Welcome to the the Ivey HBA Retail Marketing Management blog. Retail marketing is an exciting, dynamic, important, and very visible aspect of the overall field of marketing. Throughout the year, students will be posting comments regarding contemporary retailing issues. Although this is intended to be used by Bus 4411 students, industry marketing professionals are also invited to join in if they like.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fashion Retailing: Ignoring 62% of the Market?

By Lainey Shrom

A general assumption has been made in the fashion retailing industry that no woman over size 10 seeks out fashionable clothing. Given that 62% of American females are classified as overweight, this theory is obviously false, and I believe that upscale retailers are missing a major segment of the market by keeping their shelves clear of larger sizes. As discussed in class, many upscale stores, and even mid-market ones such as Abercrombie & Fitch, limit their selections to smaller sizes to prohibit the now average sized women from wearing their merchandise.

Given that retailers are fighting to grow profits, it is shocking that very few have jumped on the opportunity to tap into a growing market that is desperate for fashionable clothing options. If executed properly, retailers could realize success because of the competitive advantage it would gain by serving a segment that most other retailers are reluctant to. As well, given the limited choice set these women have for fashionable items, cultivating relationships with consumers and building loyalty would be quite feasible.

There are, of course, some retailers that serve these women, but their formats and RVPs are different, and undesirable by the majority of this segment. Currently, the most common channel for large sizes is the internet. These women, who already have a complicated relationship with clothes, are forced to purchase without trying on the items. Why should these women be denied the opportunity to shop in real live stores? Another option is shopping at discount stores. This is a popular option, as Wal-Mart is the number one retailer of plus size apparel in the US and Canada. Is this because women like doing their wardrobe shopping at Wal-Mart? Unlikely. They are settling for something cheaper when they would likely be willing to pay more for quality clothing from a retailer with an enhanced experience.

If one were to open a retail store dedicated to larger fashionable female clothing, simply offering the selection would not guarantee success. The entire store would need to cater to this segment’s unique needs. Staff would have to be knowledgeable and sensitive to concerns these women have with clothing in an environment that is strictly built for females. Suggestions for a store include: cultivating personal relationships with clients, wide aisles for browsing, and comfortable and secluded change rooms.

Forever 21 announced that it will be launching a junior plus size line this May. Before they are applauded for their efforts, it should be known that they are only launching it in a few of their stores, with the primary channel for purchases of this line still being the internet. Retailers still have a long way to go in terms of serving this market.

These upscale stores have decided that maintaining a particular “image” is more important to them than becoming accessible to a dominant and growing segment of the market. Is this alienation and “brand protection” worth the millions of dollars they are leaving on the table? I certainly hope so, because especially in these economic times where retailers are fighting for sales and margins, they are giving up a lot of market share.

Works Consulted:

Fashion Industry Ignores Average-Sized Women


Forever 21 To Launch Plus Size Line


No comments: