An Inclusive Retail Movementhttps://www.chutegerdeman.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/InclusivityRetail-2.jpg1440428Chute GerdemanChute Gerdemanhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/27b8b1d5d4480e694e1d763231b8e868?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Food has always signified a unifying factoring by being able to not only bring together individuals from different cultures, races, but also communities and genders. Today, the need for inclusivity is even greater though and playing an even more significant role in the consumer experience in retail. Individuals, especially Millennials and Gen Z, want to be treated as individuals rather than bare traditional attributes of mass generalizations. It’s one of the reasons why personalized experiences and communications have pushed to the forefront of commerce.
Lifestyle brand Phluid Project is on a mission to broach gender with sensitivity and challenge pre-prescribed norms. The vision will soon result in a 3,000 sq. foot gender free clothing store, the first of its kind, located on Broadway Street in New York. The revolutionary retail concept will be a mix of art, fashion, and community, creating a space to start conversation and explore unapologetically. Offering apparel, accessories, shoes, cosmetics, and gifts, the brands signature label will be complimented by curated products from the best global brands to create a lifestyle gender-free and undefined.
In a public statement, Phluid Project founder, Rob Smith expressed how the concept came to be. “Last year, I began a pilgrimage of self-discovery as I gained a deeper understanding about who I am and where I fit in this world. On this journey, I gained clarity on how I want to live my life. My vision was to live a more honest, altruistic and authentic life, merging my profession and passion. I envisioned creating a space where I could leverage my 30 years of fashion with decades of work fighting for human rights.
This result of this discovery is of the called The Phluid Project. Phluid (fluid), because nothing is constant and we should always be challenging ourselves and eliminating boundaries. PH, because when we are balance, life is in balance, creating peace, love and acceptance of others and ourselves. Project, because it is a collaborative effort and I’m going in with a plan, but willing to learn and discover along the way.”
While this new retail experience is eliminating binary boundaries, over the years other brands have touched on tossing out old traditions.
In June of 2016 Cincinnati-based department store Macy’s launched an overhaul of a prominent prototype store as a model for future upgrades. The new look and layout of the space put emphasis on integrated departments, and lifestyle merchandising. Visual trend presentations of apparel integrated genders and the fitness department was organized by activity, “Restore, Nourish, and Strengthen.” While the department store has continued to struggle it signified a desire to respond to changing consumer shopping patterns.
In 2015 UK-based department store Selfridges took a rather progressive approach to the shopping experience with a retail concept, Agender, to allow consumers to self-identify in freeing way by selecting products based on color, fit, and style. The retailer acknowledged that gender is not a simple binary, and yet clothing was still marketed along those lines. They went as far as to remove mannequins from the windows avoid signs of traditional gender identities.
In 2015 big-box retail Target tested in-store signage and merchandising changes in an effort to remove frustrations by the way products were presented. While the apparel departments maintained their traditional methods of merchandising where fit and sizing are critical elements of the shopping experience, the brand felt like signage suggestions based on gender could be limiting in categories like Toys, Home, and Entertainment. Since then the retailer introduced an all-gender product line for kids, Toca Boca. The line was designed with humor and quirkiness that resonates with both girls and boys.
To appeal to tomorrow’s future of consumers, retailers will need to shift focus to personal values of self-expression, empowerment, and confidence, and remove ideological norms and artificial consumer roles. We’re entering an era where awareness and inclusivity will equate to consumer loyalty.