The market for large sizes in women’s clothes is booming as obesity levels soar, bringing radical changes to average body shapes.
The demand is so huge that one in four of all women’s fashions sold this year will be a plus size – counted as 18 and over.
Retail analysts Verdict suggest the market for large sizes, particularly for clothes aimed at young women and teenagers, is the fastest-growing on the high street.
It predicts sales will increase 6 per cent this year to £4.9billion at a time when most other sectors are waning.
It said that, as waistlines balloon, the value of sales will climb to £6billion by 2015, representing a rise of 28 per cent over five years. Recent research suggests UK women and young girls are the biggest in Western Europe.
Successful pop artists such as Britain’s super-sized Adele, who recently topped the U.S. album chart, have become icons for a new generation of large teens and young women.
And both leading catwalk designers and high street chains are trying to tap into the reality of modern women’s larger shapes with collections for bigger sizes.
Designer Mark Fast caused waves when he used size 12 and 14 models during London Fashion Week.
Last autumn, the billionaire retailer behind Topshop, Sir Philip Green, launched a fashion website for teen girls and young women up to size 26 called STYLE369.com.
Verdict analyst Carly Syme said: ‘Retailers are looking to expand their niche collections such as plus size, petites and maternity to ensure growth.
‘Our research has revealed it is the plus-size market that offers the biggest opportunities.
‘There is an increasing need for more fashionable plus-size items for younger shoppers, who are under-served.’ She added: ‘While the weakened economy will have an impact, drivers such as obesity levels and an ageing population in a society where women tend to get bigger as they get older will more than offset this.’
Researchers at Imperial College, London, found that British women were the most overweight in Western Europe, with the highest Body Mass Index of 19 countries surveyed.
Commercial imperative: Last Autumn Topshop magnate Sir Philip Green launched a fashion website for teen girls and young women up to size 26