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A sizeable opportunity for the £2bn plus-size menswear market

The growing plus-size menswear market is stepping up its presence on the high street

Zach Miko for Bad Rhino

Zach Miko for Bad Rhino

Zach Miko for Bad Rhino

It is a market that is projected to grow 18.3% to from £2bn in 2014 to £2.4bn by 2019, says Verdict Retail. Yet the plus-size man is virtually invisible. While the “curvy” champions of plus-size womenswear gain prominence, there has been an obvious dearth of role models or “faces” for their male counterparts. Until now.

Zach Miko is 6 ft 6 inches, has a 42 inch waist and wears size 12.5 shoes. The 26-year-old American has modelled for US retailer Target and made his debut in the UK as the face of Bad Rhino, the new plus-sized menswear fascia from plus-size womenswear specialist Yours Clothing, which launched for spring 16.

Yours has since rolled out its menswear offer, which ranges from medium to 8XL, to all of its 90 womenswear stores across the UK. It is also in the process of refitting some stores to a dual fascia format and has appointed Ian Carruthers and Annemarie McNally from N Brown Group as head of menswear and menswear buyer, respectively, to lead the push.

“We are proud to be the first UK retailer to use Zach, and for him to represent the many bigger men who want to look good and feel good in what they wear,” the brand boasts on its website, which also stocks plus-size clothing from Rockford, Duke London, D555 and Santa Monica Polo Club.

Bad Rhino’s marketing campaign highlights some of the challenges that face the sector, where the lines between plus-size and special sizes are blurred.

“There’s a very narrow line between plus-size and ‘big and tall’ ranges,” says Rebecca Marks, retail consultant at Verdict Retail. “You almost have a disconnect between brand ambassadors such as [former England cricketer] Freddie Flintoff for Jacamo and [former Olympic swimmer] Mark Foster for T by Ted Baker and some of the everyday people that wear these types of brands.

“The other main difference from the womenswear equivalent is that plus size is often celebrated on social media or by bloggers.

“At the same time retailers and brands targeting the market use messaging such as ‘proud to be curvy’, which you don’t see as much for menswear,” she says. “It could be an opportunity.”

We believe in inclusivity, so if you are a small, medium or 4XL size, you can wear the same piece of clothing

Paul Gray, Chums

 

Ralph Tucker, product director at N Brown, owner of Jacamo, says the plus-size menswear brand’s message is about being inclusive and representing body types you do not often see in the media.

“Our two brand ambassadors – Freddie Flintoff and Paralympian Jonnie Peacock – are really aspirational but have achievable style.”

Paul Gray, head of marketing at home shopping and online retailer Chums, says: “From my experience, there are very few male plus-size models that are commercially strong for fashion. In this case, male fashion is far behind the female plus-size market.”

The plus-size menswear market by numbers

  • Worth £2bn in 2014
  • Projected to rise 18.3% to £2.4bn by 2019

Market share (2014, inc VAT)

  • Marks & Spencer 12.4%
  • Debenhams 7.1%
  • Next 6.3%
  • Primark 5.5%
  • Tesco 5%

Source: Verdict Retail

Chums, which is owned by UK mail order business Unity Home Shopping, targets the over-75 market, and launched a brand called Pegasus for men aged 50 to 65 with a more casual collection at the end of last year.

Pegasus trouser sizes range from a 31 inch waist to 64 inches (5XL) but does not use plus-size models because it says it is not a “pure” plus-size retailer, although this is a growing part of the business.

“We believe in inclusivity, so if you are a small, medium or 4XL size, you can wear the same piece of clothing across a large part of our range,” he says. “Our male models are generally well proportioned, and so can would wear our ‘large’-sized clothing in a way that looks appealing to our customers and is therefore commercial.”

He says the market for plus-size menswear is showing double-digit growth as a result of sedentary lifestyles and diets of convenience food. The challenge for retailers, he believes, is how to communicate some of the special design features of clothing for this audience.

“Men aren’t going to shout about it, but they want to feel good,” says Gray. “It goes hand in hand with men taking a more active interest in what they look like. It’s discreet things like elasticated waists and hidden stretch panels or an extra two inches in the length of trousers to take them over a pot belly so you’re not just stuck with baggy T-shirts.”

Marks & Spencer, which Verdict says is the plus-size menswear market leader, offers consistent design across sizes in its range rather than specific styles for each size.

Plus-size men do devote a greater amount of spend to items such as blazers, fleeces and cardigans

Glen Tooke, Kantar Worldpanel

“Our design team ensure that men find the same trend-aware styles across all our sizes and ranges,” says Scott Fyfe, director of menswear at M&S.

Glen Tooke, consumer insight director for fashion at research firm Kantar Worldpanel, says product trends are similar to the  “average” male on the whole. However, “plus-size men do devote a greater amount of spend to items such as blazers, fleeces and cardigans, and [less] on sportswear items”, he adds.

M&S’s Big & Tall range comprises tops, shirts, knitwear and coats up to size XXXXL or in 2 inches longer, jackets up to a 52 inch chest, and trousers up to a 48 inch waist and 37 inch leg. The full range is available online, and some Big & Tall shirts available in store.

And it is online that seems to provide the most potential for growth, thanks to the ability to offer all ranges and size options in one place. Tooke notes that a larger portion of spend goes to traditional mail order retailers compared with “average-sized” men.

Gray observes that, although traditional mail order channels, such as catalogues, magazine and newspaper advertising, and brochures, continue to be a key driver of sales for Chums’ and Pegasus’s older target market, tablets have been a gamechanger.

“The time spent with newspapers and magazines is declining: we’re looking at five hours a week, compared with 26 hours watching TV and 16 hours online,” he says.

However, for some retailers, being able to offer personal service and advice combined with a wide range of stock to try on there and then is a big draw for a plus-size consumer, who often cannot be bothered to traipse around mainstream stores that might not have their size or take a risk online.

“Most of our customers we see once or twice a year because they find shopping can be hard – they’ve often been let down by the high street, so they tend to come in and buy a lot all at once,” says Bruce McLaren, owner of plus-size independent Dalziel Kingsize in Woking, Surrey.

“Online is more of a shop window for us – we make some sales but it is more about showcasing what we have. People will be prepared to travel for 25 miles or so if they know they are going to get something that fits.”

Where are men buying plus-size clothes?
  
       
 

year to 13 Apr 2014

year to 12 Apr 2015

year to 10 Apr 2016

Clothing multiples

15.8%

18.7%

18.1%

Clothing independents

4.2%

4.3%

4.3%

General stores 

19%

16.6%

16.6%

Department stores 

10.4%

11.9%

10.6%

Mail order

10%

8.7%

10.7%

Internet 

6.7%

6.7%

7%

Discounters/cash and carry

10.9%

10.5%

9.6%

Sports shops 

8.6%

8.9%

9.1%

Supermarkets

11.8%

11.6%

11.3%

Footwear multiples 

0

0.1%

0

All other outlets

2.7%

2%

2.5%

Source: Kantar Worldpanel

Readers' comments (1)

  • Plus size clothing may seem like a great idea, but it comes with a myriad of problems.

    Image - if you're a standard size retailer that starts selling larger clothing, beware that it can damage your regular size business very quickly that is hard to shake of. You will get known as just being an large size shop even if you only carry 10%-20%.

    Price - Plus size consumers generally like price points which are low. Value to Low/Middle market is generally where it is at. Is your store selling at those sorts of prices? If you are a middle market store or higher, are you willing to risk attracting consumers that are lower than your current base?

    Competition - The best days of King Size clothing are over, despite what the stats say. It's boom time was the early 2000's, then too many brands got involved and it got diluted. N Brown has almost a monopoly on larger product and hard to compete with their online presence.

    Margin - Used to be great, but much King Size product is now discounted to such a degree it makes it unattractive.

    My advice is to think very carefully before going down the kings size road, because its initial attraction may cost you more than just financially.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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