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It's a Good Time to Be in the Plus-Size Market

Between increasing sales and more interest from investors, this could mark a turning point for plus-size customers.
A very runway-inspired look from Eloquii. Photo: Eloquii

A very runway-inspired look from Eloquii. Photo: Eloquii

As the plus-size debate becomes increasingly topical (thanks in no small part to Amy Schumer and Glamour magazine), there's good news on the horizon: Brands are finally starting to see benefits from having more stylish offerings for their plus-size customers.

Eloquii, a direct-to-consumer, plus-size brand, just announced $15 million Series B round of financing; it follows $6 million in Series A financing from November 2014. The latest round of funding is lead by Acton Capital Partners, whose previous investments include It's great news for a brand that was once dead in the water after being dropped by former parent company The Limited in 2012. 

And there's even more reason to believe that Eloquii's investors have made a smart decision: A recent study by the NPD Group found that more teen girls than ever are buying plus-size clothes. (That continues to be bad news for brands in the junior market, which has dropped from 81 percent to 73 percent in the same period.)

This isn't a result of the so-called obesity epidemic either; according to NPD Group chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen, it comes from the teenage customer's desire to be able to buy the same clothing as their friends, plus size or not. 

"Teens are reinvigorating the plus-size market," he says. "Today's young consumers know what they want and won't settle for less. This energy will turn up the volume at retail for the plus-size apparel market overall, which is important but sometimes overlooked."

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Another look from Eloquii's current offerings. Photo: Eloquii

Another look from Eloquii's current offerings. Photo: Eloquii

The report says these customers are more likely to feel that "brands design plus-size clothing as an afterthought" and "plus-size clothing should be offered in the same styles available for my smaller friends." With brands like Eloquii and Asos Curve offering up more trend-conscious clothing, it's not surprising that the plus size market — previously relatively ignored — is starting to gain traction.

"Our customer wants to feel on-trend," Eloquii CEO Mariah Chase told WWD, adding, "If it's a trend, it will sell." In line with that, she reports that best-sellers for the brand include wide-legged pants, ruffles, off-the-shoulder tops — and, yes, even the crop top, which might surprise some plus-size skeptics.

That fast-fashion mentality helped Eloquii grow its volume by over 165 percent last year, with more "triple-digit growth" expected this year; market estimates have that sales number at $20 million (Chase declined to disclose exact figures). Of course, the trick is that the teen customer has less money to spend, which means retailers can't depend on that demographic alone to push sales further.

Chase reports that Eloquii will put the the funding specifically into tech-oriented projects, such as the all-important mobile experience and adding members to their technology team. The brand will also be funding tests to expand offerings, including sizing. While she says there is customer demand for a brick-and-mortar experience, "it's not on the immediate road map, not in 2016."

Regardless of what is on the horizon, the future of plus-size business is looking brighter than ever. 

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