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Plus size ladies need more variety



Well here we are, the end of June and some might say we still haven't had our summer yet!  High street stores battle it out with one another trying to intice the customer into their stores.  

Unfortunately they seem to have forgotten that there is a larger market out there! I'm talking size-wise. Yet, it seems to fall on deaf ears. The other day I watched Mary Queen of Shops, there she was tring to save this poor lady's business from going under.  The lady herself didn't even have a clue as to what 'her' customer wanted.  It was actually shocking to watch and very upsetting.


Mary Queen Of Shops Ep 1/6
Monday 9 June
9.00-10.00pm BBC TWO

mary_quuen_of_shopsFashion guru Mary Portas returns to the British High Street

Last year, fashion guru Mary Portas galvanized some of the saddest shop floors in Britain into adopting a radical new approach to turn around their fortunes. Now, Mary returns to the High Streets of Britain to reinvigorate five more fashion shops that have lost their way.

Mary famously reinvented Harvey Nichols, but her passion is
re-energising independent stores that can bring new flavour and excitement to the High Street – and she's got her work cut out with the five independents in this new series.

Tonight's opener sees Mary visiting the wealthy town of Ascot. Its High Street is home to Blinkz, a shop that caters for the fuller-figured woman, owned by size 10 gym fanatic Amanda Collins. Mary is shocked to discover that Amanda's attitude to her plus-size customers leaves a lot to be desired – Blinkz is full of dowdy, baggy, unflattering clothes that most people, whatever their size, wouldn't be seen dead in. As a result, nothing is selling and the business is in crisis. With 57 per cent of British women over size 14, Mary is convinced that Amanda's plus-size shop should be making money. But unless she changes her attitude to her potential clientele, she doesn't stand a chance.

Amanda, however, doesn't think that larger women follow fashion. Mary takes her behind the scenes at Marie Claire, one of the country's leading fashion magazines, to help her get to grips with the seasons up-and-coming trends. Amanda tries to apply this knowledge when choosing new collections for her shop, but can she buy fashionable clothes that flatter the fuller figure and then sell them without insulting her customers?


This series honned in on the larger size ladies, which lets face it over half the British population or as quoted above 57% are over a size 14.  Retailers like TOPSHOP, Miss Selfridge, Jane Norman, as well as many other leading high street retailers seem to have forgotton that we are not all size 6, 8, 10 and that as we get older it does not mean that we just dissapear.  This market caters purely for the teenage into late tweenties market.  Just beacuse a lady is a size 12 or over it does not mean that she should be banished to shop in Evans, now whilst Evans do a fine job, I know that these women want variety, they want to show off their best parts, not feel as if they should wear clothing that just hides them away.

Personally I think it is a huge let down by the retail industry!

Since watching that TV series I started doing my own research and came across the following…


This Industry Sector Analysis (ISA) covers the plus-size fashion sector of the UK women's fashion market. A number of factors have combined to create interest in the market for plus-size fashions. The issue of weight has become a cause for concern in the UK, with rising levels of obesity and eating disorders throughout the country. The shape of the average consumer has also changed. Women are generally becoming larger and heavier than they were 20 years ago. Population trends also favor the rise of the plus-size market. The "Baby Boom" generation is reaching their 40s and 50s, with over 60% of them considered overweight or obese.

 Until recently, the plus-size market was considered an "afterthought" by much of the fashion industry. There was a limited range of available styles, and little to no trendy clothes. However, with the concerns over weight issues, population trends, and an increase in demand, retailers are beginning to take notice, and have entered the plus-size market. Plus-size clothing is now available through all major retailing categories, including extensions of size ranges to include larger sizes and clothing lines specifically dedicated to larger women.

Plus-size fashion may be presented in various ways including:

á Extensions of Size Ranges- standard size ranges have been extended in many stores to include plus-sizes.
á Dedicated Ranges- these ranges cater specifically to larger women.
á Brand or Designer Ranges- available through department stores, boutiques, or other fashion chains

The most recent consumer research points out that women in the UK would like to see an industry standardization of clothing sizes. Currently, for example, a given size can vary in its dimensions and measurements from company to company. Industry standardization of clothing size would eliminate this concern. The research also suggested that the industry has a way to go in producing more attractive clothing for larger women. Important age groups to watch include the younger 15 to 24 year old bracket, and the "Baby Boom" generation of women.


Population Trend Factors
The UK population has been aging steadily over the last few years. Since people generally gain weight with age, this naturally prompts growth in the plus-size market. Between 1998 and 2001, there was a 6% increase in the number of women aged 55-64 years old. Nearly 7 out of 10 of these women were overweight. There was a recorded 7.4% increase in the number of women aged 35 to 44 years old. Nearly half of these women were considered overweight.

larger_ladiesThe Female Population in the UK by Age Group (000), 1998-2001
1998 1999 2000 2001 % Change
Under 15 5,545 5,542 5,525 5,504 -0.7 15-24 3, 503 3,527 3,569 3,618 3.3
25-34 4,511 4,418 4,310 4,193 -7.0 35-44 4,211 4,318 4,431 4,522 7.4
45-54 3,886 3,903 3,917 3,939 1.4
55-64 2,985 3,052 3,109 3,165 6.0
65-74 2,674 2,643 2,625 2,613 -2.3
75+ 2,793 2,803 2,811 2,818 0.9
All Ages 30,108 30,207 30,298 30,372 0.9

Source: Keynote

Size and the Fashion Industry
Marks and Spencer, one of the UK's leading clothing retailers, conducted a recent survey, that generated a lot of publicity, that found that British women are in fact getting bigger. The survey involved taking three-dimensional (3D) images of 2,500 volunteers across the UK. The results showed that the average female measurements in the UK are now: 36C bust, 28-inch waist, and 38-inch hips. This is a significant increase compared to 1960s statistics, when measurements were 34B bust, 24-inch waist, and 33-inch hips. The new average measurements reflect a clothing size 14 (U.S. 10), rather than 12 (U.S. 8), which was the norm forty years ago. From the results of this survey, Marks and Spencer announced it would assume 14 as its "base size", and altered the company's whole production process to account for the new size. Many other UK retailers have since followed suit and changed their sizes as well.

Market Size
The total market for plus-size clothing is estimated to be worth over $5 billion. This represents nearly 30% of the total women's clothing market, compared with only 25% in 1997.

This increased proportion of the total market, highlights the fact that more women in the UK are purchasing plus-size clothing, as well as the fact that more plus-size styles are now available. However, research shows that larger women are still not spending a lot of money on plus-size clothing. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that the middle-aged bracket in general spends less money on clothes than the younger age bracket, and that the middle-age bracket is less influenced by seasonal trends than the younger bracket. In addition, larger women are also less likely to make impulse purchases.

For the full report click here

It seems such a shame that in this day and age retailers have not picked up on this.  There is simply a huge gap in the market.  There is certainly money to be had here.  Lets just hope that more designers start to realise that larger does not mean dull.

Vanessa Camelia

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