Five Magic Markets

Plus-Size and Pets

Hot Market No. 2: Plus-Size

Americans are big and getting bigger. In fact, two-thirds of us are now overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The women's plus-size clothing market alone generates $22 billion in sales every year, according to market research company NPD Group. And the overall plus-size market will grow 15 percent over the next four to five years, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group.

Celebrities from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen to Queen Latifah and George Foreman are responding with plus-size clothing lines, and Old Navy launched a plus-size line in July. At least 800 Web sites now offer plus-size items, ranging from lingerie and pantyhose to promwear and wet suits up to size 4X. Torrid, a mall chain that carries plus-size clothing aimed at women aged 15 to 29, has grown to 52 stores nationwide.

Today's plus-size person wants to be just as fashionable as anyone else, says Lisa Alpern, founder and creative director of Beauty Plus Power, a New York City online style magazine focused on twentysomething women wearing sizes 12 to 24. The real growth "is in junior-plus merchandise," she says. "They're starting to make the clothes younger, hipper [and] with a more body-conscious silhouette."

Kim Camarella-Khanbeigi, 30, is co-founder of Kiyonna, an upscale clothing company with five employees that caters to women sizes 10 to 32. Based in Huntington Beach, California, Kiyonna just launched a lingerie line, and sales are expected to grow from $1.2 million last year to $1.8 million this year. Eighty percent of the company's business is generated online, with the other 20 percent coming from sales to 120 boutiques across the nation and overseas. "Our main focus is on selling directly to the consumer," Camarella-Khanbeigi says.

Of course, this market is more than clothing. Bearsville, New York, company Amplestuff sells plus-size products, including fanny packs and airline seat belt extenders. Freedom Paradise Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico, is the world's first getaway for plus-size people. And there are opportunities in everything from plus-size furniture to wider shoes, says Schuyler Brown, a trend spotter with ad agency Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners in New York City.

Kids and teens are another emerging plus-size market. A Duke University/Foundation for Child Development study found that nearly 16 percent of kids aged 12 to 19 were obese in 2002, making room for fitness and nutrition programs and electronic gadgets aimed at plus-size youth. Says Cohen, "If you build it, they will come."

Hot Market No. 3: Pets

The U.S. pet market is projected to generate $34 billion in sales this year, according to 2004 figures compiled by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA). Compare this figure to 1994, when the U.S. pet market was worth $17 billion.

Reasons for the explosive growth include empty-nest boomers doting on their pets as well as a wide array of products-from timed feeders to automatic water dishes-that make it convenient for anyone to have a pet. The pet industry "is growing and getting stronger," says Bob Vetere, APPMA's COO and managing director, who gets calls from VC firms seeking investment opportunities in the pet market.

Harley-Davidson touts a line of leather dog jackets, Paul Mitchell has a line of pet shampoos, hotels such as Starwood Resorts offer pet-friendly rooms, and Japanese pet-toy company Takara has introduced Bow-Lingual, a device that translates dog barks. Anything that makes Fido feel like family is hot, and prices in the pet category range from bargain to go-all-out luxury. Emerging products and services range from the luxurious (pet spas, massage services, toys and grooming) to the offbeat (pet therapists, acupuncture treatments, liposuction, full-scale funerals and urns).

Doug Grabe is barking up the right tree. Grabe, 38, launched Atomic Products two years ago with Alan Curtis, 53. The company's growing pet products division, Atomic Pet, carries a line of battery-powered Glowtronix products, including glow-in-the-dark safety collars and leashes for dogs that retail for $15 and $20, respectively.

Grabe projects $3 million in sales this year for Atomic Pet. His advice? Define your market, and attend events like the APPMA trade show, which featured 604 pet companies and nearly 600 new pet products at its most recent trade show in March. "You'll find people who have made the jump," Grabe says. "It's a great way to prove your idea can be done."

Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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