Nike and other major retailers make push into 'extended size' market

Living in a world that catered to their thinner counterparts, larger shoppers have historically had a hard time finding quality clothing options. Not quite so much anymore. Many mainstream brands are branching out into extended sizing.

One such brand is Nike (NKE). The swoosh brand is making a firm push into size inclusivity. On its recent earnings call, Mark G. Parker, Nike’s president & CEO, noted the brand’s commitment in the area.

“From competition to fitness, to light activity, to play, our more inclusive view on design is opening up new lanes of opportunity for growth. For example, we’re studying the state of our product to serve more body types with our successful plus-size line,” he said.

Nike now features an array of models large and small throughout its site and in ads in its stores. It also includes extended sizes on the same pages as smaller sizes.

“I absolutely love the idea of ‘plus’ being included in the same section instead of the sad, dark, back corner of the store to which it is usually relegated,” Sarah Chiwaya, who runs the fashion blog “Curvily.”

Growing market

It’s not just Nike stepping up to the plate. American Eagle (AEO) recently expanded its jean sizing to accommodate up to a size 24 for women and up to a size 48 for men. And Cornerstone Brands, owner of Garnet Hill and other consumer brands, just launched Ryllace, which offers “premium casual” clothing in extended sizing.

“The idea emerged from growing demand in the marketplace for a high-quality product with a focus on premium materials and versatility for the plus-size woman,” said Cornerstone president Claire Spofford.

With obesity on the rise in the U.S, it makes sense that more companies would cater to bigger body types. In 2016, the average woman was 5’3” and weighed 170.6 pounds and the average man weighed stood 5’7” tall and weighed in at 197.9 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 163.8 pounds and 189. 4 pounds, respectively. According to NPD, the size of the women’s extended-size clothing market alone is $21.4 billion.

With bigger bodies in mind

Bruce Sturgell, editor-in-chief of Chubstr — a lifestyle website centered around the men of size — is excited about the progress being made in the industry. Sturgell tells Yahoo Finance that while the extended-size market for men isn’t as well developed as the women’s market, the overall industry has seen huge growth over the past few years.

“We’re seeing a shift in mainstream culture that says that bigger people are worthy of dignity and deserve the same options as everyone else,” Sturgell said. “It’s more than simply up-sizing a garment that was originally created using a smaller fit model. Companies are making clothing specifically with bigger bodies in mind, and customers are buying it up. It's a win-win for everyone,” he said.

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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