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The Plus Size Women’s Fashion Market | WMI

15 Jul 2015 Ann D'Adamo

in Fashion, Industry News

Mainstream retailers are finally beginning to turn their attention to the often sidestepped category of plus size women’s fashion. Target launched Ava & Viv, a plus size line, in February and included plus size apparel in their designer collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer. Trendier apparel lines, like J. Crew and Old Navy are also offering select pieces in sizes to 20 online. Swimsuits for All, an online swimwear retailer, empowers all women with images and messaging that embraces every body shape and size—and it’s about time! Regardless of where they shop, larger-size women want what every other shopper wants: reasonably priced clothing that fits well.

According to research from The NPD Group, the plus size apparel market generated $17.5 billion in sales between May 2013 and April 2014, up 5% from the prior year. Mintel research found that there is significant room for growth in plus size women’s fashion, “Forty-four percent of plus-size women said that when they do shop, they buy out of necessity and they tend to re-visit the same brands repeatedly. These behaviors signal opportunities for retailers to use loyalty programs to reward purchases and further build relationships,” said Andrea Van Dam, CEO of Women’s Marketing . “Helping larger size women see clothes as a treat or reward may not only increase purchase frequency, but create a positive emotional connection with women who have traditionally seen clothes shopping as the opposite of fun,” she advised.

Where are plus size women shopping?

Eighty percent of plus-size women 18-44 reported shopping online for clothing. Shopping online is especially strong in the plus size apparel category as e-tail offers more styles and varieties compared to in-store; web shopping may also feel more comfortable than the traditional store dressing rooms for some consumers. .In fact, nearly one quarter of women size 14+ said they preferred to shop online. Plus size women’s fashion retailers that develop easily navigated websites and provide style inspiration in the form of look books and inspirational content may lure customers who want trendy, fashion-forward looks. “Retailers have a wonderful opportunity to engage consumers and personalize their experience by showcasing fun, unique ways to wear their styles and making women feel comfortable and welcome at every size,” suggests Van Dam.

Plus Size Apparel Frustration: Finding a fit that flatters

Plus size women face more barriers when it comes to finding clothing that fits them well. Half of plus size shoppers say they have difficulty finding clothing that fits comfortably. One way plus size apparel retailers can use this insight is to provide in-store customer service or informative descriptions that accurately reflect the fit of different brands. “It’s critical for retailers to be forthcoming and informative about sizing differences of the brands they carry and offer a variety of styles that flatter different body types. This will lead to fewer returns and an ongoing relationship with the consumer,” Van Dam advises.

What inspires her purchases?

Marketers trying to obtain female Millennial buying power in the plus size apparel industry should look to key influencers to reach their targets. Thirty percent of female Millennial women say they look to social media for inspiration, followed by fashion magazines (28%), email blasts (24%), and style bloggers (18%). Only recommendations from friends and family had more influence: 43% of women look to their friends for advice. “From an acquisition perspective, plus-size brands and retailers should communicate the same core fashion values as other fashion consumers, but targeted to this audience’s very specific needs and desires,” says Van Dam.

While the retail industry has made progress when it comes to serving the needs of the plus size women’s fashion market, it still has room to grow. At Women’s Marketing we offer strategic initiatives and actionable insights for brands targeting women. Contact us today to learn how we can design a custom advertising program for your brand.

Sources Mintel Plus Size and Big & Tall Clothing, US June 2015; NPD Group Plus Size Apparel

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