Taking Control of the Shapewear Market

Taking Control of the Shapewear Market

Written by Phung Yi JunMarch 10, 2020

Taking Control of the Shapewear Market

When Kim Kardashian West announced her new shapewear line, it wasn’t just another new celebrity business venture – it disrupted an entire market.

Within minutes of its launch, Skims (the name Kardashian West settled with after the Kimono backlash) sold $2 million dollars in product.

When asked how it differed from the competition, she emphasised on comfort, believing that women should still look like themselves in shapewear. 

Kim Kardashian’s shapewear line, shot by Vanessa Beecroft. Image Source: WWD

There’s a cultural shift in the female beauty standard: it shouldn’t exist. Women are, more than ever, embracing body positivity, and perfection isn’t part of the picture. This same belief has seeped into the fashion industry, and for the shapewear market, it’s that the garment shouldn’t alter the body type. 

“Increasingly, women are no longer dressing for the male gaze,” says Katie Smith, Retail and Trends Strategist. “Women are finally taking back ownership for their image and identity, and championing the nuances and vast range within the feminine experience. This opens up opportunities for shapewear as the narrative shifts to being female-led.” 

Read more about the cultural shift that lead to shapewear’s dominance:

Heist Studios, a newer entrant in shapewear, is focusing on technology to achieve comfort for women. It engineering-led products are specifically designed for the female body, a rare feat in an industry driven by sex appeal.

Competitors like Yummie, Maidenform and Wolford are quickly realising this, as they strongly highlight compression, comfort and confidence in their marketing. 

The Body Positivity Shift

However, body positivity extends to size inclusivity and diversity as well – something older competitors are still struggling with. Spanx, the market leader in shapewear that was once championed by Oprah Winfrey, is playing catch-up with its more progressive competitors. 

While the brand stressed that its mission has always been to empower women, it’s still lacking in sizes and shades. Skims offers up to XXS-5XL, while Spanx only has XS-3XL. The latter offers multiple colours, yet they’re more suitable for lighter-skinned customers, having only recently expanded into darker browns. For comparison, Heist offers 7 nude colours, while Skims offers 9. According to Omnilytics’ data, Spanx already lost out to Wolford, Commando and Miraclesuit last year. 

Both the new entrants to the market and global retailers must take note of this shift to get ahead of the market. 

What other opportunities or challenges will the market face? 

A Dive Into The Industry

Omnilytics analysed 900 data points amongst 9 shapewear brands in The Deep Dive: Global Shapewear, uncovering key insights: 

  • Newness Strategy – and How It Doesn’t Impact Sell-outs
  • Bodies or Mid-Thighs? Recognising the top-performing categories 
  • The Top Colours to Invest In 

#1 How Newness Doesn’t Impact Sell-outs

Shapewear's new-in movement
New-in movement across 9 popular shapewear brands

Competitors were highly aware of Skims’ entrance to the market in August, as new-in products increased twofold the following month. However, the number of SKUs was significantly lower than the average for other lingerie products, such as Bras and Panties. 

Shapewear is evergreen. Unlike trend-driven apparel, the chances of consumers purchasing new shapewear every season are low. In other words, high newness doesn’t guarantee high sell-outs. 

According to Omnilytics, Nancy Ganz and Cosabella both had high new-in rates but underperformed compared to competitors. Miraclesuit, in stark contrast, saw a 91% total sell-out with just 9% new-in rate. 

With shapewear, retailers have more reason to get the products right from the bat – which brings us to the next point.

#2 Bodies or Mid-Thighs? Recognising the Top-performing Categories

From waist cinchers to full slips, shapewear comes in various styles and silhouettes that enhance certain body parts. As the market is still evolving, there isn’t a uniform way to categorise shapewear yet – so the key to stocking the right assortment is to identify emerging styles. 

In Q4 of 2019, over 70% of the best-selling assortment consisted of Bodies, Panties, Mid-Thighs and Tanks & Camis. Bodies and Mid-Thighs, in particular, had the most interesting trend developments.

Shifts in Shapewear

The traditional bodysuit drove 26% of sell-out across all brands, signifying its dominance in the market. Like most innerwear, lace and sheer materials were prominent styles – though turtleneck (for layering) bodysuits were a key style too.

Bestsellers of shapewear bodysuits
Bestsellers of shapewear bodysuits

Traditionally, Mid-Thigh products are meant to sculpt the thigh area. Increasingly, however, most products in the market are now high-waisted – a waist-cincher effect that creates a smoother silhouette. 

Bestsellers of shapewear mid-thigh products
Bestsellers of shapewear mid-thigh products

Bike shorts were a key trend too, made popular in Spring 2019, followed by open-bust mid thigh bodysuits.

#3 The Top Colours to Invest In

2019's vs 2018's new-in colour contribution
2019’s vs 2018’s new-in colour contribution

The biggest shift in colour is that brown rose by 6% – and all in the name of diversity. 

With that said, while strides were made to champion darker-skinned consumers, it isn’t as prominent as the colour pink, which saw a surge of 11%. 

To stay ahead, it’s crucial for retailers to drive the inclusivity movement and, more importantly, not treat it as an afterthought. Shapewear, after all, appeals to women of all shapes and sizes, and it’s a large consumer group to tap into. 

Fashion colours, too, rose from 10% of the assortment in 2018 to 17% in the year after. Brands like Commando and Yummie were the pioneers here, having adopted more fashion colours. Blue and orange took up half of the new-in contribution, taking a cue from New York Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2019. 

The Future of Shapewear

In the next five years, shapewear is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 7.7%. Victoria’s Secret, too, launched shapewear (in partnership with Leonisa), and it won’t take long for other retailers to follow suit. 

For retailers looking to expand into this category, here are the main key takeaways: 

Keep Inclusivity At The Forefront: All facets of fashion have to face today’s reality: consumers are walking away from idealised perfection. They prefer realities, and increasingly, that means fashion’s narrow framing of beauty has to change. 

Inspired by the broader social movement that is #MeToo and Gen Z’s driving force in activism, brands are quickly realising that to remain relevant, they must innovate. Brands that challenge the status quo by increasing inclusion have the upper-hand – Skims and Heist Studios are prime examples. Other shapewear brands are forced to play catch-up. 

For new entrants in the market, thinking about the female body in all its forms – by race, size and disability – is a good start. Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach will only further alienate consumers. 

High Newness Doesn’t Guarantee High Sell-Out: Due to shapewear’s evergreen nature, getting the right products with the right style is crucial. Stocking a high amount of newness, without first understanding market demands, leads to costly overstocking issues. 

Our report breaks down action steps for you to navigate this market:

Recognise Key Styles: To perfect a shapewear assortment, brands and retailers need to look to pioneer brands – understand assortment mix, designs, colours, price ladders – to gauge bestselling styles. 

Looking at trends in other categories helps, as it gives a broader understanding of how trending silhouettes impact shapewear.

This article was first published at Inside Retail Asia on February 28th, 2020.

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