The plus-size market constitutes 12.4% of all UK clothing sales and…is still underspending by more than 20% compared to the “small” size market.
Plus, it is a very good time to be in this growing plus-size market: Investors are pouring money into sites like Eloquii, which recently expanded its offering by partnering with fashion-girl favorite Stone Fox Bride on a line of plus-size gowns. And Christian Siriano fused two market trends, showing his see-now-buy-now collaboration with Lane Bryant at a runway show at the U.N. last week. Glamour also debuted a dedicated plus-size special edition …….
We have always been ahead of market trends in concept if not in market share – and though we have very recently conceded to using “plus” in our social media language we are wading in here to the argument about “name calling….”
A new entree to the market is making the same case as we have for 25 years – Coverstory deliberately doesn’t refer to itself as a plus size brand anywhere on its site – despite the fact it only sells clothes for women sized between UK 16-32. “Straight size, plus size, I don’t think it’s an issue,” the founder of Coverstory Heidi Kan told Fashionista. “If you like beautiful clothes, you like beautiful clothes.”
“At Coverstory, we don’t subscribe to limiting labels, but we do believe in our brands. We don’t believe that chic stops at size 12 and we are committed to creating stylish options to women of all sizes, race, sexual orientation and gender orientation. Everyone deserves to feel stylish and to express beauty in their own way. We partner with brands that share the same point of view and together we celebrate YOU.”
Our Strapline has, since 1991, been
“BEAUTIFUL CLOTHES FROM DAWN FRENCH & HELEN TEAGUE”
This “niche” market is worth in excess of £5 billion while a quarter of UK women have bought plus-size clothing in the past year.
Retailers are still hesitant about expanding into this potentially highly lucrative area of business and seem to be afraid of the image it perpetuates. I recall in 1995 at the launch of our new Brand Identity at the Clothes Show Live at the NEC – trendy young girls wandered onto our stand because they were attracted by the brand image and then leaped off as if they had been stung when they realised it was for bigger sizes…they seemed to think being 16+ was contagious.
In 2010 I met with Lord Waheed Alli to propose that he takes us on at ASOS because they only had 16 items of clothing which were size 16+! “No” he said….”we know our niche and we are sticking to it.” He obviously changed his mind – and within a year! ASOS are now one of the favourite places for young shoppers of a certain size. However “CURVE” is still ghettoised within ASOS and the next significant shift in this market is going to be in this area.
We form our style ID when we are in our 20’s and 30’s – and this doesn’t change significantly so, as we getter bigger as we get older, we will still have the appetite to spend but unless the 16+ market evolves with us we will spend significantly less than we want to. We need to move away from the ubiquitous 16+ offers where the only criteria is size, to creating as many brands with distinctions in style as there are in the small size market.
Big girls want what all girls want – choice – and the really huge gap in the 16+ market remains the lack of distinctive brands.
At its most basic level there are sexy, sporty, powerful, intrepid, arty and assured women who want what they wear to reflect who they are …and that’s just the basics.
The growth in this market is phenomenal – possibly the biggest single untapped market in the western world – and when combined with new technology …phew!
……and we have been saying this for 28 years
1. COMPELLING DEMOGRAPHICS ON UK + SIZE MARKET
i. There is a 20% underspend compared to the standard size market
ii. 50% + women are over a size 16
iii. 50% of women are over 50 years old with a higher % of them over size 16.
There is an untapped market worth over £8 billion in the 16+ industry in the UK. It is certain that similar statistics occur around the world, especially in the US, and that this market is one of the biggest and most lucrative new markets in the western world – a point worth repeating.
2. THE REAL REASON FOR THE NEGLECT OF THIS MARKET HAS BEEN ERADICATED:
There are many reasons attributed to the slow take-up in this market – one of them being image issues. The other relates to size/fit and we do now have the technology not only to elegantly evolve size/fit issues – but also to revolutionise the supply chain’s contribution to this revolution. Sixteen47 has a returns rate of 17% – significantly lower than industry standards.
Fit is given as the reason for 50-70% mail order returns which means an average of 30-40% sales. The current sizing system is full of discrepancies and does not work. Generally, it is not fit for purpose.
Another significant challenge is that, universally, there are 4 sizes below a size 16 and 16 sizes above a size 16. We have 6 sizes (1-6 and thinking of size 0) that covers the same size range.
WE NEED TO EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES OFFERED BY NEW TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE FIT WORK BETTER AND TO EVOLVE CONSUMER HABITS
3. WHICH +/plus MARKET : Marina Rinaldi, a branch of Max Mara, sells over three million pieces of plus-size clothing each year in 93 countries. Apart from French and Teague – which has not been active since 2009 – there are no other designer labels dedicated to +/plus sizes.
In general the small size industry is focussed and largely saturated at the top and lower ends – but the middle market – prices averaging £60-£70 – remains ignored. My guess is that there’s little point to it because it’s possible to produce high end fashion in cheap knock offs – image not quality is the focus for the largely younger market – and the competition for this market drives down prices (to unsustainable and uneconomic levels).
Sixteen47 occupied the middle ground with prices averaging £60+ retail. This is the market we think has the most potential for growth.
THE FUTURE OF FASHION MARKETS
Fashion primarily as entertainment
Local and emerging markets
Social responsibility and carbon footprint
We can do things with technology we could not do 5 years ago. With on-line selling, margins are better so investment in change is possible. The 16+/plus market is not yet price sensitive. Changes in social values and the expectations of the developing world present even more opportunities for sustainability and future markets.
Technology could mean partnerships with remote factory floors that can be managed to support fashion designers and respond to consumer markets while transferring skills. Ideas in London can be executed anywhere now.
Eventually we won’t even have to transport fabric – simulation sewing done in a remote location will actually be happening close to home – cutting down huge costs of transport and time. Local markets will emerge due to increased wealth. It’s just a matter of time – the technology already exists.
1 CREATED A NEW SIZE FORMULA THAT ENCOMPASSES THE WHOLE + MARKET IN 6 SIZES
2 EMBRACED INCLUSIVENESS AND CHOICE AS A POWERFUL MARKETING STRATEGY
3 EVOLVED AN APPROACH WHICH ADDRESSES FIT ISSUES FOR DISTANCE SELLING
4 USES SIZE, FIT, CUT AND PROPORTION AS A MARKETING STRATEGY THAT
5 TREATS GRADING AS A DESIGN PROCESS
6 RECOGNISES THAT MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES ARISE FROM RESOLVING THE CHALLENGE OF FIT
SIXTEEN47 has 28 years of experience and passion for this market. While we are sorry to be leaving this exciting and growing industry we are confident that this market sector will continue to grow and flourish.