US Plus-Size Apparel: Reviewing the $46 Billion Opportunity

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Key Points

The women’s plus-size apparel market has been under served historically, but recent trends show that the segment has been growing at a faster rate than the US apparel market overall. Above-average growth in plus-size fashion will continue to be propelled by increased supply, changing consumer demographics and psychographics, and higher obesity rates through 2021.

  • Global access and transparency, the democratization of retail (allowing smaller startups to compete), and social media are changing the plus-size market.
  • Younger plus-size shoppers are vocal, particularly on social media, about demanding fashion that fits; they do not want to be marginalized because of their body shape. Savvy retailers are beginning to address these shoppers as well as older plus-size shoppers.
  • American consumers spent $21.4 billion on women’s plus-size clothing in 2016, according to The NPD Group, equivalent to about 17.5% of total women’s apparel sales, we estimate. Yet the obesity rate among American women ages 20 and over is 38%, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • If the 38% of American women who are classified as obese were to spend the same amount on clothing as the average American woman, the plus-size market would be valued at $46.4 billion, we estimate.

The women’s plus-size apparel market has been under served historically, but recent trends show that the segment has been growing at a faster rate than the US apparel market overall. Above-average growth in plus-size fashion will continue to be propelled by increased supply, changing consumer demographics and psychographics, and higher obesity rates through 2021.

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