As retail continuously adjusts to customer demographics and behavioristics, the apparel category is still in the early stages of properly serving the plus sized consumer. This consumer is ready to be more than an afterthought in the fashion industry and companies are starting to respond with dedicated design attention, broader size ranges, and more options in the plus sized category.
According to an article in eMarketer called, “A Bright Spot for Fashion? Plus Size” data from market research firm The NPD Group shows US sales of plus size apparel including those for teens rose 6% in 2016. Also, the research shows size 16 as the most common size in women’s apparel today. This means more women in America right now are considered plus sized than not; But the apparel industry has yet to meet these customers where they already exist. Smaller sizes are still emphasized by most brands in retail who choose not  to stock sizes 14+ in store. They continue to feature smaller women in their marketing materials who, according the statistics, are less  relatable to a majority segment of potential  customers.

The research shows size 16 as the most common size in women’s apparel today. This means more women in America right now are considered plus sized than not.

However, forward thinking brands like Nike and JC Penney see the apparent business opportunity within these facts. They have tapped into this market by expanding their offerings with new plus sized collections. There are also brands that dedicate themselves solely to plus sized women like Eloquii and Ashley Stewart, who are currently winning as trendy, go-to choices.
Plus sized customers have the potential to be extremely loyal customers of brands who make them feel stylish and current, the market has undeserved them for too long.
An article from the National Retail Foundation features Ashley Stewart, a company who has “been the retail destination for curvy, trend-seeking shoppers for 20 years.” Well, CEO Celia Clancy discusses how the company filed for bankruptcy in 2010, but has made a huge comeback in recent years. Ashley Stewart is now dedicated to understanding its customer more than ever and is successfully fulfilling their needs as the demand increases. And even customers who are out of the size range at Ashley Stewart are known for buying accessories there. Clancy says, “Our customer wants fast fashion for real women, we know she doesn't want yesterday's news when it comes to fashion.”
In the past, plus sized women have struggled to find self-expressive clothing in stores on a regular basis. The apparel market has not represented the truth. Women want to feel good and fashionable, and there is a business opportunity for brands to step into that space and deliver on it. Smart companies are realizing this now.
At Barber Martin one of our core tenets is “let the customer lead.” Better serving the customer benefits the brand, and creates a greater opportunity to sell.
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights