Big is Beautiful for the Bottom Line

Discussion
Sep 13, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Retailers have discovered bigger may be better, at least in terms of their customer’s physiques, when it comes to generating sales and profits for their business.


According to NPD Group, sales of plus-size clothing grew four percent last year to $17.4 billion.


NPD Group’s chief analyst, Marshall Cohen, told The Wall Street Journal that 40 percent of women wear at least some plus-size clothing. Plus-sizes represent 18 percent of the total apparel market.


Leading apparel retailers such as Nordstrom have seen the opportunity presented by plus-sizes and have developed plans to capture market share. For example, Nordstrom has added in-store events targeted to plus-size consumers that give shoppers the opportunity to speak directly with designers and buyers about what they’re looking for in clothing and fashion.


Moderator’s Comment: Do retailers need to advertise, merchandise, etc. differently for plus-size consumers than they would for those who do not wear
larger size clothing? What opportunities are there outside of clothing for retailers to target market to consumers who fall under the plus-size label?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

18 Comments on "Big is Beautiful for the Bottom Line"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 5 months ago
This is Marketing 101 mixed with Sensitivity 101. Of course, if you are going to provide a product or service to meet a perceived need, it is absolutely mandatory to tell your intended customer that you are doing so. What, you mean customers don’t just stumble onto product and service offerings? So the real issue here is not “if,” but “how.” And again, this is Marketing 101. Who is the consumer, what are the needs in the profile, where does this consumer look for information? Do they have issues or concerns which mitigate for or against specific media or event types? I’m not an expert on this consumer market. Yet it occurs to me that they wish to be treated with respect, courtesy, and care. Like most consumer market niches. Here are common mistakes I see: marketing based on the premise that “you can be pretty even though you are a plus size woman.” How patronizing and demeaning can you get? Inform. That’s all you have to do. If the need exists, well articulated or… Read more »
Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
15 years 5 months ago

Re the following: Also, if you go into a Chico’s, the sizes are not small, medium and large or 8, 10, 12 14, 16 etc… They size items 1, 2 or 3. Even the largest plus size customer is only buying a size three. Very smart marketing and a big ego booster that gets people to spend more time in the store and spend more money.

Chico’s size 3 is comparable to a size 14-16, and for the life of me I can’t understand why they won’t extend their sizes farther. Think instead Coldwater Creek, which has almost every item lined up by size from 2 to 20 or even 22.

Another thing retailers need to realize is that at times of changing trends — as now, as pant legs get wider — why do the newest trends invariably not come in women’s sizes, even when the bulk of a retailer’s merchandise does? I’m thinking Lands’ End, L.L.Bean and Eddie Bauer here. Even Talbots does it.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 5 months ago
Good grief! Big & Tall clothing stores have been available for men for decades. Nothing new. “Husky” departments have been available to juvenile males for decades as well. Let’s be honest. This is about overweight girls and women. If it were about tall women, like runway models, WNBA players, and female volleyball players, “tall” would be somehow included in the definition of “plus sizes.” But it’s not. Further, sensitivity should not be an issue in product identification or marketing. Plus-sized females know who they are, everyone around them knows who they are, and pretending or blurring the situation serves no one. I’m totally with Karen Kingsley on this one. Just add larger sizes to existing lines and don’t force plus-sized women to shop in a separate department. Remember “petite” departments? Not many of those around any more. But, on to the second question from the Moderator which, so far, I’ve seen no one address. Other opportunities to market products and services to larger-sized people – not just females – are airline seats, automobile entry (a… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 5 months ago
Some interesting comments from the panel. But there are two, if not three markets that need to be addressed, and it isn’t the ‘fat people’ label. You can’t lump overweight consumers with baby boomer’s body changing status, and just big and tall male and females. Hence, to someone’s point, marketing comes into play i.e. researching, and then, advertisng, promoting and store level merchandising; and focusing on the right segment — noted above — and with the right selling message… not relying on price. Interestingly, many sales associates are educated, and/or taught the difference in selling clothes, vs. furniture or upscale kitchenware. The better retailers have such educational programs in place for the new and current sales associates. Baby boomer’s new sized clothing, if you will, needs to have a different USP than the Big and Tall, and sales associates are made aware, if not already knowledgeable. Our grocery slant and business just tends to box many of us in without thinking that people today are far better educated and knowledgeable. And the retailers that want… Read more »
Vickie Yound
Guest
Vickie Yound
15 years 5 months ago
I think there are two camps of “plus” consumers — those that are overweight and those who are just larger than size 6. I’m a “plus” consumer (5’10”, size 14/16) but I don’t consider myself fat. I just need clothes that fit my height and curves. I consider myself an average shopper who likes to look nice and just happen to be taller and more curvy than others. For me, just merchandising clearly and having more than one size 14 in stock goes a long way. I have found very little satisfaction in shopping in brick and mortars and have become virtually a catalog/internet shopper exclusively (Cold Water Creek, Chico’s, Chadwicks, Jessica London, Spiegel are a few catalogs that meet my needs — cute clothes for work and play and my SIZE in stock). A “Plus” section in most stores does not appeal to me as mentally and emotionally I’m not “plus” (translates into overweight no matter how you slice it). For consumers in my camp, just stock some larger sizes of the clothes already… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Len, I will tell you that while many women find Chico’s sizing novel, they are annoyed by that most of Chico’s size 3’s don’t fit women over a size 12-14 (with the exception a few caftan-like tops and elasticized pant styles that allow for a “stretch”). I would put Chico’s in the “missing the opportunity” category for now (until they start making “4’s,” and “5’s” – ha!)

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Don Delzell claims not to be a consumer marketer yet he, along with Karen Kingsley and Mike Tesler all hit the nail on the head in some form in the opinion of this old marketing warhorse. (Wait a minute, does turning 50 still make you “old” or is there another name for this demographic as well?)

The crux of marketing fashion is to convince the consumer that the item (clothes, jewelry, or designer cigarette) will enhance their appearance and therefore their image. Period. No one is different with regard to this need. The major mistake retailers have made in marketing large size clothing in the past is to let their societal bias that “overweight is unattractive” show through in their apologetic marketing and merchandising presentations. To be successful in marketing plus sizes, do exactly what is done with the other clothes — show ’em off!!!

Connie Kski
Guest
Connie Kski
15 years 5 months ago

Just to add one more little squidgeon to the women’s plus size discussion… not all plus size women are under 5’7″. Please please please add LONG to your vocabulary. Lands’ End — who makes talls up to 18 please note! Your 18-26 group could use some long lengths.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 5 months ago

The average American woman wears a size 14. In most stores, plus sizes start at 16, which means that anyone in the country who is on the high side of the average is a “plus” shopper.

I believe the key is in treating her as if she were just a woman shopping for clothes. Don’t isolate her in a separate section of the store, offer fashionable styles, treat her as you would the size 6’s.

There’s huge opportunity for the retailer able to recognize that this woman is an average shopper in virtually every way and treat her as such.

Zel Bianco
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Yes, the retailer needs to let the plus size woman know they have new styles and greater variety than ever before. My guess is that because plus-size woman are demanding more chic designs, they have not been catered to in this way in the past.

More pages have to be devoted to this, no-pun intended, fast-growing consumer segment. Catalogs from Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and the like need to devote pages to this segment.

In terms of merchandising, retailers will need to get real in terms of how they merchandise in store as well. Women, no matter what size they are, want to find styles that make them feel good about themselves, regardless of whether they are a size 2, 4, 8, or 14.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 5 months ago

How many retailers realize

The expanding demand for plus-size?

Savvy merchants should enhance those

Now blanketed in oversized clothes.

Moral: Fashion is a thin-size gentility

that intimidates the oversized,

and is afraid of being overtaken.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 5 months ago

Retailers are doing a better job acknowledging the plus-size market. But it’s still far from good. Even Target, noted for pretty strong fashion merchandising, needs to step up efforts in this lucrative area.

If you’re looking for a good model — no pun intended — retailers should take a look at Chico’s. Wall Street loves them. Mature women, who don’t look like stick figures, are a big part of their demographic. They have created fashionable clothing and accessories for a market that was once relegated to clothing that looked like maternity wear.

Also, if you go into a Chico’s, the sizes are not small, medium and large or 8, 10, 12 14, 16 etc… They size items 1, 2 or 3. Even the largest plus size customer is only buying a size three. Very smart marketing and a big ego booster that gets people to spend more time in the store and spend more money.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
15 years 5 months ago

As a thin, old, balding, white male, I (except maybe for the thin) am a member of the group who for the most part has been making the marketing and merchandising decisions regarding Plus Size merchandise over the years. Everything about this feels wrong, even the title “Plus size,” I mean should size 1’s be “Minus size”? Clothes are clothes and people are people and the ones most likely to hold the keys to how to succeed in any particular portion of a business are those customers who are being targeted. I suspect most of the differences that retailers perceive are imaginary and I know many of them are offensive. The retailers who have been and will continue to win in this arena are the ones that communicate best with this target group and understand them the most (what else is new?).

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 5 months ago
The great thing about marketing to special size adults is that it could be so easy. Age, height, weight, and gender is listed on driver licenses, and those files can be rented from the Department of Motor Vehicles by zip code. So a retailer can issue invitations to the people in the trading area who’ll be the best market. This population needs clothing season after season, year after year, because adult heights don’t change much and most diets fail. These customers have tremendous “lifetime value.” BTW, the population should also include shorter-than-average men, since they don’t like to shop in the boys’ department. Even if the retailer doesn’t want to license the DMV data, the retailer can use the sales database from the POS software to see which proprietary charge card shoppers like special sizes. As an extra tall man, I’ve been appalled at the overwhelming lack of attention to my size needs in 99% of all stores selling clothing. Many stores assume that extra-tall men are automatically extra heavy, which is absurd. Many stores… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

While not a women’s retailer, I found it interesting that “Casual Male Big and Tall” just decided to change its name to “Casual Male XL” since evidently, guys aren’t crazy about carrying around bags that say “big and tall” when everyone thinks that translates to “fat.” In terms of apparel, I believe that the most important element for retailers is simply to get the word out that their sizes go higher so that larger consumers can get the go-ahead to buy instead of just browse. I also believe that the overweight tween/teen market still presents a tremendous opportunity and is grossly underserved. Ever try to buy an outfit for a less-than-trim teen at Abercrombie? Positively scary.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Sure, they should promote & merchandise differently, just like they would for any other distinct demographic. And I think retailers are doing a good job of it. It used to be that there were “fat people clothes” that were just odd in their design and color schemes. Actually, I wish now there were a bit more space set aside for size Medium. On the rare occasions I go clothes shopping, I wade through many, many L, XL and XXL before finding a few smaller sizes. We still exist out there. Somewhere.

Tom Zatina
Guest
Tom Zatina
15 years 5 months ago

Retailers need to be careful on this, lest they be “branded” as serving primarily the overweight crowd. Besides, with so many reports recently regarding the growing obesity trend in America, I would think that retailers are finding the so-called “plus” sizes very much in demand from the mainstream shopping public. If their supply does not meet the demand they have a problem. If their supply provides plenty of choices and options, those in search will come.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

All customers need to know what a store sells and what it stands for. No need for value judgements or opinions. Quality, style and temptation are what counts. Then let the shoppers make their choice. There really isn’t any such thing as “these people” no matter how you define them.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What is the biggest impediment to growing sales of plus-size clothing?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...