Loft on Monday faced an onslaught of criticism on social media after the apparel retailer revealed in comments that it will phase out plus sizes. Customers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter lambasted the brand for limiting sizes, with many noting that it leaves many U.S. women unable to shop there.
The brand and new owner Sycamore Partners didn’t immediately return requests for more information. But the brand said on Twitter and elsewhere: "Unfortunately, due to ongoing business challenges, we have had to make some difficult decisions, which does impact our plus collection. Come fall, our size offering will be 00-18/XXS - XXL. We sincerely apologize for any disappointment."
Private equity firm Sycamore last year bought the Loft, Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant and Lou & Grey brands for $540 million during a bankruptcy auction.
In its explanation to disappointed customers regarding its decision to abandon more inclusive sizing, Loft cites "business challenges," likely referring to the complexity of producing clothing in a range of sizes.
For proper fit, for example, patterns must be graded properly for smaller or larger items, beyond a middle range that the industry deems "regular." Upscale workwear startup M.M. LaFleur last year provided a similar rationale when it said it would scale back its own offer for plus customers.
That reasoning ignores a significant opportunity, however. Women's plus-sized apparel represents a $9.8 billion market this year, according to data from IBIS World. The firm designated U.S. adults between 46 and 64 years old as "a key demographic for plus-size women's clothing" and said the number of adults "aged 20 to 64 is expected to increase in 2020, representing a potential opportunity for the industry."
Unfortunately, due to ongoing business challenges, we have had to make some difficult decisions, which does impact our plus collection. Come fall, our size offering will be 00-18/XXS - XXL. We sincerely apologize for any disappointment.— LOFT (@LOFT) March 14, 2021
Moreover, Gen Z consumers increasingly demand size inclusivity as well as sustainability on the part of brands, according to research from retail market intelligence firm Edited. That may be leading some to boost their offer. The number of new plus or curve styles at mass retailers rose by 11% year over year in 2020, though these items still represent "a minimal proportion of the total offer delivered, expanding to 12% compared to 11% in 2019," Edited said.
Athleta, the activewear brand from Gap Inc. that is one of that conglomerate's best performers, earlier this year announced the expansion of its inclusive sizing to 350 styles across its collection. For Spring 2021, 70% of its activewear collection will be available in sizes 1X-3X (or 18-26), the brand said in January. More, the brand is avoiding what Edited called "passive aggressive" language in marketing to plus women that emphasizes "flattering" or "slimming" styling, sticking to concepts like "confidence" to market all sizes.