The Literal Growth of the Fashion Market


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Any analyst looking at sales figures of certain retailers alongside current social trends will surely spot the glaring misalignment. As a nation, Brits are growing, and growing Brits need clothing. Far too few retailers are catering for the plus size market, and as such are missing a real trick that could seriously boost their fortunes.

The plus size market is grim. Frumpy brands lacking in imaginative or exciting marketing. Collections that are drab, offering tops like tents and trousers like windsocks. All the embellishment and beauty of the ranges in a size 6-16 disappears, and is replaced with elasticated waistbands, cheap fabric and poorly cut clothing – and it’s the larger sizes where those kind of details matter more than ever! Any beanpole can work a pretty binbag, but the real talent lies in offering a fantastic collection for the plus size shopper.
Gok Wan knows what he’s aiming at – his range for Sainsburys focuses on skimming and clinging in the correct places. The Inspire collection at New Look and ASOS Curve both provide fashionability alongside a careful cut, quality fabric and a fair price point. Yours Clothing is a brand dedicated to larger sizes, and features a wide range of pretty and elegant pieces. But the list stops there.

The average size for a woman now is a 16, equating to 11m women. The size of the prize for retailers offering a range where the sizing climbs beyond a 16 is estimated at £3.8bn. Statistics suggest that sales of larger clothes have grown 45% in the last 5 years, and yet this is not being catered for. I once asked a Brand Director for a premium ladieswear name if they would be introducing a size 18 in their jeans collection. The look on her face I will never forget, it was as if I’d poisoned her cat or served sour milk in her coffee.

So what’s going on? It seems clear to me – it’s snobbery. Certain designers and brands simply do not want their clothing showcased on “the wrong type of person”. The launch of size 16 mannequins in Debenhams recently created an almighty furore, and highlighted just how passionate some commentators get on the subject, with a clear attitude coming through that it just wasn’t glamorous.

Of course, the little grey cells in a commercial retail brain are now ticking over… I’d argue that it would be an incredible business model to launch a new retail name offering the excitement of Ted Baker, the elegance of Reiss, the pricepoint of Topshop and the choice of M&S. Perhaps once the industry starts to see sales of such a retailer rocket, will they acknowledge that perhaps they could compromise their brand integrity and see that bulging waistlines can lead to bulging bank accounts too.

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