Retail Trend: Fashion Shifts from Exclusive to Inclusive

Social Media, Population Diversity and Movements Like Body Positive Are Driving Changes in Women’s Wear

From the catwalk to the pages of glossy magazines to malls across America, inclusive fashion is making a statement. The 2004 Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, celebrating women of all looks and sizes, launched a trend that now includes not just fashions for the plus-size market but also chic designs that accommodate the dress codes of Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women, and fit the needs of those with physical limitations. Retail trend watchers say demographic diversity and the open attitudes of the Millennials are fueling the changes, along with social campaigns from Body Positive and the Modesty Movement. Fashion bloggers and online communities have also given a collective voice to groups once overlooked by designers and retailers.

At the Forefront of Inclusive Fashion: The Plus-Size Shopper
Clothing for style-conscious, plus-size women broke the exclusive nature of the fashion industry. Though Lane Bryant launched the concept of plus-sizes early in the last century, the choices were dowdy and designed to conceal rather than glamorize.

Setting a New Standard for Fashion and Beauty
“Role models, not runway models,” is a slogan now heeded across the fashion industry as role models hit the runway. The movement began over a decade ago and reached some major moments with Eden Miller’s plus-size show at New York’s 2015 Fashion Week and Lane Bryant’s #PlusIsEqual ad in the centerfold of Vogue’s September 2015 issue, and Nike’s #BetterForIt campaign. Add to those, the appearance of plus-size model Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated 2016 swimsuit issue and it seems that fashion and pop culture are re-defining the standard of beauty.

No Longer a Retail Trend, but a $17-Billion Dollar Market
Designers and retailers alike have embraced the $17-billion plus-size market. Sixty-seven percent of U.S. women, in fact, are in the 14 to 34 size range and they are demanding chic contemporary looks that celebrate, not just accommodate, their body type. And everywhere from discounters to high-end boutiques, plus-sizes have taken a prominent place in the inventory.

Religion and Personal Preference Drive a New Retail Trend: Modesty in Fashion
Despite the hyper-sexy looks of contemporary fashion, there is a significant demand for conservative clothing. Driven by the dress codes of faith groups, the push for conservative fashion is also promoted by the Modesty Movement, which urges women to reject the role of sex object. Whatever their motive in covering up, women still look for fashionable and cutting-edge clothes that honor their beliefs and reflect their personal style. (Read more: http://www.today.com/style/why-covering-cool-inside-fashions-modesty-movement-mormon-style-bloggers-t12216)

Major Designers are Eyeing the Muslim Market
High-fashion hijabs and other clothing and accessories for Muslim women have long been popular throughout the Middle East and are readily available online. Now they’ve arrived in bricks-and-mortar stores like Uniqlo and H&M. One retailer, the Verona Collection, recently opened a store in Orlando Fashion Square, devoted to Muslim styles. The chic, layered looks are also attracting non-Muslim shoppers. (Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/modest-muslim-clothing-store-hopes-to-cater-to-people-of-all-faiths_us_573a1345e4b060aa781ae2e2) With Muslims worldwide expected to spend $327-billion on fashion and footwear by 2019, it’s no surprise that Zara, DKNY, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger and others are designing for this market.

Hasidic Sisters Launch a Fashion Line with Appeal Beyond the Orthodox
Brooklyn, the epicenter of hipness, is becoming the source of trendy styles that satisfy both the Orthodox Jewish dress code and the desire to look contemporary. Sisters Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik, founders of MiMu Maxi, produce a line of billowy dresses, skirts, wraps and leggings that reflect a “worldly sensibility” that has earned them 18,000 Instagram followers. Their designs draw shoppers beyond their Orthodox community, with 50 percent of their buyers Christians. A quarter of their customers, they say, are non-religious women, seeking a conservative, but fashion-forward look. (Read more: http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/10/27/modesty-moves-into-the-mainstream/)

A Retail Trend on the Horizon: Adaptive Fashion
Stylish clothing that accommodates a variety of physical challenges is perhaps the newest aspect of inclusive fashion. But with 60 million people in the U.S. living with a permanent disability, there’s a need waiting to be filled. For the past two NY Fashion Weeks, the runways have been graced by models with a variety of physical and cognitive challenges, who’ve won standing ovations. (Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-york-fashion-week-models-disabilities_n_6737498)

Now, designers are stepping up with fashions that fit the unique needs of this demographic. Tommy Hilfiger, who has launched a children’s line, is among the first big names. In addition to clothing, the company offers sensitivity training for sales associates who will be working with children and their parents. Young designer Lucy Jones, who made Forbes “30 Under 30” list is designing practical fashions for the wheelchair bound. And top schools like Parsons and FIT now offer classes in inclusive design.

Levin Mid-Year Survey Yields Strongest YTD Sales Report in Poll’s History

Influential Retail Real Estate Trends Include Technology and E-Commerce
The results of our mid-year Retail Sentiment Survey are in and the news is good, with our tenants reporting strong year-to-date performance. They’re optimistic about the months ahead and are continuing to leverage technology to stay competitive in the e-commerce-influenced retail landscape.

Retail Real Estate Tenants Cite Numerous Causes for Optimism
Our latest poll of store managers in our 95-property, 13 million-square-foot shopping center portfolio yielded the strongest percentage (65.8 percent) of participants in the survey’s five-year history reporting mid-year sales at the same or a higher volume year over year. This represents a jump from 51.9 percent reporting same-or-higher sales at mid-year 2015 and 42.9 percent at mid-year 2014. Similarly, 61.3 percent of participants reported the same or a higher volume of shopper traffic to date in 2016 compared to 2015.

“Retail is experiencing solid momentum following the stock market volatility and bankruptcy announcements that kicked off the year,” said our president Matthew K. Harding. “The latest retail sales data from the U.S. Commerce Department, which shows a 2.4 percent year-over-year increase for March to May, reinforces what our tenants are saying. At this year’s International Council of Shopping Centers’ well-attended RECon in Las Vegas, expansion was an overarching theme among national retailers – another confirmation of a positive trajectory.”

So, it’s no surprise that a full 67.0 percent of our survey participants expect sales to continue at the same pace or improve through the remainder of 2016.

The Digital Revolution is Here to Stay
Like most savvy retailers, tenants at our leased and managed properties are employing digital technology – such as online ads, mobile apps, social media, email and texting – to attract customers to their stores. And our survey found that technology’s importance is growing. Of respondents active in tech-centered marketing, 42.4 percent have upped its usage year over year; while 52.7 percent said their usage levels had remained at the same level.

Retail Real Estate Trends: Digital is Reaching Customers Everywhere
When it comes to engaging customers in-store, mobile device apps (such as those for coupons, discounts, loyalty points and/or rapid payment) are the most popular tools – employed by 69.9 percent of respondents active in tech-centered marketing. Levin tenants appear to be on the right track; a recent ICSC customer engagement survey found that two thirds of consumers in the U.S. use their mobile devices while shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores. Other popular tools among survey participants include free in-store Wi-Fi (49.3 percent), post-sale online surveys (41.9 percent) and electronic receipts (28.7 percent).

Levin tenants are going with tech to reach customers outside their stores. “For the second year, social media and email ranked as most popular among survey respondents active in tech-centered marketing, used by 79.4 and 78.1 percent, respectively,” said Melissa Sievwright, vice president of marketing. “The power of these tools is clear, and social should be on everyone’s radar. In fact, a Deloitte study found that ‘shoppers are 29 percent more likely to make a purchase the same day when they use social media to help shop.’ ”

Facebook Leads the Social Media Marketing Pack
Among Levin survey participants with social media in their marketing mix, Facebook dominates, with 91.3 percent of respondents using it. Other popular platforms include Twitter (36.9 percent), Instagram (34.2 percent) and Google+ (32.2 percent).

Business Models are Evolving as Tech Expands
As bricks-and-mortar stores seek success online, many retailers are finding new ways to serve and engage customers. Our retail real estate tenants are no exception. In our mid-year 2016 poll, 38.2 percent of participants indicated they have adapted their business model in response to e-commerce growth.

Those respondents are adding in-store services and incentives (62.7 percent), offering in-store pickup and returns options for online purchases (57.6 percent); and/or increasing collaboration with their online counterparts (44.1 percent). Some are altering store inventory (35.6 percent); introducing “experience” draws (30.5 percent); and/or changing their store prototypes (13.6 percent).

“We expect the experiential retail trend, especially, to gain momentum,” Sievwright said. “The re-invention of this industry is well underway, driven both by tech advances and new shopper preferences. Millennials and Baby Boomers alike are opting to invest in experiences over things. Smart companies are melding lifestyle with shopping and giving consumers a reason to step into the store.”