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Plus-size to account for 20 percent of womenswear spend in 2017

By Vivian Hendriksz

1 Jun 2017

In spite of the intense focus on healthy living, the population waistlines are only getting bigger - so perhaps it is time the fashion industry began paying more attention to their plus-size offering. Rising obesity in young people is said to fuel the 5.08 billion pounds plus-size market in the UK, a market which is set to continue growing, according to data from research and consulting firm GlobalData.

One in every five pounds spent on womenswear in 2017 will be spent on plus-size garments as increasing obesity levels in the UK drive market growth, according to the report "What Britain Wears: Niche Clothing 2017" . The NHS’s Health Survey for England found that 26.8 percent of women in the UK were either obese or morbidly obese in 2015, with obesity among 16 to 24-year-olds increasing sharply from 12.9 percent in 2014 to 15.9 percent in 2015.

Increasing obesity drives the UK's 5.08 billion pound plus-size market

However, more and more fashion retailers in the UK have recognised these increasing obesity levels and responded with expanded ranges. High street retailers such as River Island, M&S, Quiz and New Look all offer a full array of plus-size options for women, whereas online retailers like Asos and boohoo.com feature a wide range of options for curvy women.

These non-specialist retailers offer the majority of their plus-size garments online as they do not always garner sufficient sales to justify the space instore. Online has been highlighted as the most important channel for plus-size shoppers, as 45 percent of female shoppers buy their plus-size fashion online via a retailer's website or with an online pure player, according to the report. This is why

UK fashion retailers who have been investing in new plus-size ranges, wider choice and improved accessibility online are said to have helped boost plus-side expenditure by close to 800 million pounds since 2012. “With improved availability and choice, plus size shoppers are better catered for than ever before,” says Kate Ormrod, Lead Retail Analyst at GlobalData. “The overall investment in ranges has brought them up to par with core womenswear propositions in terms of regular newness and fashionability, and is helping to drive up purchase frequency and therefore spend.”

But female shoppers are not the only ones driving the plus-size market boom in the UK as the plus-size menswear market is forecast to become the strongest performer driver in the market over the next five years. The menswear plus-size market is estimated to grow over 22 percent to 2022, according to the report, which urges fashion retailers to start making the much-needed investments in their menswear plus-size range to cater to the growing and underserved customer base. 36 percent of male plus-size shoppers prefer shopping for their apparel online, which is why retailers like Asos and River Island recently launched plus-size ranges for men.

“With different body types now more socially accepted and, indeed, celebrated, youth fashion players must ensure that they are showcasing ranges on plus size models across their editorial content and social media activity, and harnessing the power of plus size bloggers to raise their profile,” adds Ormrod. “By doing this, retailers will drive customer engagement and remain top of mind amid growing competition.”

Photos: River Island RI Plus and Big & Tall, Facebook