Saturday, June 06, 2009

Plus-sized women are more sensitive?

I didn't go looking for it, but at The Economist I found another story on the economics of plus-sized ladies' clothing. (Earlier DD post here where it is also relates the fact that it costs more to make plus-sized clothing.)

From The Economist FreeeXchange blog:
In this [recessionary] market, the relationship has deteriorated further. Recently, several fashion lines and department stores have downsized or eliminated their plus-size collections. It's not personal. Plus-size clothes are more expensive to make because they require more fabric, and different models and patterns. Also, plus-size women tend to be more price sensitive. That suggests smaller profits.

"They’re really bargain shoppers," says Catherine Schuller, a plus-size expert and former editor at Mode, a magazine for larger women. “Many are homemakers who can’t spend considerable amounts on clothes and are willing to sacrifice their own spending for their families, especially now”.

With people cutting back on consumption you’d expect women spending less on clothes, but the declines have been much larger in the plus-size market. Regular-size women’s-clothes sales have fallen by only 2%, while plus-size sales have fallen 8%.

It is curious that plus-size women are more price sensitive. Overweight women tend to earn less, so they have even less disposable income.
Emphasis added. Why "curious"? Even if they do tend earn less that doesn't make it immediately less likely they would more price sensitive about clothing. Indeed, if they tend to earn less then that could be channel of commonality that explains why they are more price sensitive.

UPDATE, June 28: Virginia Postrel explains why large sizes are disappearing from the stores, and much more (graphs here):
Because they require more fabric, larger sizes are more expensive to manufacture. “The cost of clothing is disproportionately in the materials and not the labor, due to the shift in production to low-wage countries, which means that it is going to be more expensive to produce clothing for large-sized women, and more resources will be tied up in garments on the racks,” notes Susan Ashdown, a professor in the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design at Cornell and a leading researcher on improving apparel fit. Imagine the fury that would greet prices that went up with dress size.
Much easier publicity-wise just to eliminate larger sizes. And,
The most common weight—130 pounds for women under 25 and 140 pounds for those 26 to 35—is well below the average, which is raised by all those women spread out in the distribution’s fat upper tail on the right. (The distribution looks similar for other age groups, though the specifics differ.) There really are a lot of larger women, but “larger” covers a lot of different weights. ... Translated into clothes, that means a lot of different sizes. ... The statistics also explain why plus-size clothes tend to be less tailored, even though larger women often look more attractive in body-skimming clothes.


Blogger Jayne said...

They're cutting back on the supply of plus-sized clothes, which means there aren't so many available & then wonder why sales have dropped? Duh! If they're not available, how the hell can we buy them?
I'm 'plus-sized' & I battle like hell in the UAE to get clthes to fit me. I either have to pay hysterically high UK prices from stores like Evans or (if I'm lucky) Marks & Spencers. Most GBP prices are shown & when converted, the Dirham price is at least 10% more - so much for tax-free.
I now either wait until I go home to S.Africa & buy up a heap of much cheaper & better quality clothing, or buy the material & take a picture of what I want to my local tailor & ask him to make it.

1:53 PM  
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