Joe Fresh to expand into plus sizes

TORONTO — Joe Fresh announced Tuesday that it is expanding into the plus-size market, a move retail analysts called a significant opportunity to cater to an underserved demographic.

The affordable apparel brand said womenswear will be available in sizes 0 to 22 and XS to 3X for its fall collection. The company’s womenswear sizing currently goes as high as size 14 and XL.

“As our brand continues to evolve, we are committed to providing our customers with products that suit their needs while delivering the same style and value,” Ian Freedman, president of Joe Fresh, said in a statement.

The first Joe Fresh plus-size products will appear in stores and online as of August 11. Floral pieces and moto jackets will be among some of the incoming products for the plus-size line. The Loblaw-owned company says all sizes will have the same price.

One retail analyst said the move by Joe Fresh gives the brand a chance to do something different.

“Plus-sized women are underserved by the fashion industry,” said Ben Barry, associate chair in the school of fashion at Ryerson University in Toronto. ”But if they don’t do something to distinguish their plus-sized line, this move could backfire.”

Canada’s plus-sized options are fewer than America’s, mostly due to Canada’s smaller market in general, Barry says.

Some other large players in the plus-size market include Addition Elle, Forever 21, which has its own plus-sized line, and Torrid, a U.S. company that entered the Canadian market two years ago.

The small number of plus-size retailers in Canada means there’s still a market to be tapped into, Barry said.

“Every other plus-sized brand is capturing some of the market, but is continuing to exclude the majority of plus-sized consumers, mostly by… not understanding the diversity of fit or body shape of plus-sized consumers,” said Barry, adding that fashionable pieces, professional clothes, and winter items like coats and jackets are sometimes left out of plus-size lines.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for Joe Fresh to really capture this market… but it can’t be by doing the same thing that every other plus-size brand is doing.”

Joe Fresh’s largest size — 22 — is already larger than sizes offered by some other plus-sized retailers who only go up to size 18, but Barry says there’s a significant market looking for even larger sizes. He adds that plus-size products are often only made for “hourglass” body types, but notes that different women carry their weight in different ways.

Whether or not Joe Fresh integrates its new sizes into existing store layouts or instead creates separate sections for its plus-sized line could also impact how well their new sizes do with consumers, Barry said.

John Torella, a partner with global retail adviser J.C Williams Group, said Joe Fresh’s current “fashion-forward” reputation, and the fact that it already sells lower-sized products could help the popularity of its new plus-sized line.

“Joe Fresh has a very contemporary image and brand personality about it, and that’s only going to be a big advantage for them,” said Torella. “The plus-size market over the past few years has become a lot more fashion conscious … they’ve all upped their game.”

Joe Fresh products are available at 1,400 retail locations, including 11 freestanding stores, over 300 Loblaw locations, and over 1,000 Shoppers Drug Mart locations.

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