Evans’ tie-up with singer Beth Ditto shows how the plus-size womenswear market is targeting younger shoppers
Overall trends in womenswear are being reflected in the plus-size market, with customers increasingly price conscious and trading down to value ranges where possible.
Cutbacks in spending by older customers have also dented overall growth, according to industry experts.
In the UK, 37% of women are size 16 or above, with 66% of them over 45, according to research from retail consultancy TNS Worldpanel Fashion. The size 16-plus market as a whole is underperforming.
TNS Worldpanel Fashion client manager Elaine Giles says: “The older you get, the more likely you are to be a size 16 and above, but the 45-plus age bracket has really cut back on spending, particularly in clothing.
However, Alan White, chief executive of home-shopping giant N Brown, which specialises in niche plus-size products, claims his brands have experienced the opposite. “As a nation we are getting bigger,” he says. “Our recent figures [N Brown posted a 5.1% uplift in sales for the 18 weeks to July 4], showed growth evenly spread across all size categories.”
However, White says mid-price-point product is suffering, as customers either trade down to cheaper basics or push to higher price points for branded product.
Multiples with a plus-size offer are still gaining market share. Evans creative director Rachel Sproule says although sales have been good, she is trying to change the image of the plus-size chain. At the launch of its collaborative range with Gossip singer Beth Ditto last week, Sproule said: “The most important thing for us is getting a younger customer in and the cool appeal.”
Supermarkets are also gaining market share by value and volume, up 1% and 1.7% respectively. Last year, Sainsbury’s launched a plus-size range, Grace, and the retailer’s business unit director for clothing Adrian Mountford says he has seen “significantly higher levels of plus-size sales” this year. Matalan’s plus-size label Rogers & Rogers has also continued to grow since its launch two years ago.
Although plus-size indies have grown market share by 0.3% for the six months to May 24, Anna Scholz, owner of the eponymous plus-size brand, says wholesale sales at her label are down 10%.
But Scholz says there are huge opportunities in the plus-size market. She is launching a diffusion collection for spring 10 for younger customers at a lower price point. She says: “The bottom end of the market is getting a lot of attention, with the likes of Primark, but the plus-size market is equally looking for that mix of value and fashion.”