Will integrating plus-size clothing boost Meijer’s apparel sales?

Discussion
Photo: Meijer
Nov 01, 2016
George Anderson

It’s well known within fashion circles that plus-size clothing is the fastest growing segment of the business. In the past, the standard retail practice was for stores — if they sold plus-sizes at all — was to display these items on separate racks from smaller sizes. The thinking was to make it easier for women who wore larger sizes to find clothing that fit. It also helped the retailer by separating higher priced plus-sizes — vendors typically charge more for larger sizes — from the rest of their inventory.

There is only one problem with this practice — consumers don’t like it. That’s why Meijer is integrating its plus-sizes into the same racks as all the others sold in its women’s clothing departments.

The chain, after a test in 15 stores, is expanding the concept to all 230 stores it operates by early next year.

“We really felt all customers should have the exact same experience at Meijer,” said Annette Repasch, Meijer’s vice president of softlines, told The Wall Street Journal. “Not only by style, but by price and by location.”

The Journal article points out that Meijer will be taking an unspecified hit by keeping plus-size prices in line with smaller sizes. The goal is to achieve enough of a jump in volume to make up for any shortcoming on the penny profit side. Management is also counting on reduced floor space costs to serve as an offset.

Last year, Modcloth conducted a survey and found that nearly 65 percent of its shoppers wanted plus-sizes integrated in the same section as other sizes.

“Women prefer to shop by types of clothing, not types of bodies,” ModCloth co-founder Susan Koger told MarketWatch at the time.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why do you think retailers have been slow to integrate all women’s clothing sizes into one set? Do you approve of Meijer’s plan to charge the same price for women’s clothing regardless of size?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"When women shop for clothes online, they shop by style and colors first, not by size. Why shouldn’t it be that way in-store?"
"But did Meijer survey its shoppers or just import the findings from ModCloth?"
"Plus-sizing isn’t just “bigger,” it’s a different fit. And lots of things that look flattering in smaller sizes aren’t flattering in larger sizes..."

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16 Comments on "Will integrating plus-size clothing boost Meijer’s apparel sales?"


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Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

Smart move that could be a big win for Meijer. When women shop for clothes online, they shop by style and colors first, not by size. Why shouldn’t it be that way in-store? Meijer’s move to merchandise plus-sizes within categories is a great example of transforming from product-centric merchandising to consumer-centric.

My bet is that Meijer will make up revenue by increased volume even though they are charging the same price regardless of size. It is more than just lowering prices on plus-sizes … consumers will appreciate the experience and share it on social media.

Max Goldberg
Guest

Good for Meijer. Plus-sized shoppers don’t want to be singled out with a separate section of the retail floor. They want to shop like everyone else. Why stigmatize a growing section of the population? I think it’s great that they will not charge more for plus-sizes and hope they do the same for large men’s sizes.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Follow the money. With the average American woman wearing a size 14, it only makes sense to create a point of differentiation by following her preferences. With the right publicity and a splashy rollout, Meijer can get the kind of boost that may prompt other retailers to follow suit.

Anne Howe
Guest

Smart move for Meijer to pay attention to what shoppers want in terms of merchandising. I do agree it’s easier to shop by types of clothing versus type of body. But did Meijer survey its shoppers or just import the findings from ModCloth?

In theory, Meijer is making a smart move to keep pricing consistent, but styling is so important in plus-sizing to achieve an attractive fit that I wonder if it’s even possible to compare two tops that are size 4 and size 3x. In order to do fashion right, those two sizes have got to have more styling differences that actually do change the cost of goods and the manufacturing processes.

I’m not a plus-size shopper but I have to assume Meijer has discerning shoppers who really do care how clothing fits and might be willing to pay up a bit for well-constructed garments that make them feel and look good!

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

You have really made the key point for differential pricing. Plus-size styling makes it a different product, and that is the point that retailers must make in their point-of-purchase merchandising. It’s not just more material, it is pattern alignment, structure, folds, darts and all the other elements that make for suitable fit and styling. Meijer should tell the story and sell the story of plus-size value.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

I agree with Chris. Just the term “plus-size” is demeaning, it seems to me. There’s a viral video pointing out the average size for women’s clothing is 16 to 18 in the U.S. If that is the the midpoint, shouldn’t size 2, 4, etc. be labelled “minus-sizes?” Of course, the most thoughtful thing to do is simply have a range of sizes without judgement and let it go at that. Seems that’s what Meijer is doing and good for them.

Pricing things by the amount of material would be a nightmare. The only way you could get away with that is to have an outlet selling only large sizes where you could charge more because there’s nothing small to compare the price to. But even then among large sizes it would be a poor strategy to set price by size.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

First, a question, if retailers have historically charged more for plus-sizes, why haven’t they charged less for petite and XS sizes?

Just wondering.

At any rate, hats off to Meijer to put customers’ feelings ahead of a modest margin bump. The idea of treating all customers with respect may be novel, but I think it might just catch on. And if customers feel respected in the apparel aisles, odds are they will be spending more across all departments. Meijer does it again!

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

Same price — big win. When is plus-size not really plus-size? Meijer answers the question. But their attempt at shopper inclusion into a smaller-size world will mean frustration to plus-size shoppers who must go through more racks to hopefully find their size in stock. Bad shopper experience. As customer frustrations grow and sales in the category decline, the Meijer’s pendulum will swing back to “plus-size is its own special-ness”.

Nikki Baird
BrainTrust
Nikki Baird
VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos
3 years 3 months ago

I’m with Anne on this one. I think it’s a great move in theory, but I think some of the practical realities may make it more challenging than it seems on the surface. Plus-sizing isn’t just “bigger,” it’s a different fit. And lots of things that look flattering in smaller sizes aren’t flattering in larger sizes — and vice versa. So while it’s a nice idea to really serve both shoppers, Meijer should continue to have some styles that are plus-size only, and some that are smaller sizes only. They can probably work that out with effective signage and some visual merchandising choices, but it’s not a clean 100 percent fit to just take plus-sizes and shove them behind the smaller ones.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Great idea. Plus-size consumers will not have to be singled out as a special group and will just be able to shop in the women’s section.

Naomi K. Shapiro
BrainTrust

Hey, I’m feeling sort of lonely here.

  1. I don’t feel there is any discrimination to having a plus-size section — if the clothes are fashionable and distinctive.
  2. It keeps the plus-sizes in the same general area, and I don’t have to go searching through a whole store to find things I like that are in my size. Or shopping on a rack that has all sorts of nice looking things in all sizes, and searching through everything on a rack to see if my size is there, but my sizes are gone when I get there.
  3. I don’t mind paying more for the extra material or styling, if it’s not excessively more than the same fashion would be in a smaller size.

So if Meijer wants to charge the same price that’s fine with me but it wouldn’t make a difference in my buying decision, nor would the integration into one section.

Jeff Hall
BrainTrust

Kudos to Meijer for valuing its female apparel customers equally, regardless of the size of their clothing needs. This move will likely translate into a more satisfying in-store shopping experience — plus-size customers no longer having to shop in a special section of apparel, and knowing they’re not paying more than a customer buying the same garment in a smaller size. This alone will generate considerable good will among Meijer’s female customer base, which translates into brand advocacy in its many forms.

Adam Silverman
Guest

This is a great topic — seems to be a simple idea, but clearly there are conflicting opinions in the comments. My point of view having worked in apparel retail — moving product from one rack to another won’t drive sales. Offering extended sizes and more choice will drive sales. The move to integrate all sizes into one rack is a CX and brand move, which I support.

The higher price seems to be the contentious issue here. Imagine if only small sizes cost more, or if the medium size was more. By having separate pricing, you are inviting your customers to try and reconcile the issue rather than make it frictionless for all customers. The cost of designing and manufacturing should be spread out across all styles and equal pricing should prevail. This doesn’t preclude the retailer from offering exclusive extended-sized items in-store and online. That strategy has also been very successful at driving incremental sales.

Steve Johnson
Guest

Will it boost sales? It depends. Is the customer experience improved? Presumably their test stores have proved that to be the case.

Looking ahead, the real opportunity is less to do with merchandising in-store, it’s the ability to direct shoppers to garments they’ll look great wearing. Tech is available to do so.

Brian Kelly
Guest
3 years 3 months ago
This is a complex subject. Women’s sections location on the floor has a troubled past. Once upon a time, missy, petite, woman, maternity, junior, and IA all were in different locations; in department stores, different floors. Then the specialty shops began to experiment with alternative clusters. Woman was bounced around all over the store for all sorts of reasons, some informed-some not. Some plus women want to shop where their missy friends shop. Some do not. Some missy customers do not want to shop with plus customers. It is personal and it is practical. And we are now in a personalized time that tends to fly in the face of a well-intended democratic solution. Plus sizes begin at 14 and go from there. But this sizing is not the proportionate increase in shape as 6-14. And what looks good in a 6 does not necessarily in 5x. It is very complex. For example, there is “plus petite.” The shopping environment needs are different from racks and location to fitting rooms. This is another area in… Read more »
Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Ken Morris
Retail industry thought leader
3 years 3 months ago

Listening and responding to what customers want is rarely a mistake. If your customers want plus-sizes co-mingled with all the other sizes (which 65% agree on), I think it is the right thing to do. The traditional approach of separating plus-sizes probably makes consumers shopping for those sizes feel self-conscious and embarrassed. Shopping at the same rack as everyone else will make the shopping experience more enjoyable and, hopefully, result in more sales.

It is great to see that Meijer is bold enough to not be trapped in the attitude of “this is the way we have always done it.” I think this is a smart move and I applaud Meijer’s for doing what is “right” for their customers.

While it may cost Meijer a few points on margin, charging the same price for all sizes will go a long way in elevating consumers opinions of Meijer. The customer is the center of the universe today and retailers need to listen and react, because it is the “right” thing to do.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"When women shop for clothes online, they shop by style and colors first, not by size. Why shouldn’t it be that way in-store?"
"But did Meijer survey its shoppers or just import the findings from ModCloth?"
"Plus-sizing isn’t just “bigger,” it’s a different fit. And lots of things that look flattering in smaller sizes aren’t flattering in larger sizes..."

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