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Posts for June 29th 2009

Where Have All The Plus Size Clothes Gone?

By Sarah Conley · June 29, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

The economy is getting a really bad reputation.  Every product failure, bottom line and red number has a company, an economist or a reporter blaming the "recession".  It is no secret that major corporations have taken a hit, not to mention some small businesses are barely making ends meet. Why does every loss have to be because of the economy?  Whatever state the economy is in, I'll leave it to the analysts to debate as I am no financial expert.  What I do know is that we have to change the way we think (and the way we shop), especially if we want to encourage the growth of the plus size market.

Major retailers like Ann Taylor are pulling size 16s from their selling floor to offer them exclusively online. Ellen Tracy and Bloomingdale's have also made moves towards eliminating their plus size lines entirely. Old Navy initially offered plus sizes in stores until the line performed so poorly due to fit that it was reintroduced online.  Who is to blame for major brands being unable to adequately serve the plus size consumer?  It's certainly not the consumer's fault, as plus size women do not wander streets of the world au naturale!

Additional fabrics, patterns and fit models cost a brand 10% more to produce on average.  As a plus size consumer, I am fully aware that it takes more fabric to cover my body than a size 2 or 10 and I am prepared for those costs to be passed on to me.  Designer Tadashi Shoji utilizes a plus size fit model to adapt his designs for larger sizes, as many companies do.  If a man who creates gorgeous evening wear worn by celebrities can understand the need, why can't brands that embrace the working woman? Plus size women have different needs than straight sizes, however the same can be said for other segments within the fashion marketplace, such as petite or tall sizes.

Each woman has her own challenges in regards to finding clothing which best suits her body type and not every customer can be served 100% of the time. Sales of apparel sized 16+ have dropped 8% from March 2008 through March 2009 in comparison to 2% for straight sizes. The NPD Group estimated in 2001 that 60% of Americans wearing a size 12+, with 50% of Americans wearing 14+ and 30% wearing a 16+.  In 2005 plus size clothing sales were $31,954 million while straight sizes sold $77,100 million.  The plus size industry had an estimated value of $35 million in 2006 of which 99% of the industry is clothing related.  All of these facts and figures leave us with one simple answer:  there is a large demand for plus size clothing and money to be spent.  But why do straight size brands who dip their toe into the plus size market garner all the attention?

These brands are "testing" plus size clothing lines (for example, Forever 21 and Faith 21) and releasing press releases about the introduction of a plus size line when one already existed in stores (Target).  Perhaps if brands approached the plus size consumer from a business standpoint rather than trend marketing, more brands would flourish in the marketplace.

What these articles fail to mention are the brands serving the plus size consumer and doing it well - designers and buyers who understand their customer, embrace their customer and exceed their customer's expectations.  To be honest, in the plus size marketplace it is not that difficult to do.  We have been so let down by major brands thinking because they have name recognition and a certain amount of recources they can do it better that our expectations are lowered (and they shouldn't be).

I prefer to patronize brands that support me and understand my needs.  I am not a figment of your imagination or a trend that will be gone within the next 6 months.  I am not going to have plastic surgery, try the next "it" diet or wear ill fitting clothes just because of a label and a good marketing campaign.  I have clothing needs and companies want money - why can't we all just get along?


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