Outsize is in, but will apparel retailers latch on?
With the plus-size market forecast to grow by at least 10% a year in the US, the accelerated demand for outsize clothing represents a huge opportunity to generate new sales, according to a new report from just-style.
Outsize clothing, which includes plus sizes, talls and petites, has boomed with increased sizing, population and obesity rates.
Not only that, but the outsize clothing market has a large population of consumers who are ready and willing to spend, according to just-style's report - 'Global market review of outsize clothing: forecasts to 2012'.
The report notes that the average woman now weighs 144lbs in the US and that plus sizes account for 75% of US clothing sales, with Western Europe not too far behind.
The trend has been underlined by recent news that sales in the US plus-size and big-and-tall clothing market are expected to prosper over the next five years as the country's obesity rates continue to grow.
Although annual apparel sales growth in the US has slowed to around 3-4% in recent years, the plus-size market itself is forecast by researchers to continue growing at least 10% a year topping US$62bn in 2012.
As for western Europe, 47% of the UK female population wears a UK size 16 - accounting for one-third of all women's wear sales.
The market review quotes Richard Kirk, CEO of Bonmarché as saying: "A quarter of all Bonmarché sales come from the extra-large sizing area. There is clearly a gap there to exploit and no-one on the high street is really filling it in our segment, apart from specialist mail order companies."
With more than 50% of adults in western populations now overweight or obese, countries such as Mexico, South Africa and regions such as the Caribbean are also heading for both a higher proportion of plus sizes and a faster growing market.
However, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and regions such as East Africa, are projected to have low rates of obesity and slower growth rates of overweight populations. Major cities like Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo and Beijing are expected to see a considerable outsize expansion to correlate with rising populations.
"Neglecting the plus-size market dismisses a very large group of people and fails to maximise the potential revenues of a group that has both the money and desire to spend on fashion," just-style's report observes.
However, it is thought that the outsize clothing sector would benefit from innovation and growth.
New plus-size retailers are beginning to follow the lead of Charming Shoppes, with Lane Bryant, and Hot Topic, through its Torrid chain, says the report. Lane Bryant and Torrid were meet consumers' fashion and fit expectations, and offer one-of-a-kind shopping experiences.
JCPenney was also credited with organising programmes and events to make oversize consumers feel special. Selling points of these stores included providing larger dressing rooms, wider aisles and knowledgeable sales associates, the report adds.
However, some retailers struggle to add plus-size options without alienating current consumers or changing their store's image.
All too often however, plus-size departments are located on the very bottom or very top floors, which are often quieter and emptier. This is thought to lead to a message for consumers of "We don't care about you."
The report finds that some retailers were considering moving their plus sizes into the regular-size areas as a consequence.
It was also deduced that petite consumers faced a similar challenge - with a perceived lack of floor space for specialty sizes a common criticism.
The three main plus-size specialist chains in the UK are identified as Evans, which has nearly 300 branches, Elvi, with approximately 50 concessions and stand-alone stores and Ann Harvey. Companies like Marks & Spencer, George at Asda and H&M are attempting to follow suit.
New, exclusively online retailers have flourished in the outsize market by offering larger-size consumers the opportunity to shop online and try on clothing in the privacy of their own homes. While this is not a new phenomenon, the "e-tailer" and sizing charts are proving increasingly important to buyers.
The report discusses other promising channels of distribution, together with analysis of the marketplace for outsize consumers. It also reveals research about the social attitudes toward obesity and plus size, and how future perceptions could shape the outsize market.
For further outsize clothing analysis, including exclusive interview material from the report 'Global market review of outsize clothing - forecasts to 2012,' click here
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