Childrenswear retailers must do more to cater to niche sizes, especially for those that are taller than average for their age or overweight, as choice is currently lacking in the sector. Investment in these sizes will be beneficial to the retailer’s sales prospects and bolster their appeal, ensuring that parents do not have to turn to alternative clothing retailers. Likewise, it will also benefit parents, minimising the need to buy into adult clothing ranges, which are subject to VAT. Retailer Next recently introduced a range of plus fit casualwear for children aged three to 16, making it one of only a few players in the market to do so. While H&M also offers a small range of plus fit childrenswear for ages eight to 14, called Generous Fit, the likes of Tesco, Asda and M&S only cater to this fit in school uniform ranges – a missed opportunity.
While the Health Survey for England in 2015 found that 28.2% of children aged two to 15 were either overweight or obese, GlobalData forecasts this figure to have risen to 31.3% in 2017*. However, unlike with adult obesity, which has given rise to successful plus size retailers such as Simply Be, as well as investment from non-specialists such as boohoo.com, ASOS and River Island, there remains limited accessibility of niche sizes in childrenswear.
Sizing challenges continue for children above average height. Where plus fit, in the case of M&S’s uniform range, offers at least an additional two inches width on the waist and hips, these items do not help those with a longer than average torso or leg. For instance, a boy with a leg length of over 34.5inches must purchase a 32-34inch waist trouser (an adult size) to ensure fit is adequate. In addition, the demand for value will also encourage many parents to purchase with ‘room to grow’ meaning that parents may purchase two sizes or more than the child’s actual age where the true age sizing does not fit, resulting in an even greater fit issue.
Retailers will face issues with stocking extra fits instore, so any additional plus fit or tall fit lines should primarily be sold online, with a physical presence restricted to regional flagship stores. Clarity is required to convey how sizing differs to standard ranges, and this needs to be evident both online via sizing guides but also instore using appropriate signage and product swing tags. This will ensure that browsing instore remains as simple as possible with minimal shopper confusion. As leading childrenswear retailers such as the grocers and M&S have strong online propositions with competitive delivery offers, these retailers can ensure that access to extra fits is still convenient by emphasising their click & collect and next day delivery options.
*GlobalData estimate is based on the uptick in overweight/obesity levels in age 10 and 11 children in 2016 based on the National Child Measurement Programme for the 2015/16 school year.