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A Plus-Sized Opportunity

The plus-sized market is ripe for business opportunity if you offer high-quality products.
November 17, 2006

The numbers don't lie. The average American woman is a size 12 to 16, and 30 percent of all U.S. adults are obese. Meanwhile, London-based researcher Mintel International Group Ltd. reports the plus-size clothing market reached nearly $32 billion in 2005. It's no wonder plus sizes are making waves.

In fact, within the plus-size market, niches are cropping up for the underserved--including plus-size clothing for petites and pregnant women. "Each of [these groups] has a real need for stylish clothes in their size," says Candace Corlett, principal at New York City retail consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail. "While department and chain specialty stores offer good selections of plus sizes, the selection in the niches of petite and maternity are slim pickings." The reason? There's just not enough traffic to justify devoting more than a few racks.

Natalie Weathers, assistant professor in the fashion industry management department at Philadelphia University, adds that over-40 women, including plus sizes, are craving more variety. This market segment "wants to wear age-appropriate clothing but have a hipper look," she says. Some entrepreneurs are responding with websites or boutique stores, offering outstanding service that makes customers want to go out of their way to visit.

You're not limited to these niches. The NPD Group also reports that one-third of overweight children wear adult or junior size clothing for lack of properly fitting children's clothes. Nor are you limited to clothing: extra-large products like baby seats, doorways, caskets, furniture and bath towels are also in demand.

Getting Started
How can you find the perfect fit with a plus-size business of your own? Keep in mind: