Plus-size women's wear grew its share of the clothing market from 18.7% in 2006 to 23.2% in 2011, according to research from retail analyst Verdict. Overall the plus sized market is holding up well in a recessionary climate, and growth in thesector is continuing to outpace mainstream sectors.
In a report by WGSN, plus size now represents almost a fifth of retailing in the womenswear market. Defined as size 18 and over, Mintel research reports that the market is expected to grow from £3.81bn in 2008 to £4.42bn by 2013.
The introduction of plus sized collections by major retailers means the landscape has shifted;mainstream retailers are now in competition with niche labels. The result? A more demanding consumer, who expects more product offer than in previous years.
Online is also proving a successful channel – where previously mail order catalogues were popular for plus sized garments – now the natural shift has been an emphasis on ecommerce channels.
Celebrity collaborations are also proving popular in creating a more fashionable sensibility around plus sized products, appealing to a younger consumer and also just generally making women feel more comfortable with the idea of buying plus sized products.
Furthermore Jane Fenlon Smith, UK product manager, for lingerie giant, Triumph International, speaking on the larger sized sector, in general, believes its no longer about ‘size’ but there is a new buzzword around the issue, ‘shape.’
‘Our main push over the past two seasons has been about shapewear," she says. "The shape debate in all its forms continues to be a hot topic in the media. It used to be about size, where we talked about size zero to size 24 or whatever it might be, then it became about skinny models versus more curvy models - and this whole debate still continues. But now it seems to be more about our shape, our perception of shape and health issues. I think women will be pleased not to always be referred to by their size, but more about their shape and enhancing their shape.’
Mainstream retailers, such as Evans are popular for plus sized clothing, whilst Marks and Spencer noted there were taking 100% more volume on shapewear than this time last year.
Karen Feirstone, head buyer, says, ‘ Shaping is phenomenal for us. Whatever sizing it may be, everyone wants to have a better shape.’
So with competition so rife, it seems the clothing industry is going to be needing to come up with more than just bigger sizes to satisfy consumer demand.