Canadian Retailers Losing Special-Size Market Share to the U.S.

Fifty-seven per cent of women in Canada wear non-traditional sizes and have trouble finding clothes 

TORONTO, September 3, 2013 – Approximately 10 million women in Canada are having a hard time buying clothes off the rack. According to the Canadian Women’s Special Sizes Report from leading global information company The NPD Group, more than half of Canadian women feel they require “special size” clothing (i.e. plus/tall/petite/junior, or a combination of these). However, 63 per cent of this group is having trouble finding styles that match their figures. As a result, roughly two in five special-size shoppers are taking their business elsewhere, heading to the U.S. for clothing options they are not getting at home.

For these women, much of the draw for shopping south of the border is a wider selection of styles and more fashionable clothing choices. In the 12 months ending May 2013, one third of the total dollars spent on women’s tops and bottoms in Canada was on special sizes, but consumers feel that only specialty stores are successful in improving shopper experience by making them feel comfortable, selling quality merchandise and offering the latest fashions. Special-size shoppers agree that department stores and the mass clothing channel generally fall short on many of these attributes.

“The market for women’s specialty sizes has never been higher in Canada, so it’s unfortunate that the apparel industry has a limited view of what’s important to shoppers and is not responding to the consumer sentiment that local retailers aren’t cutting it,” said Sandy Silva, fashion industry analyst at The NPD Group. “No two women are the same – each has her own personal shopping preferences and challenges, but our largest retail channels are underdeveloped in offering special-size product lines in a market where ‘regular’ sizes are no longer the norm.”

Plus sizes are the largest sub-segment of special sizes, representing 32 per cent of this category, and two thirds of these women report that shopping for larger clothes is more stressful than shopping for traditional sizes. One of the main causes is the limited selection of merchandise available in stores.

Overwhelmingly, 86 per cent of plus-size women want their clothes to be offered in the same colours as items sold in smaller sizes; another 80 per cent look for the same styles that are offered outside of their size range. Also, while the general belief is that the demand for plus sizes increases with age, there is an unmet need among the 31 per cent of teens ages 13 to 17 who also purchase plus-sized clothing.

“Part of the problem is that mannequins and advertisements typically feature very tall, thin models, so women who wear special sizes often find it difficult to visualize how an outfit will look on them,” continued Silva. “Naturally, these women would prefer to see in-store displays and promotional materials that reflect their own diversity and, since many revealed that they would like to expand their wardrobes and prefer to do the bulk of their shopping in one store, the opportunity for retailers is significant.”

Accustomed to an unaccommodating retail landscape, just over one third of women wearing special sizes expect to pay more for their clothing. Further, adding to some of the challenges retailers face, roughly half of women in non-traditional sizes feel their clothes should be merchandised in a separate department, while the other half feels that all apparel should be combined.

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Daina Astwood-George
APEX Public Relations
416-924-4442 ext. 235

The NPD Group, Inc.
900 West Shore Road
Port Washington, NY 11050

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