer Katie Sturino’s (660,000 Instagram followers) stamp of approval after putting the initiative to the test for a post on shopping size-20 overalls. On a more personal note, Partridge Stickney said she received letters from old college friends and co-workers, thanking her for giving them their first opportunity to shop in a store.
“It is, by far, the proudest moment of my career and the proudest I’ve been of the company I work for,” she said.
Though she declined to share specific sales numbers, Partridge Stickney said the company is “really happy” with the results. She suggested that the same level of size inclusivity is soon to come for Old Navy’s men’s, kids’ and baby departments, as well as its sister brands including Gap and Banana Republic.
“And I believe the success of this is bigger than us,” she said. “It signals the start of a change for the industry at large.”