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Are major retailers ignoring the plus-size trend?

The average American woman is a size 14. 

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In this file photo a woman walks into a Lane Bryant store in San Jose, CA.

Paul Sakuma/AP

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There was an entire New York fashion week devoted to plus-size style this year. Size-22 model Tess Holliday graced the cover of People in May. Next summer, a documentary that goes behind the scenes of plus-size modeling will premiere. Celebrities Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy, known for their full figures, are both launching plus-size clothing lines.

Amid these developments, and the body positive, #Droptheplus trend, are countless other examples, and mainstream retailers are either struggling to gain a foothold or are just ignoring plus-size buyers altogether.

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"There's nothing, basically," Aviva Copaken, a shopper in a plus-size retailer said to NPR. "I have no choices, and you feel like a minority."

"The industry has done a disservice to themselves by not offering some of those great choices for the plus-size consumer," said Marshal Cohen, NPD retail analyst, in an interview with NPR.

He added that major retailers are holding off on a major move into the plus-size market because it isn't growing.

"Until the plus-size business grows at a rate greater than its current growth of 2 percent, they are going to wait. And that means that plus size is going to have to accelerate its growth rate closer to 4 and even 5 percent before the retailers are really going to embrace this," Cohen said.

Cohen estimated in an interview with Racked that plus-size – size 14 and up – is a $17 billion dollar industry. It is widely reported that the average American woman is a size 14.

Considering these two statistics together, it is tough to see why the plus-size market isn’t growing.

If major retailers are not embracing plus-size, they are at least taking tentative steps.

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Plus-size chain Lane Bryant attempted to go high-fashion this year with pieces created by award-winning designer Isabel Toledo. Vogue contributing editor Andre Leon Talley made headlines when he said he was thrilled to see the collaboration.

J.C. Penney started circulating a plus-size lookbook to customers a few months ago, Racked reported, and Target launched its own plus-size line Ava & Viv earlier this year.

But the reactions have been mixed.

"I made it to Target a few weeks after the Ava & Viv line launched, and it was just so sad," Pamela Nanton, a designer who started her own plus-size brand, Ply Apparel, told Racked. "The stuff looked great and sold out at first, but a few weeks later, it was just folded on tables and wasn't out on display. These are little jabs to the customer. Stores need to start doing these things with more thoughtful execution."


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