In contrast to the current gloomy outlook on the high street, the men's plus-size clothing market (waist size 37" and above) is the fastest growing clothing sector in the UK according to new research.

In the past year it has risen by 15% to GBP718m. In contrast, men's clothing of waist size 36" and below is declining by 1% year on year says the latest data from TNS Worldpanel Fashion.

Men's plus-size clothing continues to be dominated by the older age group, with the over-45s accounting for 72% of cash sales. However, the fastest growth is being seen amongst the under 25s, up by 56% in the past year.

Casualwear is the biggest seller in both the men's plus-size and women's size 16+ markets. However men's plus-size formalwear sales are also growing, driven by a 28% increase in suit sales.

This indicates the growing need amongst British men for plus-sized clothing across their wardrobes, the researchers say - and may have influenced the 9% price hike in the men's plus-size market.

Men in the south of the country proportionally spend more on plus-size clothing, with 37% of the money spent here going on size 37" waist and above. In contrast, only 12% of Welsh men's clothing spend goes on size 37"+.

Brenda Gobine, research manager, TNS Worldpanel Fashion, said: "Over the last three years, clothing for the larger lady has become far more mainstream, with many retailers extending the sizing of their ranges to meet the growing waistline of Britons. 

"However, it is amazing to see that retailers haven't yet followed suit for larger men. The market needs to realise that there is a growing number of younger, fashion-conscious men looking for plus-sized clothing.

"High street multiples continue to control the women's plus-sized market, accounting for 23% of sales, whereas the men's plus-sized clothing market is dominated by general stores, such as M&S and Bhs, with 22% of sales going through this channel.

"The value chains, such as Primark and Matalan, have cottoned on to the value of the plus-sized women's market, aiming ranges at fashion conscious younger consumers, but are yet to make their mark on the men's plus-sized market.

"There is a real opportunity for retailers to expand their ranges and grab a slice of the plus-sized men's fashion market."