02 March 2020

Major Retailers Emerge with Adaptive Clothing Lines

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Kohl’s is the latest major retailer to launch an adaptive clothing line, which made its debut in June. Adaptive clothing is apparel that is intentionally designed for people with varying abilities, body design, sensitivities or mobility.

Kohl’s clothing will have features including abdominal access, wheelchair-friendly options and sensory-friendly options, such as shirts with flat seams, which are designed specifically for children with autism or sensory processing disorder so they don’t feel the clothing pinch or rub too hard against their skin,” says Mallika Mitra, a contributor for CNBC.

Kohl’s wasn’t the first to go adaptive-friendly. Target added options for children with disabilities in 2017, through its new line: Cat & Jack. The retailer also recently announced plans to sell adaptive Halloween costumes for children, including the one below which pairs well with wheelchairs. Zapos also launched Zapos Adaptive in the same year, which features sensory-conscious apparel and footwear.

Image courtesy of Target.

In an interview with Mitra, Mindy Scheier, Founder of Runway of Dreams Foundation, explained  that she “spends a lot of time dispelling myths about disabled people to companies, including that they are a niche market, don’t have spending power and don’t care what they look like.”

In reality, adaptive clothing has enormous profit potential. “The global market for clothing geared towards physically disabled people with medical issues is expected to grow from $278.9 billion in 2017 to $400 billion by 2026, according to Coherent Market Insights,” says Adrienne Gaffney, a contributor for Vogue Business.

Christina Mallon, of US nonprofit Open Style Lab, insists that retailers who go adaptive and make moves for social justice will earn customer loyalty. “It’s inclusive; it’s hot,” she says. “The brands that are getting involved now are the brands that will win.”

Jill Price, a blogger with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, points out that retailers still have a long way to go to be more accessible to shoppers of varying abilities in-store and online. “I wear ankle-foot orthoses, which make trying on clothes 10 times more difficult,” she says. “Often, the dressing rooms are small, so taking the shoes and braces off can be a challenge. If the size I took does not fit, I have to put the braces and shoes back on to go out and find another size, or hope that I can flag down a salesperson to help. That is not always possible.”

If you’re considering adding sensory-friendly clothing to your merchandise assortment, ask sellers at the upcoming OFFPRICE Show if they can make accommodations for tags, seams, zippers, and more for apparel and footwear for children, women, and men. Registration is now open online for the next OFFPRICE Show, August 10-13 in Las Vegas.


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