A current example of this? Although fashion clothing and shoe sizes are trending larger, fashion accessories are trending smaller. Market information firm The NPD Group reports that large handbags—15 to 18 inches tall or wide—were highly popular before the Great Recession, but now account for only about 26% of dollar sales. Pulling ahead have been the midsize handbags—at least 12, but less than 15 inches tall or wide—which now account for 43% of dollar sales. The figure is 7% for the Supersize Me handbags exceeding 18 inches in height or width.
NPD says sales of other fashion accessories are showing a similar profile of the move toward the middle. It’s an exception to what I call “barbell retailing”—a pull away from middle markets and toward the low and the high.
The shopper psychology rationale for the larger clothing and shoe sizes is physical comfort. People are getting bigger. The rationale for the handbag trend consists of a move away from showiness in fashion.
Another trend within a trend is “vanity sizing.” Although the clothes are getting larger, the label designations aren’t. For a while now, fashion retailers have been intentionally mislabeling the sizes on clothing so that shoppers think they can fit into a size 10 when a standard measurement chart would tag the item as a size 12. The phenomenon is seen most often with women’s clothing, but a number of British retailers are also using “manity sizing,” labeling trousers as a smaller size than they really are. Debenhams, Next, and Topman were selling pants up to one inch larger than labeled. The objective is to have customers say, “I feel better about myself when shopping at that store rather than elsewhere, so I’ll make more of my purchases there.”
Research at University of North Texas found that:
- Expensive clothing has been more likely to use vanity sizing. Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein clothing items were especially tolerant of size label distortions.
- Consumers 20 to 29 years of age were more pleased with vanity sizing than were consumers 40 to 49 years of age. As a trend within a trend within a trend, older shoppers want more accurate sizing information. Macy’s and Lane Bryant have been posting the real size information online.
Gain Weighty Profits with Larger Sizes
Size Up Your Shoppers
Blink and Gone Is the Bling
Appeal to Vanity
Strengthen Your Barbell Retailing