We’ve all heard the statistics. Over half of women in the U.S are size 12 or larger with the average American woman between a size 16 and 18. But until recently, this lucrative demographic – with an estimated $20 billion growth opportunity – has been ignored. As a marketer, it’s puzzling why such a potentially profitable target audience has been underserved for so long.
But is the fashion industry finally shaping up? Recent changes indicate the days of full-figured women’s options being limited to either a navy or black elastic waist pull-on pant may be going away. Minneapolis-based Target just launched the Universal Thread collection – featuring primarily denim and casualwear – in every size from 00 to 26W.
Big name fashion brand icons like J Crew, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor Loft have all recently announced expansions to their traditional size offerings. Loft proudly launched a plus size collection in February featuring a countdown clock to the grand opening on their website and the message “Because no two bodies are alike – and that’s a beautiful thing”. True to their brand, their extended sizes collection features fashion-forward clothing in the same vibrant colors and bold patterns found in their standard line.
The majority of extended size product is limited to online shopping. But changes are happening at the brick and mortar locations as well. Target is now prominently displaying fashion mannequins of all shapes and sizes throughout their apparel department. Larger models are also being featured in advertising – both print and online. And flipping through clothing racks at stores like Target, Macy’s and Old Navy, you’re likely to find many more selections in sizes like 16W or even 3XL in all offerings.
Could the day be coming when plus or extended size fashion isn’t buried in the far back corner or basement of the store? Better yet, could we just eliminate phrases like plus size or special sizes from our vocabulary and merge clothing into one universal department? After all, do we really want to be special? Or plus? Couldn’t we all just be equal instead?
As marketers, we see a leadership opportunity for the retail fashion industry: to not only embrace creating fashionable products for people of all sizes, but also to stop using the labels that perpetuate the stigma of wearing a larger size. What do you think?