While running errands this week, I decided to do a little clothes shopping and get some grown-up clothes for a trip I'll be making soon. But I was so frustrated by the experience that I didn't buy as much as I would liked to have bought.
So I need to air a pet peeve about plus-sized clothing stores. I've been ticked off about this for many years now; I know a lot of others out there have had the same frustration. Time to air it.
Now, I'm not one to blog about fatshion topics much; anyone who knows me knows I'm incredibly casual most of the time. I'm all about feeling comfortable and could care less if I look fashionable. I like to look decent but it has to be comfortable above all else. I'm about one step above slacker most days. I do have a some dress-up items and business clothes when more formality is needed, but most of the time I'm just looking for casual, comfortable, decent everyday clothes. Shouldn't be that hard to find.....but it is.
I don't shop much because I don't have time to get out to the stores very often. Also, I'm not an easy body type to fit; a lot of what's out there doesn't suit me. So when I find something, I tend to buy it in 15 colors, just in case, and I tend to buy a lot of things at once so I don't have to come back often. I'm not a frequent or prolific shopper compared to some, but the stores can make some pretty decent money off of me if they have something nice-looking in my size. And that's the problem, right there. In my size.
So I'm at Catherine's this week, looking around. It's not my favorite store (seriously, do we need sequins on everything? I like a little bling now and again, but this is overkill!), but it does have my size (26/28), which a lot of regular plus-sized stores don't have (they usually stop at 24). Plus-sized choices in my size are fairly limited in my area without some serious driving, so when I do shop, it's often there.
What pissed me off was that the chain continues to ignore the demographics of its customers, overstocking the smaller sizes and seriously stinting on the larger sizes.
They continue to order 50 zillion items in size 0x-1x (sizes 16-18 or so), and far fewer items in a size 3x or 4x (26/28 or 30/32). Yes, they do have 3x, 4x, and even 5x items, but as a percentage of their offerings and in relation to their customer base, the bigger sizes are under-represented compared to the smaller stuff.
The customer base I consistently see in the store (me included) is usually 3x-4x. I rarely see a 1x-sized woman in the store. Sometimes, but not nearly as often as 3x-4x women.
So thus when you get to the sales racks, there is an abundance of 1x stuff that's NOT selling, and hardly any 3x-4x stuff, which is what most of the customers are looking for. And even in its first-run items, the 3x and 4x sell out really quickly and it's hard to find items in those sizes unless you are there the week an item arrives.
I mean, really, retailers ─ get a #$%*ing clue! People who wear a size 16 are usually able to shop in regular, "straight"-size stores. Do you think most of them are going to Catherine's to shop? I mean, I'm sure some do, but most do not.
Catherine's is a specialty store, and it's going to serve primarily the plus-sized woman who cannot shop at regular stores but doesn't want to take a chance ordering something blindly off the internet that may or may not fit.
These women are going to primarily be 2x-4x, with an especially high concentration of 4x (since 2x-3x is the size at which many plus-sized departments usually stop). I mean, if I can buy a 2x shirt at K-Mart or Wal-Mart, why am I going to drive further and pay more to buy a similar shirt at Catherine's?
The women who spend a lot of money at Catherine's are going to primarily be women on the larger side of the plus sizes. You would think that Catherine's would know and honor this, but apparently it doesn't.
To their credit, Catherine's does carry 5x, which is far more than many plus-size stores carry. So kudos to them on that at least.
But come on, Catherine's, know your clientele! Most of your customers are going to be women in the 3x-4x sizing, so you should be sending far more of those sizes to the stores, and fewer of the 0x and 1x items. Instead, it's the other way around, and the end result is too many small sizes extra afterwards and unsatisfied customers among the larger sizes. Another example of size snobbery even among stores that cater to plus-sized women.
And it leaves me pissed off like crazy when I go there, see something really cute that I'd be interested in buying.....only to find out that they only have it in 0x and 1x anymore. They really lose my goodwill when this happens. Makes me not want to shop at their store very often, honestly.
It's not just Catherine's, of course. Lane Bryant has similar issues, as does Avenue and several others. However, the demographics of those stores skew younger, so they are going to have a somewhat more substantial base in the 1x-3x size. But it's not like younger women never wear size 4x! They want cute clothes in their size, not granny stuff. And even as middle-aged as I am, I'd shop those places more too if they'd just stock more 4x items (that are true to size). They're neglecting part of their clientele too.
I have complained about this to store managers for years. The managers always say, yes we KNOW, we've been telling corporate headquarters that for ages, but they don't listen.
COME ON RETAILERS. KNOW YOUR DEMOGRAPHICS!
Don't base your purchases on the demographics of how many fat women wear what size in the U.S., base it on the distribution of sizes of your clientele, the people who actually come and shop there.
You are cheating yourself out of a lot of sales when you skew too much to the smaller sizes. And you are pissing off the larger-sized clientele, often the ones with more money to spend.
Stop the size snobbery, and stop alienating the very customers who are the heart of your business model.