Why hasn’t plus-sized apparel been an easy win for retail?
The women’s apparel chain Loft has angered many shoppers and surprised retail watchers with its decision to stop offering plus sizes just three years after entering the category.
The company wrote on Twitter, “Unfortunately, due to ongoing business challenges, we have had to make some difficult decisions, which does impact our plus collection. Come fall, our size offering will be 00-18/XXS – XXL. We sincerely apologize for any disappointment.”
The exit led to significant backlash on social media as well as coverage of the backlash by major media outlets. One Twitter user responded, according to People’s website, “Excluding half the market cannot be a good decision.”
Ascena Retail Group, the parent of Loft, Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant and Justice, filed for bankruptcy last July. Loft’s plus line may have failed to deliver enough sales and/or margin as it shrank its SKUs during the pandemic.
Plus-size apparel costs more to produce because bigger sizes use more fabric and may require special manufacturing techniques. Alexandra Waldman, co-founder of size-inclusive label Universal Standard, told Vogue Business, “Factories often lack experience in making clothes of an extended size and looms are often not designed to make sweaters in larger sizes, especially if you’re looking to make something seamless.”
The plus-size market is growing at nearly twice the rate of the overall apparel market, according to NPD. New ranges from stores and emerging brands embracing inclusive sizing continue to reach the market to flattering media coverage.
A recent Business Of Fashion article, however, detailed the exit of once celebrated plus lines from White House Black Market and Mango and the challenges these companies faced in addition to margin concerns. These include being called out for not fully committing to sizing, failing to showcase diverse body shapes, tone deaf marketing practices and only carrying plus-size items online.
Loft’s plus line, however, appears to have been received favorably.
“I think the plus-size community felt truly embraced by Loft,” CeCe Olisa, the co-founder of theCURVYcon and Loft ambassador, told Yahoo Life. “And, based on the messages I’ve received from my community, I’d say that this change feels like an unexpected rejection from a new friend.”
- Loft is quietly dumping most plus sizes just 3 years after rolling them out, and some shoppers are furious – Business Insider
- LOFT Announces It Will Stop Selling Plus Sizes Due to ‘Ongoing Business Challenges’ – People
- LOFT plans on cutting plus size clothing by fall – Today
- LOFT quietly announces decision to cut extended sizes. Plus-size advocates call it an ‘unexpected rejection’ – Yahoo Life
- What happened to plus-size? – Vogue Business
- What Fashion Can’t Seem to Get Right About the Plus-Size Market – Business Of Fashion
- Ascena Retail Group Completes Sale of Ann Taylor, LOFT, Lou & Grey and Lane Bryant to Sycamore Partners – Ascena Retail Group/Globe Newswire
- Ann Taylor, Loft, Lou & Grey store closings: These locations will shutter as part of Ascena bankruptcy – USA Today
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think is behind Loft’s decision to exit the plus-size business? Why does plus-size apparel appear so complicated to bring to market and find success?