It’s been a turbulent few years for shapewear. However, now it’s experiencing a comeback, with the global market forecasted to reach $3.7bn by 2028. This category has seen a significant revamp in line with lifestyle and cultural shifts and is now drawing more customers (and celebrity-owned brands) than ever before!
Shapewear isn’t a trend-driven category. In fact, it’s centered on evergreen staples that generate cash season-on-season, replenished by retailers as they sell through. This makes getting the styles right in the first place all the more critical.
This is something EDITED can assist with. Get in touch with our dedicated team of retail experts to help you now.
This article was originally published on February 22, 2022.
• In April 2020, shapewear was one of the categories hit hardest by the pandemic, causing sales to plummet and discounts to increase. Now, the market is experiencing several bright spots. Replenishment rates have risen from 39% to 45% in the US YoY, while the average markdown in the UK is down four percentage points to 33%.
• The impact of COVID has seen styles evolve from being worn strictly for events to every day, with core assortments made up of high-waist briefs, bike short silhouettes and bodysuits.
• Fashion’s cultural reset has led to retailers phasing out describing shapewear properties as “slimming.” Instead, the terminology has been repositioned around “smoothing,” “firming,” and “sculpting” qualities, emphasizing on seamless styles, comfort and support for all-occasion garments.
• The demand for inclusivity in shapewear needs to be reflected within nude shades, which lack darker options across the overall market. There’s also an opportunity for innovation within lightweight moisture-wicking shapewear that supports post-partum bodies without being marketed to pressure women to “snap back.”
Why Retailers Should Take Note
Replenishment rates are up
Shapewear is generally unaffected by seasonal trends, with businesses relying on replenishment orders of their core styles to move inventory. Fresh designs are ideal for re-engaging customers to shop in this category. However, due to COVID, retailers are cautious of investing too heavily in products outside their tried-and-tested silhouettes – over the past six months, newness is only up 2% vs. the same period prior. Despite this, replenishment rates have remained stable YoY in the UK at 23% and have increased from 39% to 45% in the US.
Discounting is down
Meanwhile, markdowns have lessened on shapewear compared to a year ago. In 2021, only 4% of US styles were advertised as reduced and 51% was the average discount depth applied. While 18% of shapewear is now reduced, discount depths have been dissolved to a more conservative 36%. In the UK, discount proportions have been pulled back from 39% to 28% and the average discount depth has dropped from 37% to 33%.
Events are back in a big way
As experienced across most categories, the pandemic accelerated shapewear’s casualization into everyday items. However, there will still be demand for more traditional styles, complimenting the return of occasionwear and bridal. It’s estimated that there will be close to 2.5mn weddings this year in the US alone with over 75% of couples who got engaged in 2021 setting a date for 2022. Savvy retailers are already clued up about this opportunity – Good American recently launched more than 70 shapewear styles. As the year progresses and more events are confirmed, we can expect more brands to follow suit.
Google searches outpace activewear
Amounting to approximately $353.5 bn in 2020, the global activewear market clearly dwarfs shapewear. Despite this, there have been more worldwide searches for solution garments over the last year, implying customers are trying to learn more about the shapes and fits for this category with the intent to purchase.
As the body acceptance movement sweeps the industry, categories are being reimagined to be more inclusive. While shapewear products with slimming or waist-snatching features are still marketed, several brands have pivoted away from advertising products to fix or hide bodies. The term “slimming” is attached to only 9% of stocked items vs. 12% a year ago. Instead, retailers promote shapewear with comfort in mind, a descriptor attached to 29% and 27% of products in the US and UK, respectively.
With brands like SKIMS helping to transition shapewear into a lifestyle category, products described as “seamless” and “everyday” are essential within the US market. UK retailers have more of a traditional approach to shapewear, with 38% of styles described as offering “control” and 32% with smoothing features.
Building Your Range
Control top briefs are the foundation of ranges, with this silhouette equalling 41% of shapewear in stock. As compression garments become more of an everyday staple, bike shorts have successfully transitioned from trend to core style, at 14% of the assortment. Thongs are also popular, attached to high-waist styles or classic bodysuits.
Retailers should make the most of their OTB by replenishing these items and keeping them excluded from markdowns as they have seasonless appeal. For more directional items requiring minimal investment, opt for trend-led colors, compression leggings and dresses with light sculpting, as seen at SKIMs and Good American. Meanwhile, the seamless trend continues to influence lingerie and activewear, so is less of a risk.
Control top thongs
Open bust shapewear
Areas To Grow
Similar to underwear, the overall shapewear market lacks inclusive neutral hues, particularly in the UK. This has signified the need for emerging brands to diversify the category. SKIMs offers nine neutral hues, while in 2017, Heist developed seven shades of nude, covering over 1,000 unique skin tones. Legacy players and mass market retailers will need to up their game or risk losing business to these brands that are more closely aligned with modern customers’ values.
With comfort a defining characteristic across shapewear, retailers need to prioritize innovating with lightweight, second-skin materials. Stretch jersey is favored by Wolford and Yummie, while Marks & Spencer uses Cool Comfort™ technology to wick away moisture. Heist shapewear boasts half the weight of its competitors, using perforated HeroPanels™ to let your body breathe while maintaining shape.
Maternity & post-partum
Compression garments can provide lower back support and ease pain caused by swelling during pregnancy. There is also a market for shapewear to support post-partum mothers, with less of a focus on waist trainers to help bodies bounce back and more to aid gentle recovery. Ingrid + Isabel stands out as a core brand offering C-Section-friendly shapewear with cooling features and moisture control, alongside styles with easy access for nursing or pumping.
As compression and support features benefit everyday products, retailers have been tapping shapewear technology and materials for activewear ranges. Oysho’s Compressive Collection offers sports bras and leggings with waist control and smoothing features. PRISM² specializes in sustainably-made multi-use activewear made using shapewear design techniques.
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