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Stores find pluses in plus-size clothes, brands realise potential

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, a category long overlooked by many brands and retailers, is getting attention from retailers such as , , and . Many stores have opened separate outlets for extra-large clothes, while others are adding more sizes to designs.

Retailers say almost 30 per cent of customers look for plus-size clothing, a segment driven by economic growth. “This phenomenon is picking up in the metros, and can very soon be seen in smaller cities as well,” said , retail head of Bangalore-based Mustard, a chain with nine stores in six cities, that offers up to nine sizes for a design. “Obesity is directly proportional to the prosperity of the demographics. As the disposable incomes of people increase, demand for such customised clothing will always be on higher side.”

Waistlines above 36 inches are considered part of plus-size clothing. Up till now, heavier customers resorted to neighbourhood tailors or stores abroad for their needs. But things are changing.

“Earlier, I had to go to US for buying plus-size clothes, but I am so happy that I can now find good designs in India, too,” said Arti Madaan, a home maker who spends anywhere between Rs 8,000 to Rs 25,000 on her once-in-a fortnight visit to a store. “The best thing is that these clothes are customised according to my body.”

Looking good, too
With more retailers catering to this demographic, the challenge is to make designs in large clothes which make customers look and feel good.

“Getting the right design and making the same product look good in large sizes is a challenge. This category contributes about 10 per cent to our total revenue, which is quite significant”, said Siddhartha Bindra, managing director of Delhi-based Biba, which retails the salwar-kameez in 80 stores across the country.

Bindra said his chain pioneered large-size clothing in this segment a decade earlier. “The category is much matured now and we have a large dedicated customer base for it. We have recently added sizes up to 46 inches in our mix-n-match section,” said Bindra, referring to a section where customers can buy the pant-like salwar or churidar separately, and match these with clothes, kameez or kurtis, of their choice.

Biba’s section of pre-matched salwar-kameez sets already has 42, 44 and 46 inch sizes. The chain is growing at 35-40 per cent every year and the plus-size category is keeping pace with that.

Retailers say another challenge while catering to this category is the display of clothes, par for the course for other sizes. “Unlike regular sizes, where clothes are displayed on mannequins (32-34 inch waistline) and can attract customers without much effort, we have to be dependent on our own staff who are on the heavier side and can outfit for them,” said the store manager of Bella Ragazza, Hema (she uses only one name). Bella Ragazza caters only to plus-size customers. It has one store in Delhi and also gets orders from Punjab and Chandigarh.

“The revenue is good from this category, as the supply is less than the demand. I think in the coming years, we can see a three to five per cent increase in brands that provide plus-sized outfits,” said Mamta Rawal, who owns Bella Ragazza.

India’s largest listed retailer, Pantaloon Retail, is awake to the opportunity this segment represents. It launched stores under a separate clothing brand, ‘aLL’, in 2005, for its larger customers. The retailer now operates 17 standalone ‘aLL’ stores, besides also stocking this brand at Pantaloon stores, said a store manager of a standalone ‘aLL’ store in Delhi. He said customers now expect more from stores such as his which they are familiar with. "In terms of patterns, customers are demanding more," said the manager, who did not wish to be named.

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