Plus-Size Fashion Has Been on the Back Burner for Too Long

Plus-Size Fashion Has Been on the Back Burner for Too Long

Retailers have a plus-size problem that they can no longer afford.

Retailers have a plus-size problem that they can no longer afford.

Text: Cassidy Morrison

Almost half of American women wear a size 12 or higher, and yet, traditional retailers often ignore them. Annual sales in the United States rose by 17% in 2016, creating a profitability of a staggering $20.4 billion, according to market researcher company NPD Group. You would think that which such a monetary reward, retailers would be champing at the bit to get involved in plus-size retail. Well, you would be wrong.

Typical department stores and mainstream retailers release a plus-size lines with much self-congratulation and excitement, though trim down the line once the economy goes south or the retailer shifts its focus. According to a report by Bloomberg, “That turns off shoppers looking for plus-size clothing and nudges them to stop coming to that retailer for shoes, jewelry, and other accessories, too.”

Oftentimes, retailers push their plus-size sections to the backs of their stores, left as afterthoughts. Much of the plus-size stock lacks the colorful or fashion-forward appeal that regular collections have, leaving women with markedly fewer options to look stylish. However, some new retailers, such as recently launched Eloquii- a $21 million brand that stocks fashionable styles in sizes 14-24 are taking up the mantle left behind by traditional retailers.

Eloquii is by no means to only example; Lane Bryant has recently introduced a collaboration with Prabal Gurung complete with beautiful, wearable garments for plus-size women. The collection was even featured in the glossy pages of Vogue. Yet this collaboration has come a bit late.

It is admirable, however, that traditional stores like the Gap offers about 90 garments that come in “plus sizes" running up to 18. Nike is slowly but surely catching up. Just last year, the brand stocked only 5 garments in plus sizes. It is now up to about 50. “Customer demand could push sales of plus-size clothing even higher—if only retailers would fully embrace the category,” NPD analyst Marshal Cohen told Gadfly.

Many labels find it denigrating to their brands or reputations to create plus size garments, an old stigma that is still going strong. What is more, retailers often create plus-size collections as an after thought or even a limited engagement, only for them to be pushed to the backs of stores and forgotten. As the numbers have proven, retailers simply cannot ignore their demographic, roughly half of all women. Creating stylish, wearable pieces should not be an ancillary job but rather, the priority, for brands.

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