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Are retailers ignoring plus-size fashion?

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Lingerie business Lane Bryant is causing a stir after it alluded to Victoria’s Secret in its latest ad campaign.

The US plus sized retailer compared its models to Victoria’s Secret ‘angels’ on its website:

“They’re no angels — and they own it. Join the women who are redefining sexy by posting your personal statement of confidence using the hashtag #ImNoAngel”.

Lane Bryant has gone from an unobtrusive retailer to a global online sensation in no more than 10 characters.

Lane Bryant

The Ohio based company’s website cites, “Our emphasis on fashion and fit - not merely size - makes us a style leader”, with the retailer aiming to “celebrate women of all shapes and sizes”.

Lane Bryant belongs to Ascena Retail Group, which has recently pushed its ecommerce channels by introducing the brand to the UK.

The womens clothing store chain finished the year with a ‘moderate operating loss’ according to Ascena’s 2014 results. The year’s total comp performance was up 3%.

Talking on future plans Lane Bryant said:

“Entering Fiscal 2015, we are planning continued strong growth in our active and wear-to-work categories. We are also introducing our 6th & Lane Collection, which expands the top of our private-label fashion pyramid”.

Lane Bryant’s recent exposure will undoubtedly have an impact on its 2015 results, with the trending hashtag ‘#ImNoAngel’ pushing plus size retailers into the limelight.

Victoria’s Secret

Lane Bryant is not yet at the same scale as Victoria’s Secret, which dominates in store figures, with 1,100 locations compared to Lane Bryant’s 812.

The company’s fashion shows and ‘angels’, who are also presented as heavenly  online (@angelcandice), have become a media phenomenon, with celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran showcasing their latest tracks at the VS shows.   

With such hype over the brands products there is little surprise that the company’s owner, L Brands, is doing exceedingly well.

This week it announced better than expected sales for March 2015.   March sales increased 6% from the same time the year before, up to $981.2m. Shares were also up to 1.4% in premarket trading.

The parent company which also owns Bath & Body Works was pushed by an early start to Easter.

Missing a market?

Though both retailers take a different stance in terms of advertising, Lane Bryant is not alone in its demand for variety when it comes to clothing. Lingerie firm Dear Kate, which produces items ‘made by women for women’ has also referenced Victoria’s Secret’s ‘Perfect Body’ advertisement. The company used a variety of women of all shapes and sizes to declare that all women are perfect, focusing on, “women who are often neglected by the media and traditional retailers”.

The campaigns against Victoria’s Secret have highlighted the need for businesses to pay attention to plus size clothing.

According to research firm, NPD, the US’s plus-size market generated $17.5bn in sales from March 2013-April 2014, with the average American woman reportedly weighing 25lb heavier than she did in 1960. 

Lane Bryant showcased its collections at New York Fashion Week this year and other retailers do not want to miss out on the market. Online fashion giant ASOS has its own ‘Curve and Plus Size’ range and Manchester based Missguided has benefited from following suit. In a release reporting its full-year profits of £5.5m, Missguided confirmed that’s its plus-size clothing and active wear is providing a “great return for the business”.

In the UK the plus size market is worth £5.9bn and is predicted to outperform the overall UK womenswear market by 2020. Retailers ignoring this sector could end up losing out. 

Published on Friday 10 April by Rachel Gee

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