Video: Plus-size profit

By Jane Wells Correspondent
CNBC
updated 4/7/2006 12:10:11 PM ET 2006-04-07T16:10:11

Demand for spring clothing sagged in the latest retail sales data for March, but plus-sized clothing is bringing plus-sized profit to retailers.

The average American woman is now a size 14, according to some research, and that’s currently the entry size to the plus-sized clothing category.

Retailers who have figured this out have seen their stocks skyrocket. For example, Avenue, owned by the United Retail Group, has seen its stock price jump 42 percent so far this year.

Now branding is coming to plus-sized clothing. Jessica Simpson, for example, has put her name on a line of clothes for Avenue, and they have sold very well.

American model Daisy Fuentes, another celebrity who was already selling clothes, is expanding her line. She has been selling a line of clothing at Kohl’s, which has seen its company stock price rise 10 percent so far this year.

Fuentes says her clothing line has actually become a full-time job. She started out with a basic sportswear line in sizes 4 to 14, and now her clothing line has expanded in both variety and sizes.

“I go to the stores a lot and I talk to my customers a lot and the biggest demand was for petite and plus sizes, and it just had to be addressed,” Fuentes said. “These women’s biggest gripe is they can’t find clothes that fit with the correct style, so we had to pick and choose and get the right designers to make sure the fit was great and make sure we had the right body types.”

“Women want to look sexy. They want to look stylish, and there’s no reason why you can’t be just as sexy and stylish in a size 16 as you can be in a size 2,” Fuentes added.

By some estimates, the plus-size market has grown 50 percent to $32 billion in the last 5 years, as women have grown in to the plus-size category and have had the confidence, the money and the desire to demand style.

At Dress Barn, where the company stock price is up over 25 percent so far this year, the larger-sized women’s division is outselling the smaller-sized “Missy” division, though the company’s latest same-store sales numbers missed analysts’ expectations.

However, Dress Barn also bought Maurices, a chain focused on fashions for men and women in the twenty-something category. David Jaffe, the company’s president and CEO, says there are no plans to expand into plus sizes just yet; they’ve been experimenting. But as for his thoughts on bringing in a celebrity:

“We feel out brand speaks for itself, and so we are trying to make a connection between our brand and our customer, and not between some celebrity and our customer,” Jaffe told CNBC.

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