By Melanie Brewer
As a mom of teens, today's announcement caught my eye: Abercrombie & Fitch will create a new one size fits all and gender-neutral line of clothing, the Everybody Collection.
As a UX researcher who thinks strategically, I know that getting rid of sizing and gender specificity is a fascinating example of the Blue Ocean strategy principle of ELIMINATE to create a new value curve for buyers. This is top of mind for me right now, as I'm reading Blue Ocean Shift (the brilliant followup to Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne) in an online book club with UX strategists from around the world.
The clothing industry has long competed on offering a variety of sizes...something that is so common that it was pretty much unthinkable to eliminate, until the first mainstream retailer (Brandi Melville) did it. When I first realized that stroke of genius at Brandi while shopping with my daughter, I was flabbergasted at its brilliance (think of the cost savings!) and audacity (how could they!?). Never mind that Brandi has since been dinged in the press for size discrimination because its one size decidedly does NOT fit all. It was still a brilliant business move. I wondered if other clothing manufacturers would follow suit (no pun intended)--and now A & F has.
However, for this innovation to truly offer a leap in buyer value, both Brandi and A & F need to RAISE and CREATE factors that are above and beyond the industry standard. Otherwise, they're just lowering their cost structure (which is not really shifting the value curve).
A & F's point of view, I think, is that they are creating an opportunity for consumers to shop across the whole collection, rather than being limited to small subsets of gender-specific colors and styles...something that market research showed was desired. BUT, is this really what users want? Is it enough to create a leap in value? Time will tell.
Another thing A & F might be able to do with radically simplified sizing is to produce collections faster, providing on-trend clothing with a quicker turnaround time. We'll have to stay tuned to see if that will translate to an unprecedented leap in buyer value resulting in increased revenue and helps Abercrombie continue its rehabilitation after cratering sales and closing stores not too long ago.