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Plus Sizing and the Apparel Supply Chain

The plus-size fashion industry is a growing sector with massive money-earning potential. Take a close look at the rise of plus-size apparel and its effects on the supply chain.

The Rise of Plus Sizes

Between May 2013 and April 2014, the plus-size apparel sector posted sales of $17.5 billion, up 5 percent from the previous year. This increasing demand for larger-size fashion items reflects Americans' changing body shapes. In 1985, the average American woman was a size 8. Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she has jumped to a size 14. And the trend isn't likely to change any time soon. In March 2016, the NPD Group noted that nearly twice as many teenagers are purchasing plus-size clothes as they were in 2012.

Retailers have struggled to compete in the plus-size category, with many bigger ladies bemoaning ill-fitting and ugly apparel pieces. However, new brands like Torrid and Lane Bryant, as well as plus-size lines in established stores such as Target's AVA & VIV and JCPenney's a.n.a brand, are helping to satisfy demand.

The Impact of Plus Sizing on Logistics

Fashion retailers cannot simply scale up their existing apparel items to cater to plus-size female consumers. Creating flattering larger garments for them requires special design expertise and production elements, such as four-way stretch materials, contoured waistbands, and unique fabrics.

"There is more production expertise and fit expertise that is required, and they don't teach it in school," Mariah Chase, Eloquii's chief executive officer, told CNBC. "The whole industry learns one shape, and fits on one, much smaller, straighter shape."

These factors mean that plus-size garments can often cost more than their straight-size counterparts. Accordingly, retailers must work harder to create clothing that can entice larger women to spend more. Otherwise, they can find themselves with excess stock they can't sell. This element of risk can discourage some fashion retailers from even attempting to create plus-size goods. However, with so many women identifying as such, ignoring this growing sector may be just as risky.

New Market Opportunities for Merchants

As the term "plus-size" comes under fire from celebrities and catwalk models, merchants are seeing the value in blending their "straight-size" and "plus-size" collections. Not only does this blend prevent offense, but it also provides shoppers of all sizes with greater choice. It also reflects the desires of teenagers, a powerful buying group, who are more likely to believe that "plus-size clothing should be offered in the same styles available for my smaller friends," according to the NPD Group.

Many retailers rely on their e-commerce channels to fulfill orders for larger sizes, keeping a core assortment in stores and then offering additional styles, sizes, and colors online in the name of efficiency. A third-party provider such as The Apparel Logistics Group that is capable of handling a complex inventory having a high SKU count can effectively manage a business that is looking to grow by featuring additional inventory offerings in various sizes through its online stores.

In this vein, the rise in online shopping has also presented a unique opportunity for plus-size retailers. Some dedicated plus-size stores like Eloquii, ModCloth, and Gwynnie Bee operate exclusively in the online space. This allows them to reach a global consumer base while reducing common sources of overhead. Rather than spending money on their own warehouses and supply-chain managers, they rely on the services of 3PLs such as TALG. Apparel retailers and manufacturers can find out more about TALG's third-party services through a free consultation.

As the demand for plus-size apparel items grows, we're likely to see more designers creating clothes with curvy women in mind as well as increased demand throughout the supply chain.

Posted: 9/14/2016 4:57:53 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


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