Gender continues to trend neutral

PacSun recently expanded its retail and merchandise portfolio with a gender-neutral format devoted to children. Dubbed PacSun Kids, the new brand’s debut shop neighbors its location at Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota. The 1,435 sq. ft. store does not provide any specific girl or boy styles or fits and boasts a colorful and high energy design. According to PacSun, the clothing has been created with a heavy emphasis on sustainability, self-expression, and comfortable fabrics that “kids actually want to wear.”

This move toward gender neutrality is not found just with PacSun. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently signed a new law that will force large retailers to have non-gendered toy sections starting in 2024. The law will not prohibit stores from having traditional boys’ and girls’ sections but will require them to have “a reasonable selection” of toys and items in a “gender neutral section … regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or boys.” The requirement will apply to retailers with five hundred or more employees in California. 

“Keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate,” the new law reads. Reaching the same conclusion, just days after California’s new law was signed, Danish toy-making giant Lego pledged to remove gender bias from its toys after research found girls were being held back by gender stereotypes.

The law was, in part, inspired by Target’s 2015 decision to get rid of some gendered sections. The retail giant is among a wave of companies making decisions in recent years based on a broader understanding of gender. Some are getting rid of men’s and women’s departments in favor of gender-neutral shopping spaces. And many clothing manufacturers are narrowing the gap between men’s and women’s fashion when it comes to the garments themselves as more shoppers opt for a “unisex” look. 

“Retailers and brands should be looking at gender-fluid apparel as an opportunity,” Erin Schmidt, senior analyst at Coresight Research, a firm specializing in retail and technology research, said of the gender neutrality trend. “It absolutely can’t be ignored. It will impact the fashion trends of the future. And the retailers and brands that are doing it now are really going to be ahead of the curve.” 

This mirrors our own research that found consumers are becoming more concerned with the ethos of the brands they shop, including on topics like gender equality. According to one of our recent surveys on the topic, over a third of consumers under 50 claim that brand ethos is a key determinant of where they spend their money. This sentiment will grow exponentially in the years ahead as new generations of consumers take root in the market that are more socially conscious.

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