I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now. Obesity continues to increase, particularly among children. Former Arkansas Governor Huckabee who lost over 100 pounds, says obesity now even threatens national security as “61 percent of active military personnel are currently overweight” and that “it could be a big problem if the next generation of kids can’t pass the military’s physical exams”. I’ve gone on the record for saying that increasing girth portends poorly for the apparel industry in that our plant infrastructure (table widths, fabric widths and looms) will need to increase to keep up with current trends. Similarly, the measures constituting given size numbers will continue to evolve, normalizing to the median which in turn will continue to frustrate consumers. Relatedly, I don’t think the increased usage of too-thin models is coincidental; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I think the polarities over class and weight will increase. Owing to the housing crisis, I think we’re headed for a downturn in the economy, and even more people will have less disposable income. Statistically speaking, the incidence of obesity will increase still more.
Image courtesy Calorie Lab.
Then lately, I’ve been reading about scarcity, probably for a post I’ll never publish. The one thing that stands out in my mind, is that if plus sizes are relatively scarce as its wearers claim, why haven’t prices increased commensurately? Adjusted for inflation, clothing prices continue to decrease. In spite of protests, I can only imagine there is greater availability in the market than claimed, if only via the augmented sizing standards of regular lines.
I imagine a DE has four central options for developing their target market (adults):
- An increasing minority, plus sized low cost apparel
- An increasing minority of plus sized, premium priced apparel
- The broad swathe of the market, while not technically obese, they are overweight
- A decreasing minority of premium apparel for height/weight proportionate people.
If we’re headed for a downturn in the economy, I don’t see option 1 or 3 as particularly viable because competition in this segment will intensify with the big brands staking turf. You can only beat the brands if you’re dead on with styling, fit and pricing. Personally, I’d avoid it altogether. Options 2 and 4 are more likely to be better options. Actually, there’s probably a fifth option, moderate to low priced apparel for people of normal weight. I know everybody says that they can’t find their sizes on the rack but the next time you go to Wal-Mart or Target, count how many 2-4-6’s there are as compared to larger sizes. Those go first -and fewer were made and delivered in the first place. Accordingly, I can only imagine that #4 will splinter further. Will we see sub-premium Bridge-ette lines?
Pondering, I don’t know how to sort all of this out.