Plus-size market continues expansion
There has been an explosion of demand for plus-size clothing in recent years, making it irresistible for a profit-hungry industry not to accept the challenge and capitalise on a demographic that has long been ignored.
The plus-size market represents an $842.7 million chunk of the fashion industry in Australia, according to the 2017 IBISWorld study “Plus-Size Clothing Stores in Australia: Market Research Report”, where revenue is expected to grow in the next five years.
According to the study, about 63.5 per cent of Australia’s population is overweight or obese and retailers are taking notice of this growing market.
World famous designers like Donna Karan, Anne Klein and Oscar de la Renta, to name a few, are offering plus-size fashions in department stores, and Michael Kors and Christian Siriano have featured a range of body types on their fall runways.
The recent New York Fashion Week’s Spring 2018 show featured more plus-size models than ever before.
In Australia, the plus-size clothing industry is thriving. It has flourished over the past five years due to strong demand, according to the IBISWorld study.
“Statistically, as a nation, our waistlines are growing, with almost two in three adults overweight or obese,” Suzanne Scozzi, CEO of womenswear clothing Suzanne Grae, told Inside Retail.
“There are many reasons for this change over time and fundamentally, it is linked to diet and physical activity.”
“As a business, we found that our customers wanted to continue shopping with brands they love and didn’t want to be treated differently,” Scozzi said. “We could see the sentiment shifting with customers as we expanded our size offering and introduced more diversity in our model choices for different campaigns.”
According to Scozzi, Suzanne Grae has recently extended their size range, which was traditionally 10 to 18, to include size eight to 22.
A wide range of styles across all product types is available in all of the retailer’s 198 stores and every colour and style is now available in sizes eight to 22 online, Scozzi said.
“Our stores’ teams work with our customers to help order stock that might not be available in-store so all customers have a wide selection of styles and sizes wherever they choose to shop,” she added.
Scozzi said in their stores across Australia and online, a wide selection of shirts, dresses, jackets, tees, knits, denim and pants are being offered.
“At Suzanne Grae we have always been very focused on how our clothes fit, how comfortable and easy they are to wear and how practical they are to care for,” she said. “We saw a real opportunity to offer our clothes to more women of both smaller and larger sizes.”
“Why should regular sized women be the only ones who benefit from our great value, great service and on trend clothing?”, Scozzi added.
Scozzi explained designers interpret the key fashion trends for the season in a way that their customer will find flattering and comfortable – whatever their size.
“The key to the success of the extended range has been exactly that – the fact that it is simply an addition rather than a standalone ‘plus-size’ brand – why should these women be treated any differently?”
Pointing to internal research that showed plus-size women did not want to shop in expensive or exclusive plus-size stores – instead they wanted to be able to enjoy shopping with their friends of all sizes in regular stores at regular prices.
“At Grae, our customers pay the same price regardless of the size,” she said. “It is often not practical to offer all styles in all sizes in every store across the country but we can offer everything in all sizes in all colours and styles online.”
Scozzi said there are also some challenges that they have to face in the plus-size industry. Maintaining the price of their offerings is one of those.
“Many brands offering plus-size ranges can be very expensive in comparison to regular size brands and we were determined that this was not going to happen at Grae,” she said.
“We worked very hard with our suppliers to ensure that the value we offered in our regular range was extended just as the sizes were extended and price has been maintained across the range of sizes.”
Plus-sized menswear retailer Johnny Bigg has also experienced high demand for plus-size clothing.
Julian Hayman, founder of Johnny Bigg, said since the brand relaunched almost three years ago, it has experienced 30 to 40 per cent growth and plans are currently in the works for the brand to add more stores.
According to IBISWorld, the plus-size clothing industry has thrived during a period of economic uncertainty and weak retail conditions, and although other retail industries have struggled over the past five years, the plus-size clothing market has flourished due to strong consumer demand, and added it will continue to grow even more.
Scozzi said fit is always incredibly important whatever size market a retailer is in, but in the plus-size area it becomes even more important.
“We have a dedicated quality assurance department that in conjunction with the buyers and designers and house models ensure that our fit is perfect on all of our sizes offered from 8 through to 22,” she said.
Scozzi added their effort must be working as well over 50 per cent of their customers are returning customers.
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