We've got data to support the notion that the fashion industry is (finally!) becoming more aware of consumers who sit outside of its 'standard' sizing.
We found that in September this year, there was a 42% increase in UK in tall-fit women's apparel and a 128% increase in petite, compared to last year.
Just look at it go.
And these guys.
What's happening in the market that makes now the right moment to appeal to shoppers who have previously been so overlooked? As always with retail shifts, it's a combination of factors that mean increasing margins and consumer base.
Why shop by fit is booming
On the one hand, faster, cheaper manufacture makes testing new sizes and fits easier. Retailers can quickly bring a limited run of products online to test initial demand, and reorder in time to still capitalise on the trend.
Direct to consumer models mean that brands are able to get that very direct, and instant, feedback from their customers.
Current consumer sentiment also means there is more positive messaging around women's bodies and greater awareness of diversity. This means that consumers who in the past have felt alienated by fashion feel more empowered to get incredibly passionate, and vocal about products - their voices and social platforms have grown.
And in an over-saturated market, having extended 'shop by fit' offerings, which was once a point of difference, is now table stakes. Retailers not offering tall, petite and plus sizes know that their customers are able to order what they want from any retailer around the world that does.
It's not all growth, however...
At the same time, we found that maternity apparel was down by 12% in fast fashion private label (like ASOS Maternity) and down by 35% in the luxury market.
There was also a reduction in new arrivals from brands like Mamalicious, Destination Maternity, A Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity.
Maternity is different to other shop by fit categories, in that pregnancy (bar the most active breeders) is a temporary state. Perhaps consumers about to take on the expense of an extra human in their lives are more cautious to shop new trends than the market had hoped they'd be? We'll keep an eye on this one.
Let's look at how retailers break down their shop by fit offerings
Here we can see two very different approaches to shop by fit from Boohoo and ASOS own brands. Boohoo's focus is on plus size, while ASOS focuses more heavily on its tall assortment. Boohoo's petite emphasis also outstrips ASOS.
Currently these two fast fashion rivals have differentiated assortments within shop by fit, but that might be changing...
We can break that down to see exactly how each retailer's enthusiasm for its various brands has changed in the last twelve months.
In the chart below we can see that Boohoo has grown its tall collection by most - probably trying to catch up with ASOS's tall women's offering.
Boohoo has in fact grown all of its shop by fit ranges in the past year, with very healthy growth in Boohoo Plus and BoohooMan Big & Tall.
ASOS meanwhile has shrunk parts of its shop by fit offering - most noticeably in maternity, but ASOS Curve and Petite both had fewer products in stock this September than last too.
The major growth has come from ASOS Men's Tall and ASOS Men's Plus, which have almost tripled in a year. ASOS Tall (women's) has also grown, as the retailer tries to stay ahead of Boohoo on this niche.
Shop by fit and price
One of the big barriers to entry for retailers in shop by fit is how to price new brands. Our software can take the pain out of that, and it can also pinpoint the brands which excel.
ASOS is great at running many of the same styles across its sub-brands, so that all shoppers feel included in the retailer's core offering and trend pieces.
That also means the retailer has to offer price parity across its sizes. It's not good practice to charge the plus size consumer more for a product than a petite shopper. Avoid at all costs!
Boohoo avoids this by not rolling out identical styles across it's sub-brands. Instead, there are items which pay homage to the same trend, but have small differences suited to body shape.
It does mean the pricing can vary, but without the direct comparison of identical products, it's less damaging. Still, the higher priced petite wrap dress below ended up discounted.
Sub-brand or add to existing size ranges?
Of course, there's a decision to be made as to whether your shop by fit offerings are just extended sizing in your mainline offering, rather than sub-brands.
For certain retailers, who've always sold direct to consumer and have a strong base customer and established grading, this may work. And tacking on a size or two at the upper or lower end of your existing size range, if demand has shown you'd benefit from it, is smart - you can roll these into the factory minimums seamlessly.
But for the majority of retailers, having sub-brands will draw an overlooked consumer to you, often for the first time. Don't make the customer do the work in sorting through your offering for the pieces that'll work for them.
Shop by fit trends
The more you dig into shop by fit data, the more nuanced you notice the markets are, with different trends working across niches.
Take tall, where 25% of bestsellers in tall ranges at fast fashion retailers in the last three months have been animal print! That's a huge emphasis and a typically polarising print, albeit one that's really hotting up for Fall.
In tall collections, workwear items sell particularly well, as do long-line cardigans. Retailers looking through Spring 2019 trends should bear this in mind when selecting product for next year.
In tall ranges the emphasis is on tops and bottoms, which account for just under 60% of the tall offering. But there has been an increased emphasis on all-in-ones and dresses in tall this September compared to last.
Dresses were up 60% and all-in-ones grew by an enormous 172%. Anyone who's had to wear an all-in-one that's too short in the body will know that's a relief...
In petite collections, 13% of bestsellers in the last three months have been animal print. The Réalisation Par leopard print skirt has been hugely influential market-wide, but petite women lapped this trend up! Wrap shapes work particularly well.
In petite there has been a decreased emphasis on tops and dresses - instead retailers upped the number of new bottoms and outerwear items this September compared to last. The number of bottoms grew 17.5% and the outerwear category grew 29%. All-in-ones also grew in the petite category - by 66%.
In the maternity category, which shrunk on the mass market, there wasn't much movement in assortment breakdown, with tops, dresses and bottoms leading.
EDITED Tip: If you have EDITED access, click here to view a dashboard with new arrivals from 10 top maternity brands. You could always filter by your specific category or check out what's already sold out, despite having only arrived this month! (Yes, we agree that coat looks very cozy...).
And not forgetting menswear..
UK men's plus size stayed flat, while in the US the top 13 retailers of men's plus/big & tall increased September new arrivals by 70% across 276 brands. Walmart, Macy's and Target drove the majority of that growth. That injection of newness means there is now 19% more men's plus size on the US market than this time last year.
The menswear product offering still skews very practical - with office and technical workwear featuring heavily, as well as joke t-shirt and sweaters. There is still big, untapped potential here for the stylish or fashionable plus size menswear customer.
Spring 2019 shop by fit trends
Certain product trends that are coming through for next season are more suited to requiring specific fits. Here are some key shape trends from Spring 2019 that will work especially well for each market:
- Plus: Wrap skirts, trench coats, Bermuda shorts, pleated skirts and oversized denim trucker jackets.
- Petite: Polo shirt dresses, prairie dresses, wrap skirts, Bermuda shorts, cargo pants.
- Tall: slip dresses, halterneck dresses, prairie dresses, Bermuda shorts, pleated skirts.
If you'd like to know more about plus, petite, tall or maternity markets, let us know and we'll show you around!