The concept of “gender” appears to be disappearing at many retailers.
Target recently announced that it is “moving away from gender-based signs” so that shoppers don’t “feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented.”
The announcement follows comments from shoppers who have pointed out that it’s unnecessary to base product suggestions on gender in departments like toys, home decor and entertainment. (For example, one woman scolded Target on Twitter for separating building toys by gender.)
Target stopped short of stripping gender-based suggestions from the clothing department, however, noting that it doesn’t make sense “where there are fit and sizing differences.”
But other retailers, especially in the clothing industry, are increasingly ditching gender, according to a new report from market research firm NPD Group.
Titled “Blurred Lines: How Retail is Becoming Less Gendered, and Why You Should Care,” the report details how the concept of genderless clothing has spread since Coco Chanel designed women’s suits modeled after menswear almost a century ago:
Gender and sexuality are no longer the black and white concepts they were years ago.
In American business, no area, with the exception of popular entertainment, is blurring the gender lines as quickly as retail. From clothing to footwear to technology, forward-thinking companies are enacting a less binary vision of how we shop, dress and live.
Clothing retailers cited in the report include:
- Athletic apparel brands like The North Face and Patagonia, whose products are already relatively genderless by nature.
- American Apparel, which already produces cotton basics that are somewhat gender-neutral by nature and which recently started a unisex clothing line.
- Footwear companies like Converse, Vans, TOMS, Sperry and Birkenstock, which for years have been making styles to be worn by both genders.
- London-based department store Selfridges, which recently launched a gender-neutral store that sells more than 40 brands of nongender clothing.
NPD Group reports that some shoppers are more ready to embrace such concepts than others, though, with the millennial generation being most tolerant. Half of millennials believe gender exists on a spectrum and shouldn’t be limited to male and female:
So retailers and manufacturers with their eyes on this most valued of consumer demographics would be wise to start thinking of shoppers as more complex and varied. They’re more than just male or female.
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