Chana Baram
Chana Baram is an Analyst at Mintel focusing on the Retail sector. She harnesses her previous experience to analyse and write reports on the UK market.

Nike has once again proved that it’s ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing its sports fashion products to a diverse range of shoppers. The introduction of mannequins that represent different body types has been a long time coming and could play a crucial role in letting people know that sport is for everyone.

Nike steps up

For a long time sports brands have been playing catch-up when it comes to creating a more diverse and welcoming shopping atmosphere. While other fashion brands such as Missguided, ASOS and even luxury brand Rodarte have all embraced diversity and plus-sizes, sports fashion brands have not followed suit at quite the same pace. Underrepresentation of anyone that does not fit the mould of a typical athlete is rife in the sports fashion industry and according to data from Mintel’s report on sports and outdoor fashion, a third of UK consumers say that there is not enough sportswear available in plus-sizes. Even more concerning is that according to Mintel’s clothing retailing report, 45% of clothing buyers aged 16-24 said that fashion campaigns make them feel self-conscious about the way they look.

Nike has often been the exception to the rule and has catered well to groups that have been neglected by other brands. In 2015, it opened its NikeWomen store on London’s Kings Road and has released advertising campaigns with a strong female focus such as its ‘Dream Crazier’ campaign in February 2019. At the end of 2017, it released the Nike Pro hijab globally allowing observant Muslim women to participate in sport comfortably.

Credit: @nike

It is, therefore, no surprise to see Nike break down barriers again by introducing plus size mannequins in-store, and even a parasport mannequin representing a lower-leg amputee with a running blade.

Credit: Anna Jay/Refinery29
Credit: Elle

Hidden figures

With the average women’s clothing size now a UK 16, according to SizeUK data, and with Mintel data showing that one in ten women wear a size 20 or above, it begs the question why women of different sizes are so hidden when it comes to advertising and clothing stores. It is also all the more surprising that other fashion retailers such as Oasis and River Island, who have gone to the effort of making plus-size ranges, hide them online, perhaps because in the fashion world display clothing in showrooms is always a UK size 8 as larger clothes are deemed less attractive.

Diversity pays off

Although the mannequins were not welcomed by all, with some publically writing that they encourage obesity, Nike will undoubtedly do well from the move. The aforementioned Mintel report on sports and outdoor fashion indicates that a third of those who purchased sports or outdoor fashion would choose a sports retailer based on whether or not they stock a wide range of sizes, including plus-sizes. Additionally, in the same report, we can see that women are just as likely as men to buy sportswear from Nike, a statistic that is unusual in the typically male-dominated sports retail market. This shows that Nike’s attempts to be more inclusive do work. If this encourages more people to feel confident and become more active, then this can only be a positive move. The only thing we are left wondering is – why hasn’t this happened sooner?