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NPD Report Reveals Number of Teens Buying Plus-Size Clothing Has Nearly Doubled Since 2012

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It’s been six years since First Lady Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move” initiative in an attempt to tackle childhood obesity, and while recent Morgan Stanley research found that sports participation among North American high-schoolers overall has jumped from 25 percent to more than 35 percent over the past 35 years, led by a near doubling among girls, new retail insight paints a different picture.

According to The NPD Group’s 2015 Women’s Special Size Study, published Thursday, the percentage of 13- to 17-year-olds buying plus-size clothing has nearly doubled in three years.

The survey discovered that 34 percent of U.S. teens identified as having purchased plus-size apparel in 2015, compared to 19 percent in 2012 and 16 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, 73 percent shopped in the junior size category, down from 81 percent in the last study and 85 percent five years prior.

But Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst, points out that this shift from junior sizing to plus-size is down to Generation Z knowing what they want and refusing to settle for less. “Teens are reinvigorating the plus-size market,” he said.

Indeed, the stigma surrounding plus-size clothing has started to dissipate in recent years. J.C. Penney introduced “The Boutique” online and in stores, dedicated to women’s sizes 14W to 30W. Actress Melissa McCarthy teamed up with HSN to launch a clothing collection with sizes ranging from 1X to 3X and 16W to 24W. Curvy Studio, a Target.com exclusive designed with full-figured Millennials in mind, launched last summer. Even Forever 21 has upped its game, with campaigns fronted by plus-size model Ashley Graham.

“A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for most clothing and it doesn’t work for marketing to consumers either,” Cohen added. “The junior-size and plus-size mindsets are converging in the growing plus-size teen consumer segment and it is just the beginning. Addressing the distinct differences in the way we market to, and deliver product for, junior and plus-size consumers is the first step to maximizing the potential of the entire special-size apparel market.”

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