It’s not about the (plus) size

Apparently American clothing stores are cutting their plus-sized clothing lines at the moment, even as the average American woman gets larger. Why? Because the mean size isn’t the important one. There’s an excellent explanation here:

…it has to the do with the fact that the distribution of weights is skewed to the right. The costs of production result in a focus toward the modal body size, not the mean or median.

Basically, it costs more to make more sizes. The manufacturer wants to make the fewest sizes to fit the most people. Lots of people fit the small sizes. Large people span a huge range of sizes, so not many will fit each big size. Hence, it’s profit maximising to produce only the smaller sizes.

Weight distribution of American women

Weight distribution of American women

An interesting corollary is that plus-sized clothing sales are increasingly moving to online retail only. That allows the manufacturer to capture a larger market than they could with a retail store and makes it worthwhile to produce the larger sizes. They also don’t need to keep a lot of stock on the racks, which is a significant fixed cost to the business.

7 replies
  1. Darliene
    Darliene says:

    Interesting that, according to this chart, women over 35 don’t buy clothing… I wonder how skewed the numbers would be if these women were included.

  2. rauparaha
    rauparaha says:

    Actually the distributions look similar for all age groups although, as you say, the older age group is shifted to the right. I presume the reason that they were separated here is that those age groups tend to shop at different stores. Combining them wouldn’t fairly represent the demand that a single store faces.

  3. Dismal Soyanz
    Dismal Soyanz says:

    Which explains why the women’s clothing shops that are located in high profile (and thus high rent) locations predominantly cater for younger women.

    Given the long term trend of greater obesity in western societies, this sounds rather like a cycle around an upwards (albeit possibly gentle) trend.

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