Retail Reconnaissance

A couple days before Old Navy made their announcement about launching a full range of plus sizes in store, I had placed an online order. There were a couple of items I wasn’t thrilled with and I’m trying to keep my newly cleaned out closet under control. So if I don’t love it, I return it. I’ve always been able to make returns in store but this trip gave me a chance to see if Old Navy really kept their word. Spoiler alert: THEY ABSOLUTELY DID!

As I walked up to the store, their “Bodequality” campaign poster was plastered on the front window. When I came in, I immediately gravitated toward a rack of sundresses. Alongside sizes XS-XL, I saw a 1X, 2X, 3X, and 4X in each color. I was in shock. I spent about 30 minutes just browsing and grabbing items to try on. Once I finished in the fitting room, I did another circuit to take some photos. The store was nearly empty since I had come in at 3pm on a weekday and I didn’t want to be too obvious, but I got enough to give you an idea of how things are looking on the ground.

Jeans are a staple of American wardrobes so I knew I needed to take a closer look. The display looked attractive, with a plus size model featured on the item signage and a plus size mannequin as well. Even without zooming in on the second picture, you can see the size stickers are double digits. Old Navy used to go up to size 18 and if you were lucky you could find a few size 20s, but I saw multiple jeans in all styles in sizes 22-28.

Next I went into activewear. It was here I noticed that Old Navy has three mannequin sizes- one small, one plus, and one in between. A quick Google search verified that the models represent sizes 4, 12, and 18. One of each was featured on the jeans display but I didn’t register the medium size until I saw them in more form fitting clothing. Activewear didn’t disappoint either. The leggings, tees, tanks and bras all came in the full range of sizes. Now, none of the sports bras (which claimed to be low, medium and high impact) would be supportive in plus sizes for anything more than walking, yoga, or pilates. But the lack of truly high impact support in sports bras for the well endowed is an entirely different subject that I’ll rant about another day.

Now for some general observations. The store seemed to be emptier than I remember it. Look at this huge aisle down the middle of the store! This is just in the front, when you walk in the door and turn right to go to the women’s section or left to go to men’s and unisex. I never had any motivation to pay attention to the store layout so I can’t say if the new spaciousness is due to pandemic social distancing, or an effect of a much smaller inventory line. It could be a bit of both. I’m used to seeing Old Navy racks literally bursting with clothes, but even though the racks were full, they weren’t stuffed.

Part of the currently reduced selection may be because stores need a chance to sell out their old inventory. The clearance section took up about double it’s usual size, which makes sense. All those clothes don’t disappear overnight just because of a new initiative. I also noticed that the selections were seasonally appropriate– lots of t-shirts, jeans, and shorts, a few dresses, a handful of joggers and sweatshirts. In years gone by, you can get a sweater by August 15 and Halloween shirts by September 1. Those items are currently available on the Old Navy website, but it’s a smart move to track the physical store inventory with the weather. I don’t know too many Houstonians who are going to wake up one balmy, 85 degree September morning and go “You know what I really need to get today? A flannel shirt!”

At any rate, it was all in all a successful trip. I even found a t-shirt with a really cool 90s print of Boyz II Men. However, the long term is what will determine Old Navy’s sincerity. I peeked around online and was happy to see that many of the plus size items are selling out. (Psssst, retailers, see what happens when you do a national commercial campaign?) If they have the same selection three years from now, it might be part of a sea change in fashion inclusivity.

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