In the past, over-sized category was overlooked, but it's finally getting the deserved attention from international and domestic retailers. Ankush Karwa co-founder - eShopbox discusses the potential, challenges, and the future of plus size clothing category along with the rapidly rising trend of online shopping in India.

 

Finding the right clothes to wear takes effort. It requires even more effort to find plus size clothes. The term plus size may even sound rude, but that's what it is. Over the years, plus size has been considered as a niche category, but now it is a booming industry. The emergence of online shopping has led to the increase in the demand and supply of plus size clothing.

 

Market Scenario

 

Market Size:

Plus size clothing has come a long way. In the past, choices were limited, but the increase in number of overweight customers around the world has led to the birth of a new niche in demand.

 

"'The Indian Belly' is the reason that they have started catering plus size services and gained back the customers that they were losing," stated Prem Dewan who oversees the Indian retail market for Corneliani, an Italian maker of svelte suits.

 

"Since economic growth slowed to 5 per cent last fiscal --- the weakest this decade --more retailers have targeted specialised markets, such as those buying large sizes," says Abhay Gupta, Chief Executive Officer of New Delhi based retail consulting firm Luxury Connect.

 

India's branded apparel market is projected to double to US$ 18 billion by 2017, according to for retail consultancy Technopak Advisors, encouraging brands from Ermenegildo Zegna Group to Corneliani to expand their business.

Market Growth:

In the past, over-sized category was overlooked, but it's finally getting the deserved attention from retailers like Pantaloons, Biba and Mustard. Online fashion retailer Myntra recently ventured into plus size clothing with a varied portfolio of brands, offering sizes ranging from 2XL to 5XL. "The plus size segment is a latent market that offers huge opportunity," said Ganesh Subramanian, Head - New Initiatives at Myntra.com.

 

Retailers say almost 30 per cent of customers look for plus size clothing, a segment driven by increasing demand. According to data from the study, as many as 46 million people are overweight in India. The women's wear segment for plus size clothing is expected to reach US$ 22.3 billion by 2017. According to a Technopak report, the plus size clothing category already contributes US$ 1.8 billion and is expected to double by 2017. Previously, several international brands such as Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors have been associated with full-figure fashion with dedicated lines.

Retailers like Lane Byrant and fashion houses like Forever 21 have invested a huge amount of money on the plus size category. A year ago, Allen Solly, a brand of Madura Garments, introduced its jumbo range of 46 inch shirts and 50 inch trousers. This month, it plans to add the Big & Mighty range to its Louis Philippe and Van Heusen brands.

 

Categories in plus size

There are several categories of clothing line for plus sized people:

 

International plus size brands

International markets of plus size dresses already have a huge potential. Brands have been clever enough to grab the market of plus size clothing, which has been gaining popularity in countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America and Australia. Some famous international brands are:

 

1.      United Kingdom:

         Yours Clothing, Elvi, Evam, Deacurves, Ann Harvey.

         State of Mind, Charlotte Jackson, Activewear, We Fit in

 

2.     United States:

       Lane Bryant (Charming Shoppes) and Avenue (Avenue Stores), Walmart (RETAILERS)

       J.C. Penny, Macy's, Woman, Within, Torrid, Simply Be.

 

3.     Australia:

         Maggie T, Autograph, Free People

 

Specialist Lane Bryant is still the largest online retailer of plus size apparel, with close to 6,000 products across their brands. United Kingdom's plus size retailer Evans comes in second with their offering of close to 2,000 products.

 

Of the two specialised retailers, Evans has seen the most growth in the last two years, increasing the number of new products in their offering by 13 per cent. Lane Bryant has only increased their new season offering by a modest 0.6 per cent.

 

In the past, several international brands like Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren have been associated with full-figure fashion with dedicated lines. In the United States of America alone, the market is worth an estimated US$ 17.5 billion annually, or about 16 per cent of the women's apparel market, according to The NPD Group.

 

 

All the fashion houses are embracing the growth of the plus sized market and it definitely seems to be growing.

 

Plus size e-Commerce

         Challenges

 

The plus size market is a growing market, which is yet to see its full potential.

It was ignored by fashion houses over the years and continues to face challenges.

 

         Variability in supply and demand:

 

The demand of plus size clothes are growing worldwide, but the supply is still lacking in comparison to the growing demand.

 

         Monotonous options:

 

Choices for plus size people are limited. It is difficult for them to find trendy clothes. Compared to regular sizes, their choices are still limited.

 

         Size issues:

 

Different brands use various clothing materials which results in specific structural issues. Therefore it's hard to find variable fits of the same size tag.

 

         Quality Issues:

 

With the exception of high end brands, it is quite impossible to find quality dresses for plus sized customers. The price is always a big factor leading to inadequacy of balance among consumers.

 

         Time Factor:

 

Preparation for special occasions is special for everyone but for the plus sized consumers it takes a lot of time to figure out the perfect dress. Finding a dress with correct blend of colour and fabric acquires a lot of time which further creates inadequacy in supply and demand.

 

 

Addressing challenges in e-commerce

 

e-commerce serves as a solution for the growing plus sized market, which is still a niche market. It acts as a remedy against the problem of finding plus size clothing

 

Here's a list to mull over:

 

         More options and fast delivery to consumer:

 

E-stores have solved the problem of distribution, this would encourage plus sized people to buy online from the wide variety of clothes.

 

         All brands under one roof:

 

For plus sized customers there are few options in physical stores. e-Commerce would help in increasing the availability of options to customers.

 

         24*7 product and services support:

 

Available to listen to customers is a mere expectation these days. Ensuring this approach would strengthen the customer connect.

 

         Click of a button:

A better user interface and easy navigation on e-Commerce website would ensure customers visiting the website frequently for new updates on collection.

 

         Pressure free shopping:

 

While in stores it's easy to be affected by sales people. But, e- Commerce provides us a complete freedom of choice.

 

         No feeling bad:

 

While choosing clothes online, one can afford to be careless. There is no embarrassment or humiliation that one might generally face outdoors because of being overweight or not finding appropriate size. There is a freedom of choice, while choosing clothes online.

 

         Value of Time:

 

E-Commerce is time-saving; we can avail of so many options online at the click of a button. This also saves money.

 

         Virtual auctions:

 

E-Commerce sites provide us with auction facilities. Instilling curiosity among consumers, it creates a sense of competition among the customers. This is a great way to boost sales.

 

 

Future of e-Commerce

 

         Growth in demand of plus size clothing

Some mainstream retailers are finally turning their attention to the category of plus size fashion. In 2014, department store House of Fraser, supermarket clothing brand George at Asda, online retailer Boohoo and high-street store Mango all launched dedicated plus size sections, though House of Fraser's and Mango's ranges were only available online.

 

The entry of new international specialists is also fuelling the growth of this market. Plus size shoppers face more barriers than most when it comes to finding clothes that fit them well. Ironically, women who wear plus sizes are particularly interested in finding clothes that flatter their body shape. There is a real demand for retailers to design clothes specifically for larger sizes, so that the cut and fit flatter fuller shapes, rather than just creating bigger versions of existing garments. Plus size consumers can no longer be considered a minority or a niche demographic. Retailers of all types of clothing need to wake up to the growth potential of this market and design clothing for larger-sized shoppers that are both flattering and fashionable. Retail analyst Verdict, suggests the market for large sizes, particularly those aimed at young women and teenagers, is the fastest-growing on the high street.

 

         Demand and supply gap

Professional plus sized models continue to be a challenge, a new breed of customers. Sizing is an inexact science. Women's sizes were developed in the 1920s, as catalogues became popular and ready-to-wear clothing replaced tailor made or self-sewn items. But while a system of men's standard sizing based on chest sizes in the Army had worked well, a similar attempt to base women's sizes on bust measurements wasn't as reliable. Women's bust sizes are more variable. Women's sizes, which today range from 0 to 24 but vary from store to store, haven't evolved much for decades. And for the most part, neither have the range of plus size fashions. As a result, the amount spent on women's plus size clothing annually has only risen by one percentage point to nine per cent since 2011, the oldest plus size data available from research firm NPD Group.

 

         Customised clothing

Dresses made according to the specifications of an individual purchaser are described as customised clothing. Plus size clothing is finding a new market with the growth of customised clothing service. Websites such as Vistaprint, iLogo, Runawayfashion.in, Tailorman are providing a wide variety of choices for the plus size market.

 

Indian e-Commerce has widened the choice of the Indian homemaker. Choices for western blouses and trousers were limited. "Five years ago, this market was nonexistent for homemakers," says Rucheera Gumber, fashion analyst for retail consultancy Technopak.

 

This clientele can access variable e-Commerce sites and order any type of dresses, without being ashamed of anyone. Other than this, maternal apparel like maternity clothing is getting a new dimension. e-Commerce sites such as Amazon are providing amazing collections of maternal dresses at a very low cost. Plus sized women buy clothes like all the rest of the women. They look just as good in what they wear. All women need a variety of fashions to choose from. With changes from the traditional approach, consumers are finding it easy to prefer e-Commerce to physical store outlets. Retail channel performances have become strong due to online e-Commerce.

 

Although few stores do carry plus sizes, fewer stock a wide range of sizes. That could have been because executives assumed the larger sizes would not sell and therefore were not worth stocking in large quantities.

 

Retailers and designers are now viewing this area as a growth opportunity and today there are indeed more plus sized choices in stores.

 

e-Commerce, indeed, is the future path of plus sized clothing market.

 

Reference:

1). Siasat.com

2).Businessoffashion.com

 

Image courtesy:

1). huffingtonpost.com

2).dailymail.co.uk

3). i.dailymail.co.uk