China’s plus-size fashion market is worth approximately $4.8 billion this year, according to Coresight Research estimates—but that’s less than half of the $10 billion the research firm thinks it could be.
More than 36 million women in China meet the obesity criteria based on World Health Organization (WHO) data and statistics on the country’s total population, according to Coresight’s report “The Opportunity in Women’s Plus-Size Apparel in China: A Potential $10 Billion Market.” WHO estimates that as much as 6 percent of the Chinese population is classified as obese, though in wealthier cities where people have access to unhealthy fast food, that figure could reach 20 percent.
A small group of mostly new retailers serves the full-figured market using tried-and-true techniques involving key opinion leaders and WeChat communities. Some, like startup Garden Lis—which has raised $1.4 million since its 2017 launch—only hire designers with a minimum of four years’ experience conceptualizing clothing for plus-size women, which the brand defines as adults weighing between 130 and 180 pounds. Beyond its Tmall e-commerce store and WeChat shop, Garden Lis also has franchise stores selling its premium style-forward clothing in sizes from L to 6XL.
MsShe, for its part, leverages influencers to get its products in front of its target demographic. The brand, which was Tmall’s best-selling plus-size retailers from 2011 through last year, has 10 full-figured women on staff tasked with giving every new style a dry run and then showing customers how to incorporate these pieces into their existing wardrobes.
Another newbie, Muzi Lixiang, has amassed more than 800,000 fans and followers since it arrived on the scene in 2016. It has built up the clout to move product, too; over the 12.12 shopping holiday, Muzi Lixiang sold 6,000 pieces of cotton apparel in size XXXL, Coresight pointed out. The company, which saw turnover of about $14.9 million on Tmall last year, is said to require employees to weigh at least 150 pounds to ensure that they can relate to their customers.
Smeilovly carries the largest size range—up to 7XL—and has focused on top-notch customer service and speedy delivery since its founding in 2012.
Live streaming, which is catching on in the U.S., is an important part and fashion and shopping for the Chinese consumer and roughly 90 percent of plus-size retailers participate in this trend based on data from plus-size live-stream incubator Dama Wenchuang, Coresight noted.
Plus-size shoppers in China tend to be loyal to the brands and retailers that serve them, largely because their options are limited relative to the greater fashion market there. Western plus-size players could gain share and grow their revenue by serving this market with the same focus and attention they’ve given to American audiences in recent years.