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Strong Gains in the Plus-Size Market

Ethan Chernofsky
July 16, 2019
Strong Gains in the Plus-Size Market

In a retail environment dominated by a handful of general merchandise giants, one of the major sources of hope for a diversified retail landscape has come from niche-focused brands. Companies targeting specific markets with a tailored product line, marketing message, and customer experience. One particularly exciting example has been Lululemon, a leader in the activewear space driving significant growth.

But activewear isn’t the only niche market generating interest. According to Coresight Research, US Plus-Size apparel demand is increasing significantly, with estimates that the sector will bring in nearly $31 billion in 2019 in the US alone.

We dove into some leading plus-size brands in the US to see if offline visit traffic substantiates the claim.

Rising Traffic for Plus-Size Leaders

To begin, we analyzed two leading plus-size retailers in the US, Lane Bryant (blue) and Torrid (red) over the period from January 2018 through June 2019. Comparing visit traffic to the baseline for the period, both retailers experienced significant bumps in visits. Beyond their peaks in the holiday shopping season, Lane Bryant was 40.7% above the baseline for visits in June 2019 while Torrid was 64.9% above. 

The numbers were also impressive when comparing traffic year over year for the month of June. Lane Bryant (blue) saw a 9.4% increase in visits nationwide while Torrid saw a massive 23.8% increase. While some of this is certainly related to store openings, Lane Bryant did also close several dozen stores in this period indicating the growth is still likely from increased interest.

State-Level Analysis

But to truly validate a trend, diving deeper than national data is critical. However, here too, excitement seems to be building around plus-size retail. Looking at Lane Bryant visit numbers in Florida shows a 34.9% year over year increase in visits comparing June 2018 to June 2019. For the same period, Catherine’s saw a 24.6% increase and Torrid a 47.4% increase.

In Texas, while Lane Bryant (blue) saw year over year visit growth of just 2.9%, Torrid (red) saw an increase of 34.8%.

Why It Matters?

The Ascena Retail Group, the organization behind Lane Bryant, Catherines and more, has taken a hit lately for troubles with some of their brands, including Ann Taylor and Dressbarn. The latter two saw same-store sales that dropped 8% and 12% respectively in Q1. Other brands like Lane Bryant saw flat numbers while Catherines also saw a 5% decrease. However, visit rates show that there is a more complex story to be told.

Plus-size retailers like Lane Bryant saw a significant upturn in visit numbers in Q2, even when compared with Q2 of 2018. This certainly doesn’t mean that key metrics like same-store sales will be up, but does show that these brands are succeeding in creating strong engagements with an increasingly important market segment. And this is a key factor. Too much of the conversation around offline retail is centered around metrics that used to define success. Instead, brands need to have a deeper analysis of their strengths to determine which other elements can drive ongoing growth.

Whether it be a more harmonious interaction with digital channels or an attempt to find an experiential approach, plus-size retailers like Lane Bryant have a unique asset that can be leveraged to drive a strong long-term impact.

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