Tags: plus size, retail, Style Syllabus

It’s a $17.5 billion market with big potential, but the plus size industry still struggles to make headway, especially in major retailers across the country. Even with huge sales numbers, that dollar amount of $17.5 billion is likely to be an underestimate. Retailers struggle to add new and exciting lines to their racks, making any potential customers frustrated and heading to online retailers more often. But some signs point to a shift to the positive for the plus sized clothing market.

Retail’s Plus Size Problem

Many plus sized customers have continued to express their dismay over the lack of clothing choices available, especially when compared to their smaller counterparts. While a size four has no problem walking into major big-box stores (like Target) to purchase clothing, plus sized woman are continually limited in their clothing options. This has led to retailers blaming poor plus sized sales figure on demand, rather than their ability to meet that demand in a satisfying way. Plus size clothing hasn’t always been fashionable, affordable, or well-made and it’s often located in depressing areas of the stores it inhabits, making the plus sized shopping experience a depressing one.

Research points to 77 percent of women who agree that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find well-fitting and quality plus sized garments, while 81% say they’d be willing to spend more on clothing if they were offered more options in both style, cut, and fit. Despite these lingering issues, some retailers are taking note and adding more plus sized options to their selections including JCPenney, H&M, and Target who now offers its own plus sized brand, Ava & Viv, launched in February. Target has said that the brand has done far better than projected and has “exceeded expectations across the board”. Some selections were so popular that Target has requested more for future sales.

There’s much more to a successful plus sized brand than just offering different designs. In fact, plus sized options require design expertise and that additional cost is often seen on the price tags of plus sized options. Experts strive to create flattering styles, many of which are curve enhancing or curve flattering elements that use different materials that other sizes: stretch material or contoured waistbands as an example. Even with these additional costs, retailers are becoming more sensitive to the cost to consumers for specialty apparel and are also becoming more open to featuring plus sized models in their advertisements. While the plus sized industry has its problems and continues to encounter growing pains, many are optimistic about the future of plus sized styling.

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