Will Neiman Marcus find gold with its women’s plus-size pilot?

Discussion
Neiman Marcus Last Call, Livermore, CA - Photo: Wikipedia/Fastily
Feb 14, 2017

Luxury department store operator Neiman Marcus has announced that it will pilot a test of plus-size women’s clothing in five of its Last Call outlet stores beginning on Feb. 18. The pilot program follows two years in which the chain has successfully sold larger sizes to its upscale clientele online.

In announcing the decision to test plus-sizes in the Last Call stores, Neiman Marcus pointed to familiar statistics around the opportunity. Over 65 percent of women wear plus-sized clothing, and the average woman wears a size 14.

In interviews with The Dallas Morning News and Women’s Wear Daily, Frank Crisci, vice president of merchandising at Last Call, said the 29-store outlet chain has been asked by customers to carry sizes designed for their body types.

The in-store shops, called “Churvy Chic,” will feature a wide variety of clothing, including activewear, day and evening dresses, jeans and pants, sweaters and tops. About 20 percent of the items sold in the shops will be exclusive to Last Call.

“We believe this has legs and that we’ll be rolling it out to all Last Call stores,” Mr. Crisci told The Dallas Morning News. “Putting the brands all together not only makes a statement, but it’s a competitive advantage for us to have them all together in one place for the customer.”

While Nieman Marcus is establishing a separate department for its plus-size clothing, other retailers such as Meijer have chosen to integrate larger sizes into the overall mix. A 2015 survey by ModCloth found that women prefer shopping in stores by types of clothing rather than by size.

Neiman Marcus is a late-comer to the plus-size market in department stores. Nordstrom, as the Morning News reports, has departments for larger sizes in all but 20 of its full-line stores. It also stocks plus sizes in 189 of its 215 Rack locations.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What is your analysis of the approach Neiman Marcus is taking to the women’s plus-size clothing market? Do you expect the chain to expand the “Curvy Chic” concept beyond Last Call to its full line stores?

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14 Comments on "Will Neiman Marcus find gold with its women’s plus-size pilot?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

If the research is correct and more than 65 percent of women wear plus-size clothing, this seems like hardly a game-changing move on Neiman Marcus’ part — they are merely now just catering to the largest part of the women’s clothing market. My only questions is, what took so long? Undoubtedly sell-through will rule, and if plus-size clothing continues to sell well it will become a bigger part of Neiman Marcus’ merchandising plan.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

They are moving very slowly to serve an important market. The products may be attractive encouraging women to shop but the attitude of not wanting those sales to occur in their mainstream stores is offensive.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

One question: What took them so long? The days of the size-2 girl being the fashion standard are ending.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust
Jasmine Glasheen
Principal Writer & Content Strategist, Jasmine Glasheen & Associates
5 years 3 months ago

Considering the average woman wears a size 14, I don’t see why it’s necessary to relegate plus-size apparel to a different store-within-a-store. Plus-size women don’t want to shop in a different area than their smaller-size friends. Why are we still separating women based on size?

Instead, I propose integrating women’s apparel sections. In fact, I wrote about the profit potential of inclusivity on pg. 26 of Off-Price Retailing. Meijer and Walmart are eliminating the plus-size department in their stores. Online retailer ModCloth has already done this, and they’re blowing up and expanding into brick-and-mortar.

Bottom line: It’s great that Neiman Marcus is making plus-size apparel a feature, but department stores need to stop relegating plus-size women to the back of the bus.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

While I applaud Neiman Marcus’ decision to recognize that women come in a variety of shapes and sizes — and that that’s OK — I hate the name “Curvy Chic.” It is patronizing and — as code language for “bigger” or, worse, “plus” — continues to linguistically body shame larger women. If you are going to make a group of customers uncomfortable with themselves, why stock larger sizes in the first place? I have always thought the Meijer approach was better, since it avoids the trap of segregating customers by rack and allows them to purchase the style they want in the size that fits. I would love to see Neiman Marcus make all customers feel welcome, regardless of size. I just hope they come to their senses about that name.

Ben Ball
Guest

So I’m guessing you wouldn’t respond well to a line of products labeled “Hirsute Hip”? Ok, neither would I. But we might fall for “Handsome Hirsute” — ya never know. 😉

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust
Meaghan Brophy
Senior Retail Writer
5 years 3 months ago

It’s about time. Neiman Marcus should expand the “Curvy Chic” concept to their full-line stores. The majority of American women wear plus-size clothing, but the majority of mainstream retailers do not cater to those sizes in-store.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Hmmmm, tough question. More than 65 percent of women wear size 14 and above. Many of them have real money to spend, and tend to be not terribly price conscious. They’re just looking for something that fits well and looks good (without lions and large ugly flocking on the tops, please).

Good God, what’s taking so long?

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest

What are they waiting for? This looks like a no brainer. The statistics show 65 percent of women walking in their store will be potential buyers. What’s the problem? Why wait, get it going.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

While there is a clear business need, and an opportunity for Neiman Marcus to expand into the plus side category, I am in agreement that this is far from ground breaking. Women’s average clothing sizes have shifted, and this is a strategic merchandising move that should have been implemented years ago.

There is great potential here for Neiman Marcus, however. Rather than creating a separate shopping area, or a store within a store, the right strategic move is to integrate the size ranges into the women’s department. Perceived body shaming and labeling should be eliminated from the in-store experience.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

It’s about time, but I’m with Ryan — the name is awful. Would Neiman’s roll out a selection for larger men called “Burly Chic?”

Chuck Palmer
BrainTrust

I’d take burly over portly or husky. Those are still being used in some quarters.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
5 years 3 months ago

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe women (and men for that matter) prefer to shop for apparel by style first, size second. On the other hand, retailers have had separate departments for petite sizes for a long time — so why not group merchandise by size first?

Having a distinct department may be a good test for Neiman Marcus if they can compare sales data to having the merchandise mixed in with other sizes to see which sells better.

Chuck Palmer
BrainTrust
As someone who has had to navigate this issue all my life — husky and portly were actual size categories when I was a kid — I have to bring up the trust issue. Trust in sizing. If Neiman’s really wanted to woo customers, they would study their customers and work with their designers and vendors to come up with an approach to sizing that their customers can trust under the Curvy Chic label. I know XXL’s aren’t what they used to be. I have Gap shirts from the ’90s to prove it. (They are “Icons” according to the current Gap offering.) Fact is, those of out of the normal size ranges need to know hunting sizes is worth it, so I can see why they come up with stuff like “Curvy Chic” (but anyone with an ounce of brand strategy knows they could call it anything just as long as their customers know what it means) which signals “your size is right here, feel free to focus on style.” It seems to me that… Read more »
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