Increasing levels of obesity in the UK has resulted in an increase in plus-size consumers. Consequently, total retail sales value for the UK women's plus-size market increased by 26.1% between 2003 and 2008, from $3.8 billion to $5 billion.
As the market develops, British women are increasingly demanding a better choice of more fashionable garments in plus-size clothing. The U.S. leads in this particular area of women.s wear and has catered to this market for many years. The most purchased clothing size today in the UK is a size 12 (U.S. 8*) with 31% of women buying this size, followed by 14 (U.S. 10). But with 10.1 million women in the UK (equivalent to nearly 40% of the female population) wearing size 16 (U.S. 12) and over, there is a growing demand for clothing more representative of the overall population.
Based on reports in the fashion trade press and public media, there are major opportunities in the plussize sector. Until recently, the plus-market was considered an ¡°afterthought¡± by much of the fashion industry. There was a limited range of available styles, and nothing remotely fashionable or trendy. Many major U.S. designers are now involved with the plus-size market. Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors have designed collections in the past, and have now been joined by Marc Jacobs, who is set to become the first major fashion house to launch a plus-sized range.
* All sizes quoted in the following report are U.S. sizes.
Market Demand and Data
According to recent survey by Mintel, a leading UK market intelligence company, the UK market for plussize clothing is at its peak. With nearly 40% of the female population using size 16 (US 12) and over, there is a growing demand for clothing more representative of the overall population. Important age groups to watch include the younger 15-24 year old bracket, and the ¡°Baby Boomers¡± generation of women who are now aged 55 and older.
In terms of retail sales value, the total UK market for women's plus-size fashion increased by 26.1% between 2003 and 2008. Rising levels of obesity in the UK means that plus-size consumers are increasing and these shoppers are looking for a better selection in plus-size clothing. Market analysts predict that the UK market for plus-size fashion will grow by 15.2% between 2009 and 2013 and growth will be driven by a continual increase in the number of women who are size 14 and over.
In the Mintel survey, over half of the women stated that not enough shops offered a range of choices to cater for different sizes and more than 4 in 10 believe that plus-size clothes tend to be less fashionable than smaller sizes. Many main street retailers have still not extended their range of clothes to offer the increased number of plus-size consumers a wider selection of choices.
Evans, the UK.s leading specialist chain for plus-size apparel, has over 300 stores nationally. Evans focuses on fashion rather than sizing in order to attract a younger audience. As part of this strategy, plussize singer Beth Ditto created the ¡°Beth Ditto at Evans¡± range of clothing for the chain, which is designed to appeal to the more fashion-minded consumers, for both plus-sizes as well as smaller sizes. This approach is a break from the trend that many of the main street retailers have used, which tends to include plus-size collections, many of which are larger sizes of main product lines, but which are not necessarily flattering in a larger size.
UK plus-size consumers can no longer be considered a niche sector, and U.S. exporters should be aware of the growth potential in this market. U.S. fashion houses have shown an increased interest in the plus-size market recently, as evidenced by American designer Marc Jacobs revealing that the company is in discussions to produce a clothing line catering to size 12 and above. Furthermore, there are many designers in the U.S. whose ranges, while not specifically designed for plus-size, can be worn comfortably by women over a size 14.