The Spending Power of the Plus-Size Woman

Let’s talk statistics & the impact of the plus community in the fashion & consumer industry.

Despite significant spending/buying power, plus-size women remain a rarity in the fashion and marketing industry as a whole.

Many brands have a narrow view of who their customer is. They do the bare minimum & tend to lack inclusivity. There is a belief that plus-sized customers don’t spend as much as their straight-sized sisters. That could not be more false.  In fact, the only reason this appears to be true is because plus-sized women/men have far less clothing options to choose from, which results in fewer opportunities for them to spend their money. The average U.S. women’s dress size is between 14 and 16, meaning that plus-size is the new average, although it is not typically thought of that way. Yet plus-sized apparel makes up just a small percentage of the clothing on the market. WHY IS THAT?

Retail research and advisory group Coresight Research has estimated that the value of the extended-size market for women in the U.S. will grow to $32.3 billion this year, representing roughly 20.7% of the total women’s apparel market.


Lauren Thomas – CNBC

In the past, Lane Bryant was the only store for shoppers of plus-size women’s clothing, but now, many major clothing retailers such as Torrid, ASOS, and Forever21 cater to plus-size customers. The buying power of the plus-sized market is growing at a faster pace than the rest of the apparel industry. Annual sales of women’s clothing sized 14 and higher rose 17% from 2013 to 2016 and there is more demand than ever for fashion-driven plus-size collections. This surge didn’t come about overnight. But, the apparel industry was slow to respond to the cultural shift. Retailers would do well to tap into the buying power of this segment if only they would risk embracing the category. It appears that retailers are simply ignoring this buying power, therefore turning plus size women away from in-store shopping and forcing us to turn to the online market to find fashionable clothing in our sizes.

Personally speaking from my own shopping experiences, when I can’t count on finding my size at a particular store, the store is removed from my list of options, meaning I lack the desire to ever go back because I now know that I am not included in their target audience. This is incredibly short-sighted on the part of the retailer. 

Factors that are often cited as an obstacle for retailers is the cost of redesigning clothing and the extra fabric in the manufacturing process, but E-commerce sites simply offer plus sized women more consistency and variety. The disconnect between what customers want and what stores offer is plagued by an old stigma in the fashion industry. For years and years, brands have shied away from plus sizes in the belief that they are “bad” for the brand. On the retailer side, stores think of plus size as an add-on to their businesses along with petite-sized and maternity lines. It is so much more than that & deserves to be acknowledged as it’s own market.

On the positive side, however, beauty is increasingly being defined in this new era by individualism, confidence, and a celebration of body positivity and the diversity of body types, not so much by size or weight. With that being said, there is still a growing need for fashionable, colorful, on trend clothing (as well as traditional and business clothing) that fits plus bodies, despite the re-invention of the once-tired plus-size apparel category.

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