Why You Should Sell Gender-Neutral Products in Your Retail StoreNever assume to know what a shopper wants based solely on their gender.
Over the last 10 years, gender-neutral clothing, products and goods have grown in popularity among consumers. Children’s clothing and toy companies are moving away from the customary pink and blue color assignments for boys and girls. Adult men are no longer shy about wearing bright colors and tight-fitting pants, and women are donning button-up shirts and sweaters, traditionally seen in men’s fashion trends.
The trend is part of a larger, ongoing conversation around gender equality. A 2015 Fusion poll found that 50 percent of millennials view gender as a spectrum and believe some people can’t be labeled as simply “man” or “woman.”
This shift in consumer belief impacts market demand, and retailers big and small are starting to include more gender-neutral merchandise in their store inventory. If you own a retail store and want to attract these consumers as customers, you should consider providing more gender-neutral options.
“There is a greater awareness of gender biases and how counterproductive those biases can be in shaping our culture,” said Michelle Kohanzo, managing director of Kid Made Modern, a company that makes children’s craft kits and apparel. “Removing gender from the equation makes merchandise more inclusive.”
Ever since Kid Made Modern was established, it has intentionally built an inventory of genderless products.
“At Kid Made Modern, we think it’s absurd to tell kids what they should be interested in or enjoy based on their gender,” said Kohanzo.
Eliss Halina, who runs Saul’s Beauty Shop in Toronto, said she organizes products by use and not by who they’re marketed towards.
“We also make a point of teaching our staff to not base recommendations of products on the assumed pronoun of the customer,” she said.
Halina believes adrogynous products are increasing in popularity due to the transgender and equality movements, as well as an increasing awareness of the “pink tax,” the common practice of charging more for products targeted to women.
Consumers are “becoming more conscious of how heavy handed marketing can be,” she said. “The conversation has stepped away from, ‘This is boys’ scent. This is a girls’ scent,’ to ‘This deodorant is this scent, and it costs two times more,’ — and that’s critical.”
From a business approach, Halina said it’s better to offer gender-neutral products because it exposes your brand to a broader demographic. Spas and beauty shops, for example, often start off targeting women, and when their client base starts to plateau, they try marketing to men.
“If you start at gender neutral, you skip having to approach a slight rebrand to get over a slump,” she explained.
While trying to implement more gender-neutral goods can be beneficial for many retailers, think about your brand story, your target clientele and their values to see if it makes sense for your store, Halina said.
“We’re ‘The spa for people who hate spas.’ A lot of our clients find the stereotypical spa extremely intimidating. By being gender-neutral, we appeal to more couples, non-binary and trans clients,” she said. “We like to think we are more of a safe space. The shopping experience can be easier because everything is available for everyone. They don’t have to worry about the gender label while shopping.”
At the same time, she continued, “People who are uncomfortable with this discourse and don’t want to understand it don’t find our setup appealing.”