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Womenswear’s plus points

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.”

Readers' comments (4)

  • I am surprised that the tone of this article is not more positive. Our online sales are up by 100%, our sales in Harrods are up by 60% and several Independents had a great spring summer season. However forward ordering for autumn winter 09 was a lot more cautious as more and more buyers are looking to stock buy throughout the season.
    Regards Anna Scholz

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  • Marsha Coupe

    One only has to look at the hundreds of blogs and websites, created by fashion conscious sisters-of-size to appreciate the value (and money) we invest in fashion. Online retail sales is going from strength to strength, as plus size women support the brands that support us.

    Hip designers, like Anna Scholz, are developing international followings that prefer to purchase direct, rather than wading to the back of a dusty dinosaur store. This is the dawn of a new retail model, where passionate plus size designers and discerning shoppers embrace in cyberspace.

    Viva La Vida!

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  • I'd like the fashion industry to stop treating plus size women as unwanted lepers. From placing the plus sized wear at the back of the department store, to the lack of choices in colours and styles, to ignoring the plus size maternity market (because scoff gasp who would want to get a fat chick pregnant), and the same for career wear - employ a fat chick, never!

    Get off your high and mighty posts, and treat plus size fashion clients with the respect that they deserve. As Marsha stated, the number of groups, blogs and websites devoted to plus sized fashion should be a BIG FAT CLUE that there is a tonne of money to be made in this area. Right now, we're not getting the message that the industry wants our dollars...not through the positioning of the product, nor the styles being offered, or the lack of teaching being given to upcoming designers about designing for the plus sized person.

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  • being a 19 year old female , and finding 'plus size' garments(size 16/18)can be a bit of a job when you also 5ft 9 . i just hate it when i have to go right to the back of a rail and just find that it goes up to a '14' 'yeah right more like a large 12', its a bit of a drag really i think retailers desperately need to figure out this market as there are many people out there that would spend there money on clothes if they got good service and a quality product which most of the time isnt the case, the plus size market interests me so muchthat ive decided on researching it for my university project paying particular attention to the over 40 woman, after conducting alot of research in to this i saw that this is a market that hasnt been targeted as much as it should be, after spending a summer working in a speciliast plus size shop it gave me a real insight into this market, so if any women are reading this that fit into this category i would love to hear from you and what your views are :D thanks xxxxxxx

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