Sales of plus-size clothing came in at a robust $17.5 billion for the year ended April 2014, according to a new report from NPD Group.
The market research firm said that's a 5% increase from the prior year, and up just over a billion dollars from the $16.4 billion recorded three years ago. Revenue from plus-size apparel, typically defined as size 18 and up, grew 9% for women 55 to 64 years old, which accounts for the most sales at $4.2 billion. Sales increased 23% for the 18- to 24-year-old age group, and 11% for 25- to 34-year-olds, the firm said.
Much of the growth has come from the web, which has given women who wear plus-size clothing far more shopping options than have existed in the past. Online retailer ModCloth said recently that it has doubled the size of its plus business since June 2013 — it's also the company's fastest-growing segment. Eloquii, a plus-size brand introduced by the Limited in 2011 but discontinued last year, was recently resurrected by some of its executives as an online-only brand.
ModCloth recently conducted a survey of more than 1,500 women, including those who wear plus-sizes and those who don't, and found that 55% of U.S. women wear at least some clothing in size 16 and up. Further, almost 75% of the plus-size women surveyed agree with the statement: "The retail industry ignores the needs of plus-size women."
Mass retailers have been trying to respond to these needs. Hot Topic's plus-size chain Torrid has been expanding, and Lane Bryant is reportedly collaborating with designers who haven't previously been known for clothes in the plus-size category. Actress Melissa McCarthy also recently introduced her own plus-size fashion line called Pearl.
Thumbnail image features Chrystal Bougon, owner of Curvy Girl Lingerie in San Jose, Calif. (Nhat V. Meyer/San Jose Mercury News / MCT.)