Cotton on body au: Women’s Activewear, Lingerie & Lifestyle Brand

Cotton On slammed for ‘tone-deaf’ body positivity T-shirt with limited sizing

A group of Cotton On customers has slammed the global fashion retailer over a T-shirt with a body-positive message – but in a limited size range.

The item in question is the Cotton On Body Dreamy Sleep T-Shirt which features a floral design and the words, ‘Beautiful isn’t a size’.

In the video above: A US school student was expelled after wearing a rainbow-coloured t-shirt

The top – which retails for $24.99 – is sold in sizes extra-small to extra-large, or Australian size eight to 16.

A Melbourne woman – who shared that she was a size 18 – expressed her disappointment on the brand’s Facebook page.

“Imagine my excitement when I opened my emails to see this BEAUTY of a shirt,” she wrote.

Cotton On Body’s Dreamy Sleep T-Shirt. Credit: Cotton On Body

“Imagine my disappointment, my utter lack of hope for the world, when I saw you don’t stock above an XL, meaning I wouldn’t fit it,” she said.

“A shirt like this would’ve meant the world to me when I was growing up a little bigger than your average girl.”

‘Please do better’

The woman said she had planned to wear the shirt with pride so everyone knows “that size doesn’t define you”.

“It doesn’t define anything,” she said.

A Melbourne woman expressed her disappointment on the Cotton On Facebook page. Credit: Facebook

She conceded that she may have missed a larger size range in store but, if not, she urged the company to “please do better”.

“I think it’s beautiful that you spread the message that ‘beauty isn’t a size’,” she said.

“I only wish you hadn’t restricted that message to smaller sizes.”

‘Tone deaf’

Other shoppers shared the sentiment with one woman labelling the size range “tone deaf”.

“I guess you can only wear ‘beauty isn’t a size’ if you fit into the size range that Cotton On decides is worthy enough,” one woman said.

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‘Beautiful isn’t a size XL and up apparently.

“Is size 16+ not beautiful enough Cotton On? Massive fail.”

“Beautiful isn’t a size XL and up apparently,” said another.

Cotton On Curve advertisement. Credit: Cotton On Curve

Although the customers were disappointed, they did make a point of highlighting Cotton On’s efforts in catering to curvier women.

The brand’s plus-size range – which launched in April 2019 – caters to women who fall outside sizes six to 16, stocking current-season pieces in sizes 16 through 24.

‘Keep in mind’

A Cotton On customer service representative responded to the woman’s Facebook post to thank her for the feedback.

The rep said the company tried to cater for all different body shapes and was continually reviewing its ranges.

More on

“We’re very sorry to hear that you haven’t been able to find what you need in this particular instance,” the rep said, adding the feedback would be passed to the company’s Buying and Production teams to “keep in mind” for upcoming collections.

The author of the original post clarified that her issue wasn’t with the sizing, but “rather the message you’re attempting to send with this shirt in particular”.

“This shirt was the perfect opportunity to be inclusive, yet it now just comes off as a cheap attempt at cashing in on the body positivity movement.” has contacted Cotton On for further comment.

Fashion Spree

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Cotton On brings in customer analytics tools to upscale CX efforts

Customer experience is crucial for brands moving into the future, as consumers become less interested in products and more interested in experiences.

This was one of the key drivers for Cotton On to recently implement InMoment to consolidate all customer experience (CX) intelligence efforts across the organisation’s eight brands including Cotton On, Cotton On Body, Cotton On Kids, Factorie, T-bar, Rubi Shoes, Typo and Supré and multiple markets. The Cotton On Group currently has around a 20 per cent share of the fast fashion market. 

InMoment is a cloud-based customer experience intelligence platform. Cotton On signed with them four months ago, and then spent a month on implementation.

Cotton On group head of digital customer experience, Peter Hutchison, said he wanted a partner that can move with the group on the CX journey, because the better they understand what customers think about feel about their experiences, the better the group can serve them.

This follows Cotton On actively chasing online and expecting it to be 30 per cent of growth next year by adopting a full-funnel approach to digital encompassing four strategic pillars: Acquiring more customers, engaging better, and then converting and retaining them at higher numbers. The digital team spent the last year re-platforming the ecommerce site onto Salesforce Commerce Cloud to drive efficiency and better technical capability, as well as better engage, convert and care for customers.

Prior to signing with InMoment, Cotton On tested a basic feedback program within its ecommerce business. In two years, the company received more than 500,000 feedback points and significant insights into how to improve both the customer experience and financial outcomes. Inspired by this success, the company created a plan to scale the initiative across the family of brands, and sought a scalable enterprise solution to address this.

“In InMoment, we found the right balance between an enterprise platform and the agility of a tech-lead company, giving us confidence that they can handle our scale, and also move quickly. The technology in this space is amazing and we know it will only become more powerful,” Hutchison told CMO.

“We want a partner that can move with us on that journey, ensuring we understand that our more than 17,000 team members are armed with the insights to consistently focus their efforts on what matters most. We are already quite a customer-centric business, but we used instinct, years of experience and sales data to determine what our customer thinks and feels.

“Whether a customer did or didn’t buy something is not that telling of what we need to improve. InMoment is really about getting that actual feedback from the customer, similar to if we stopped customers in store, and getting that in scale.” 

Read more What Myer is doing to disrupt from the inside to improve customer experience

At a global level, getting those messages right and whose responsibility is to fix, is harder, Hutchison continued. “At a head office level across all of our businesses, we wanted to know what are the key things hindering us or impeding on CX, and then at store level how to know whether team is performing well on the ground or if there are things we need to fix,” he said. 

Uniting in-store with online

Cotton On asks customers about their experience when they check out. But in-store is harder, because the customer has left the store. With multiple brands and a complicated hierarchy, it was also vital to find a tool that could work across the group seamlessly.

Hutchison said the retailer will use its recently launched loyalty program as the key enabler to make InMoment really work. The platform has been operating for around three months.

Read more What Cotton On is doing to drive 30 per cent digital growth in 2019

While Hutchison expected a lot of big issues to fix as the result of the feedback, he has been pleasantly surprised.

“The most surprising thing for me, taking into account we are asking those who are already in the loyalty program, is how happy our customers are. I thought we’d be 10-15 points lower than we are. I was planning on uncovering lots of business challenges we were going to go and fix and have a big impact, and we are doing a bit of that, but not as much as I was expecting,” he said.

“Most of the things  bringing down our stores are at an isolated level. Perhaps team members are not empowered, or training has fallen down, and we have systems in place for all that, which are clearly working.”

With people less interested in products, and more interested in experiences, CX is crucial moving forward, as it making the process for customers seamless and without friction, Hutchison said.

Read more CMO’s top 8 martech stories for the week – 4 October 2018

“People are willing to sacrifice to have experiences rather than possessions, so I think retails needs to offer both a great experience, as well as a product with a great price point,” he said. “People want to shop where they want, and how they want. Our job in retail is the right products at the right time before they even knew they needed it, as much as whether the store looks great.

“I think consumers want to have a better life from having shopped that brand, but mostly they want it to be easy. They also don’t want too much interaction, particularly online. You want your customer to say your website was OK, but they can’t really remember it, because it was seamless.”

InMoment CEO, Andrew Joiner, said new retail market entrants focused uniquely on the customer experience are disrupting and leading, leaving many traditional players struggling.

“Brands like Cotton On are thriving in this new approach. The company’s deep commitment to delivering value to their customers is part of their DNA,” he said. “Taking this next step to bring modern technology and advanced data science to the art of customer understanding will ensure the brand maintains its market prowess and growth.”

Read more How Levi’s keeps innovation in its jeans

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Cotton On: the 25 year journey

As iconic Australian retailer Cotton On turns 25, the company shares its tale of humble beginnings, bold visions and global domination.

The early days

Marshal McLean, Group Executive of Communications and cousin of Cotton On Group Founder Nigel Austin, began his journey with the business working on the shop floor of the very first Cotton On store in Geelong, Australia.

“The store was located on Myers Street in East Geelong behind our grandfather’s butcher shop. It had a really eclectic and resourceful fit out, using recycled fittings picked up from an old supermarket,” recalls Marshal.

“It was managed by one of Nigel’s friends and offered customers a range of on-trend and affordable basics that embodied the quintessential Aussie style – effortless, relaxed, authentic and real.”

The store wasn’t located in an area considered to be a retail hot spot; instead it was situated in a residential precinct, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. But going against the grain didn’t stop the Group from being successful; a characteristic that remains at the heart of the business today.

“From day one we wanted to be a brand that was accessible to everyone, everyday – from the products we create to the locations of our stores,” said Marshal.

From that first store in Geelong, the Group grew steadily over the next 15 years. However it was the mid-noughties that proved to be a defining era in the business’ history; kicking off with the launch of its second brand, Cotton On KIDS, in 2005.

Expanding the portfolio

After identifying a gap in the market for on-trend and affordable childrenswear, Marshal said the business’ approach to launching a childrenswear brand was straightforward – creating fun, age-appropriate apparel that reflected the lifestyle and spirit of Aussie kids.

“At the time we were still a relatively small business with around 35 people which is hard to believe when today we have a team of 22,000. I firmly believe it’s a result of our ability to sense what the customer wants and deliver it quickly – that’s what has enabled us to grow,” said Marshal.

Over the last 11 years, Cotton On KIDS has grown to 178 stores across nine international markets, and through listening and responding to its customer has launched a number of new categories including activewear, swim, bed linen and a dedicated ‘tween’ brand Free by Cotton On which launched in 2013.

From there – things only got busier. In 2007, the Group set about growing its brand portfolio further – launching lifestyle brand Cotton On BODY, establishing its philanthropic arm, the Cotton On Foundation, and acquiring a small apparel brand which it later transformed into youth fashion brand, factorie.

The Cotton On Foundation remains the lifeblood of the business today and was born after Nigel was asked by his local Parish in Geelong to make a donation to a healthcare centre in the small and remote village of Mannya in Southern Uganda.

Over the past nine years, through the support of its people and customers around the world, the Foundation has successfully raised $50 million, created over 5,000 educational places for children and is well on the way to achieving its vision to create 20,000 educational places globally by 2020.

New frontiers

The Group’s growth has never been limited to new brands, with stores in new markets always on the horizon. Over the last decade, the Group has entered 17 new regions including the United States, several countries across Asia, South Africa and more recently in April this year, the United Kingdom.

To continue driving its international expansion, Chief Executive Officer Peter Johnson said the Group has invested heavily in its five international hubs, located in New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Brazil and the United States.

Driven by over 8,000 passionate team members, these country hubs act as the Group’s eyes and ears on the ground, working hard to ensure its stores, brands and products are tailored to meet the needs and expectations of the local customer. Testament to the success of this model is the Group’s expansion into Namibia, which was lead by the team in South Africa.

“Namibia was a major milestone for the Group as it was the first time one of the business’ international hubs was responsible for driving the launch into a new region,” said South African Country Manager, Johan Van Wyk.

“Within the first few days of trade, Namibia propelled into the business’ top ten performing stores in a new country, and a short time later we opened the doors to the region’s second store. It’s testament to not only the Group’s localised approach to its global operations but the talent, knowledge and expertise of our global teams.”

Another key component of the Group’s global expansion is its licensing model which allows the business to trade in countries that restrict foreign entities from operating.

Spearheaded by longstanding team member Paul Heard, nearly half of the Group’s international markets are operated under three key licensing agreements including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“What makes the Group so unique is its ability to nurture its people to be the best they can be and provide them with opportunities to grow and develop both personally and professionally. It’s ingrained in the culture and something that after 25 years continues to be an integral part of the business and its success,” says Paul.

Today, Paul is one of eight Executives in the business, and is responsible for building and nurturing relationships with each of the Group’s license partners as well as finding ways to take its brands and products into new countries and markets.

The road ahead

Having achieved sales of $1.8 billion last financial year, the Group’s sights are firmly set on being a role model and force for change in the retail industry, demonstrating that it is possible to be profitable and a loved social contributor.

“As our global operations grow so too does our responsibility to our people, customers and the communities we touch around the world. We’re therefore committed to making meaningful decisions at every turn – not just because it’s the best way of doing business but because it’s simply the right thing to do,” said Peter.

“Our Ethical Framework, including our 14 Rules to Trade, governs the sourcing, manufacturing and supply of our products and adherence to this code of conduct relies on the strength of the relationships we hold with our supplier partners – some of which were made 20 years ago when they met Nigel in China, when he had only a handful of stores in Australia.”  

Listed eighth of 87 fashion companies in the world for mitigating the risk of exploitation in its supply chain according to Baptist World Aid Australia’s 2016 Australian Fashion Report, the Group says it is on the road to continuous improvement and is committed to ensuring sustainability and traceability of its supply chain.

“Our customers are eager to know where and by whom their clothes are being made and that the people making them are being treated fairly. We are proud of the work we’ve done with our supply chain to date but we’re not perfect and there’s always opportunity for improvement,” said Peter.

“From late-July we started to publically disclose the details of our suppliers with the goal of full disclosure by the end of 2018.”

The Group’s commitment to bettering its supply chain goes above and beyond sustainability and traceability.

In the last two years, the business has established the Bangladesh Mobile Health Clinic which has provided more than 25,000 factory workers and their families with access to free healthcare, became one of the first Australian retailers to join the Better Cotton Initiative, and, in partnership with Business for Development, is funding a sustainable cotton project which supports farmers in Kenya.

For the Geelong start-up come global fashion powerhouse, the last 25 years has brought with it many causes for celebration. With big dreams for the next chapter of its journey, founder Nigel Austin is adamant the best is yet to come.

“The passion, energy and determination of our global family is as strong today and it was 25 years ago,” he said.

Cotton On Body | The District Docklands

Cotton On Body | The District Docklands

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At Cotton On Body, we create products that make a difference in our girl’s life, every day. Our range is designed in-house with our girl always in mind. She is fun, optimistic, fresh, open-minded and genuine. She believes in a balanced healthy life and loves that our product empowers her to perform at her best, be happy and feel beautiful.

Visit Cotton On Body today inside Cotton On for the latest range of high performance women’s active-wear & gym clothes plus a great range of intimates & sleepwear.