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Why the UK’s Plus Size Market is a Potential Boon for Retailers

Once overlooked, the U.K.’s plus-size market could be the next major opportunity for retailers worldwide.

According to GlobalData’s latest report, “What Britain Wears: Niche Clothing 2017,” the nation’s increasing obesity levels have generated market growth and prompted more retailers to acknowledge underserved consumers size 18 and up. Because retailers have also invested in improved digital accessibility, new ranges and more choices for apparel, plus-size spending has increased by roughly $1 billion in the past five years. The real opportunity, it seems, may be in the plus-size menswear category, which is projected to grow more 22 percent between 2017 and 2022.

In 2015, NHS’s Health Survey for England revealed that 26.8% of females were either obese or morbidly obese, while obesity among 16 to 24-year-olds was reported to be 15.9%. While retailers have been offering apparel for plus-size females over the past decade, other key players, including Asos and River Island, have also invested in men’s plus-size collections. This trend has enabled these retailers to launch new ranges and better serve this growing consumer demographic.

“With improved availability and choice, plus size shoppers are better catered for than ever before,” GlobalData lead retail analyst Kate Ormrod said. “The overall investment in ranges has brought them up to par with core womenswear propositions in terms of regular newness and fashionability, and is helping to drive up purchase frequency and therefore spend.”

Online is also the most crucial destination for plus-size consumers. Today, 45 percent of female consumers buy plus-size clothing on retailers’ websites, while 36 percent of male plus-size consumers follow the same purchasing path. As plus-size consumers become more demanding, the report suggests that retailers invest in fulfillment, personalization, site navigation and digital communications in the next few years.

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“With different body types now more socially accepted and, indeed, celebrated, youth fashion players must ensure that they are showcasing ranges on plus size models across their editorial content and social media activity, and harnessing the power of plus size bloggers to raise their profile,” Ormrod added. “By doing this, retailers will drive customer engagement and remain top of mind amid growing competition.”

The U.S. is also progressing in the plus-size department. More brands, including Fabletics and Stitch Fix, have recently tapped into the country’s plus-size market opportunity with broader size ranges.

According to NPD Group, plus-size apparel generated upward of $21 billion last year, as more retailers acknowledge that the one-size-fits-all approach no longer works.