Demand for fashion by overweight people is expected to create a $107 billion market by 2012, according to a new report. The projection represents a 41 percent increase over an already hefty market segment.
In Plus-Size and Big and Tall Clothing in the U.S., a study by the market research publisher, Packaged Facts, much of this market's expansion is attributed to the nation's growing obesity rate. In 2004, more than 78 million Americans were classified as obese, according to the researchers.
Sales of plus size women's and girls' clothing grew 41 percent between 2001 and 2006, rising from $33.3 billion to $47.1 billion. By 2006, this segment represented 40 percent of all U.S. women's and girls' clothing sales. The report anticipates an additional 37 percent increase, or another $17.5 billion between now and 2012. That will take plus size women's and girls' apparel sales to just under $65 billion a year.
The big and tall market made up half of men's and boys' clothing sales in 2006. That market gained 40 percent between 2001 and 2006, and is expected to increase 47 percent by 2012. That will stretch the 2006 market of $28.8 billion to $42.4 billion within another six years. The report credits earlier market growth to the rising number of manufacturers and retailers that have contributed to supplying these markets. It also notes that online shopping is an influential factor, because of the convenience and comfort it offers very heavy people.
"We've learned that online purchasing is extremely lucrative for this market," said Tatjan Meerman, Managing Editor of Packaged Facts. "Big people seem to prefer buying their clothing online, where the offerings, not only in terms of sizes available, but also fashionable selections, are often far superior to what they find in brick and mortar venues. However, the advent of digital measuring kiosks could reverse this trend," she added, "as big folks start to use these custom tailoring tools."
The study projects two areas that will accelerate market growth. One is the need for more upscale plus size and big and tall clothing that takes this market further away from baggy and dowdy. The other is to cater to the girls' teen and tween segments, which the researchers said is a neglected portion of the plus size market.
Clothing chains, such as Torrid, which is a brand of Hot Topic, based in City of Industry, CA, offers trendy plus sizes to young, hip girls. Old Navy and the Gap have jumped on the bandwagon.
Charming Shoppes, Bensalem, PA, has led the way in focusing on the fashion aspect of plus size clothing with its Lane Bryant, Catherine's, and Fashion Bug stores. Celebrities such as Oprah, Queen Latifah, and supermodel, Emme, offer positive images of full figured women and help elevate the fashion aspect of plus sizes.
Kohl's, which offers a Daisy Fuentes line, is among the department store chains that have expanded plus size offerings. Talbot's and Wal-Mart have joined the fray. At the upper end of the retail spectrum, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale's by Mail have also expanded this segment.
United Retail Group Inc., Rochelle Park, NJ, is betting big on big with nearly 500 Avenue stores devoted only to plus size apparel. Satisfying this market relies not just on adding bigger sizes to regular lines, but on designing clothing in flattering ways that fits heavier females' distinctly different silhouettes.
While big and tall men and boys have less of a negative image to overcome, they have as much difficulty in getting the right fit as their female counterparts. Men's Wearhouse is in the forefront of touting its ability to meet men's oversize dimensions.
Demographics signal this is smart marketing well into the future. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 66 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese, and the CDC projects this number will continue to rise.
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