Retailers Taking the Measure of Children’s Sizes

Discussion
Aug 02, 2010
Bernice Hurst

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

There was a time when "chubby" babies
and toddlers were considered cute. It was deemed healthy for infants to fill
out as they grew and to slim down as they became active children. That was
before we woke to the reality of potential long-term health problems when children
don’t become active,
eat too much and frequently consume foods that are not especially good for
them. It also pre-dated recognition of an official obesity epidemic.

While
continuing to fight reality through improving diet, some manufacturers are
recognizing children’s larger sizes by making it easier for parents
to find clothes that fit them. British retailer Marks and Spencer is introducing
a range of "plus-size" clothes aimed at children as young as three.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the trial is "an attempt to
meet consumer demand." It goes on to remind readers that "one in
four children is now classed as obese or overweight by the time they start
primary school." M&S says the new items are "cut far more generously
than … standard sizes, with almost two-and-a-half inches extra around the
waistline and hips for clothes for three-year-olds."

Referring to comments
from Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum, the story points out that Marks
and Spencer’s customers are generally middle class.
This hammers home the point that childhood obesity extends to all economic
categories and is not restricted to low income families.

"People used to dismiss obesity as a problem of the lower classes, but
the decision by M&S shows just how widespread the problem is," he
said, blaming what he called over-indulgence and "a generation of parents
who haven’t been taught domestic science, and don’t know how to feed their
children a healthy meal at the end of the day."

In an effort to find out
more about children’s actual shapes and sizes,
several other U.K. retailers, including Next and Asda, have announced a plan
to measure some 6,000 children so they can adjust clothing sizes accordingly.

In
2005, a report by The NPD Group found that with nearly one-third of all children
in the U.S. considered overweight, finding clothes in kids sizes was a challenge.
The NPD report found mothers of overweight children reported 31 percent of
their nine to twelve-year-old boys and 38 percent of girls in this age group
are already wearing men’s, women’s or junior-size
apparel.

Discussion Questions: What’s the retail opportunity around plus-size kids
apparel? Is the best solution suggesting overweight children move up to adult
sizes?

[Author’s commentary] I blush to admit it but there were definitely "chubby" sizes
when I was growing up in NY. I have no idea when or why they disappeared —
perhaps it was to do with the stigma that kids felt.

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6 Comments on "Retailers Taking the Measure of Children’s Sizes"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

If children are overweight, they should be able to find clothes that fit them. Retailers should respond to this the same way that they stock plus sizes for adults.

Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
10 years 9 months ago

This is one of those issues to me where I think to myself “who are we kidding.” Opportunity is always addressed by filling the gaps by savvy retailers. If sizes were currently being made from size 1-8 for example and there was enough of a market to sell and make sizes 9-12, do we really think manufacturers are going to take the position we are not going to make clothes for this segment? Are these kids going to wear track suits their whole life?

Childhood obesity is on most levels a problem that needs to be addressed and made aware as a long-term threat to health and life itself. But that is a parental responsibility, not a retailer’s role to limit the options for those parents as if it’s a joint venture of raising those kids.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
10 years 9 months ago

Having been a heavy kid and having heavy brothers, I remember all too well the labels that read husky (for boys) and the elastic waist band stretch clothes for girls. It was pretty awful, as we all know kids are self conscious and their peers can be cruel.

There does need to be retail attention to this segment and hopefully it can be handled with some grace and dignity. Even fat kids deserve some fashion sense.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Retailers should capitalize on plus-size kids apparel the same way as they do so for adults. Kid’s styles are not the same as adults so special size sections are important to consumers.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Let me offer a dissenting viewpoint.

Most women’s sizes have already been re-marked, so that a misses’ size 8 from the ’70s is now marked as a 4. Apparel companies will keep monkeying with size markings to make their various markets happy…!

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Retailers should see sizes for overweight children as an opportunity to brand and market themselves as the place for them to shop without feeling self conscious. This is a larger market share availability because children outgrow clothes faster than adults. Adults wear clothes too tight and lose weight less than children. I am sure parents are finding their children have grown several sizes since school closed. And now they are buying anew for the upcoming school year. Excellent opportunity for retailers to cash in on a major group of buyers.

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