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Placer Bytes: Opportunities in the Plus-Size Market, Michaels Post Pandemic Push

by 
Ethan Chernofsky
 on 
June 2, 2020
Placer Bytes: Opportunities in the Plus-Size Market, Michaels Post Pandemic Push

In this Placer Bytes we check back on the growth in the plus-size apparel sector to see if the promise of the space is being fulfilled. Then we dive into DIY player Michaels to see if the wider sector bump can give a boost to this key player.

Opportunity for the Plus-Size Market 

In July 2019, we analyzed the plus-size apparel market with the perception that it could be one of the most exciting growth sectors in the clothing industry. And the early return in 2020 proved that to be true. Coming off of the high peaks of the holiday season, Lane Bryant showed year- over-year growth of 1.3% in January, 6.3% in February before seeing visits plunge 67.0% in March.

The same trend held true for Catherines, with year-over-year increases of 4.9% and 14.3% in in-store traffic in January and February 2020, before seeing a similarly painful dop of 52.3% in March.

The same pattern held for the men’s side, as well. DestinationXL saw rises of 3.6% and 8.2% year-over-year in January and February before its visits were decimated by the pandemic leading to a 67.8% year-over-year decline in March.

But all three brands are returning at a fast pace. Year-over-year declines, while still significant, are shrinking rapidly, with the lowest showing a 10% week-over-week improvement. 

And while visits are likely to remain lower while stores remain closed in hard-hit markets, the potential of the sector remains incredibly exciting. These brands, because of their ability to effectively cater to a growing niche market segment, have the ability to thrive alongside off-price retailers, a sector well positioned for the coming months. While the value offering of off-price is difficult to compete with, the ability to provide the ideal product still gives these retailers a key role to play. 

Does it guarantee success? No, and the financial struggles facing Ascena, the parent company of Catherine and Lane Bryant, could create a difficult obstacle obstructing the growth of these chains. However, if the wider business issues can be overcome, there are few niche sectors with the same potential as the plus-size apparel space.

Michaels - DIY Glory on the Horizon?

DIY is considered one of the strongest areas for the growth in a post-pandemic environment likely to be defined by an extended period of economic uncertainty. And that has proven a boon for brands like Home Depot and Lowe’s. But what about Michaels? All of the DIY, without the same level of ‘essential-ness’.

Pre-pandemic, the brand saw year-over-year traffic increases of 3.7% and 7.1% in January and February, respectively. Yet, the pandemic made its impact in March with visits declining 35.9% year-over-year in March, before hitting a nadir in April.

However, the recovery is en route for Michaels. Visits for the week of May 11th were down just 56.3% year-over-year after rising 5.6% and 15.6% respectively week-over-week in the two weeks prior. Yet, whether the full DIY potential will extend to less ‘mission-critical’ processes will only become clear in the coming months. But, even if Michaels can only manage to return to pre-pandemic form, the rest of 2020 should have positive things in store.

Will the plus-size sector truly ramp up its growth? Can Michaels find a way to ride the DIY wave? Visit Placer.ai to find out.

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