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QVC, HSN Cast a Brighter Light on Size Inclusivity

David Moin

At QVC and HSN, size inclusivity in the fashion offering has been a policy for 30 years. Who knew?

Now the two multichannel retailers have decided to put a higher profile on its strict approach to size inclusivity. A summit on the subject, and related topics such as body positivity, is being held later this month, and additional labels with extended size ranges will be introduced soon, in the aftermath of two key launches last spring. Some marketing muscle is getting behind the message that at QVC and HSN, every women’s apparel, accessory, intimates, jewelry and footwear brand — whether developed in-house, through designer or influencer partnerships, or bought from a national brand — “must ensure inclusivity.”

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That’s from Rachel Ungaro, vice president and general merchandise manager of multiplatform buying for QVC and HSN, who said in an interview Monday, “Inclusivity has long been part of our DNA. QVC and HSN have offered extended sizing to consumers for the last 30 years. We should be talking about it a little more. Other retailers put more of a spotlight on it. But everything we put on air comes in the full size range, from double extra small through 5X. It’s one of the things we are really proud of. We won’t create an item if it’s not in the full size range.”

On the QVC and HSN web sites, the fashion offering extends up to at least size 3X, though much of it goes up to 5X. “Our design teams and the vendor teams we work with are so in tune with our design inclusivity. We are all always thinking about the full range of customers,” Ungaro said.

“As we look forward, we have a strong emphasis on expanding our brands and vendors to focus on what our consumer is looking for and that is fashion-forward product, available in every size.”

QVC and HSN are part of the Qurate Retail Group, which saw net income rise to $220 million in the second quarter from $118 million in the year-ago period, and revenues rose 10 percent to $3.42 billion. As a company with a diversity of categories and selling formats, including Zulily, Ballard Designs, Frontgate, Garnet Hill and Grandin Road, and virtually no retail stores, it’s well positioned in a tough economy hurt by a pandemic that is discouraging shoppers from frequenting stores.

Still, the special size marketplace in recent years has become increasingly competitive and vocal about inclusivity and body positivity. The days of plus sizes and petites being relegated to the far corners of department stores and a handful of mediocre specialty chains and catalogues have passed, with the rise of brands and retailers with modern, relevant images, such as Aerie, Universal Standard and Eloquii, while Target, J. Crew, Nike, and Athleta, among other fashion companies, continue to expand their size offerings.

Last April, QVC launched “All Worthy Hunter McGrady” featuring apparel designed from the plus-size model’s perspective and graded to accommodate sizes 5X to XXS (36-00). So far, plus-size sales account for 30 to 35 percent of All Worthy Hunter McGrady’s total sales, and over-indexes in plus-size sales compared to other QVC apparel brands. Among the bestsellers, the slub knit graphic T-shirt and printed open-front duster kimono.

McGrady got widespread attention with her spread in last July’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

Ungaro said the Hunter McGrady collection is designed “from a plus point of view. At most brands, designers go in designing for misses customers, then move to the plus model. On Hunter’s line, we did the opposite. She wanted to be able to see all the clothes in plus size first, and then later see the samples in misses. It’s a different perspective. The collection is also more contemporary and casual,” compared to other fashion on QVC. “The collection is based off things she loves to wear but had difficulty finding,” said Ungaro.

“Inclusion means quite literally including everyone — it doesn’t mean stopping at a size XL and calling it a wrap. It’s important to let women know that they are worthy at any and every size,” said McGrady. “Fashion doesn’t stop at a certain size. The only reason you don’t see many plus-size women dressing how they want to is because it has not been available. Inclusive sizing is in demand but lacks the offerings we want. That’s why I’m so committed to creating a fashion-forward line that speaks to a diverse customer base.”

WVVY by Britney Vest, launched on HSN last June, was designed by Vest, a body-positive and wellness influencer. It offers all styles from XS to 3X. “It’s a very active-oriented brand, Ungaro said. “Active, ath-leisure and loungewear, even before COVID-19, was a huge trend.”

On Sept. 29, QVC will stage a virtual summit about size inclusivity and body positivity called “QVC Presents: Inclusively You.” The three-and-a-half-hour summit is free, open to anyone, and powered by Create + Cultivate, an online platform for women’s events with also an offline conference helping women develop careers. The summit will cover body positivity, health, style, beauty, fitness and how to find the right fit. Selling products is on the agenda.

A goal of the summit, is to “educate consumers to the vast amount of assortment that we have at both channels,” said Ungaro.

She also pointed to price parity as another point of differentiation at QVC and HSN. A style in a petite size is priced the same as in a plus or misses size.

“On our broadcasts, you see the range of models,” continued Ungaro. “That’s so the customer can more readily envision herself wearing the product. On our web sites, too, you see a really diverse model set. We don’t pigeonhole, or pick a type of model. Women come in all shapes and sizes and she wants to see herself in the product. We have the luxury of using on-air hosts who also come in all shapes and sizes. Hunter McGrady is as diverse as they come. Her whole platform has been body positivity and that you need to be comfortable in whatever skin you are in.”

Asked if certain styles sell best in misses, petites or plus sizes, Ungaro replied, “We don’t really see a difference. Our model is built on all styles. We never see something that only works on the plus side of the spectrum and not on the misses side of the spectrum.”

Combined, QVC and HSN offer 125 fashion, apparel and footwear brands, with the majority of the apparel business in private brands.

Going into 2021, Ungaro said, “We are continuing to round out our overall assortment” and that there will be brand and influencer additions.

Typically, garments in plus sizes are more expensive than those in misses or petite sizes. Asked if keeping price parity leads to narrower margins, Ungaro replied, “Not necessarily.” She suggested that with savvy design, development and sourcing teams, and sufficient buying clout, price parity is possible.

“We help brands become size-inclusive,” said Ungaro. “Our design, development and sourcing team works with national brands who have never offered sizes beyond misses. The fit technology team lends their expertise to help other brands expand their line to include all women, and therefore meet QVC and HSN’s requirements.”

QVC and HSN Fashion, at a Glance:

• Combined, QVC and HSN sell more than 125 fashion brands, on air and online.

• On air, sizes up to 5X are offered; 4X and 5X were added to all brands appearing on air in Q1 of 2020.

• Online, all fashion is offered up to size 3X and much goes up to 5X.

• Styles are priced the same, regardless of size.

• No special or segregated plus-size shops are online or on air.

• QVC and HSN models represent size inclusivity to demonstrate fit on all body types.

• In the 12 months ending July 2020 at QVC, 44 percent of apparel customers ordered items in sizes 14 to 40 and accounted for 28 percent of overall apparel sales.

• In the 12 months ending July 2020 at HSN, 23 percent of apparel customers ordered items in sizes from 14 to 40 and accounted for 18 percent of overall apparel sales.

• QVC and HSN partnered with a third-party to use body scans from more than 100,000 women to create standards in physical mannequins and digital avatars for better fits. Additionally, QVC and HSN conduct live fit sessions with models of various sizes to gain feedback thereby reducing returns.