Size matters: 15% of US parents struggle to find clothing for their overweight kids

December 8, 2015

Finding clothes to fit a larger frame has long been an issue for US adults, but new research from Mintel highlights this problem is now an issue for both young and old, as nearly one in seven (15 percent) parents with children under age 12 who have purchased kids’ clothing in the last year admit they struggle to find clothing to fit their overweight children. What’s more, the issue appears more centralized to cities with 20 percent of American adults living in urban areas agreeing with this claim compared to 10 percent of those living in suburbia.

Nearly 30% of US parents say the lack of consistency in children’s clothing sizes proves challenging

Mintel research reveals that it is not just parents of plus-size kids who are experiencing clothes shopping frustrations. Lack of consistency in sizing is proving challenging for three in 10 (29 percent) parents, who complain that variation in sizing from brand to brand makes them question the accuracy of size labels. Meanwhile, the same number of parents (31 percent) make their children try on clothes before they buy to ensure they fit.

For many, the shopping experience is not a good one. Nearly one in five (17 percent) parents say that sales associates are not helpful or friendly, and 15 percent of consumers complain about an unpleasant dressing room experience or no dressing room available at all.

One third (34 percent) of parents feel there is a poor selection of clothing in their child’s size, while 30 percent say the merchandise lacks variety. Overall, nearly one third (30 percent) of US parents feel that children’s clothing is overpriced.

“Childhood obesity continues to be a chief concern in the US. This epidemic opens up opportunities for retailers in the market to get involved with advocacy programs that promote healthy lifestyles. We could see this epidemic present opportunities for the children’s clothing market as consumers may be more willing to buy higher priced clothes to ensure proper fit,” said Diana Smith, Senior Research Analyst, Retail and Apparel at Mintel.

Sales of children’s clothing are expected to reach $45 billion by the end of 2015 and grow 5 percent to $47.2 billion by 2020. Girls’ clothing makes up the lion’s share of sales at 47 percent, followed by boys’ clothing (32 percent) and infants and toddlers’ apparel (20 percent). While infant clothing accounts for the smallest market share, sales of these clothes have experienced the greatest increase over the past two years, rising 5.7 percent over 2013 and 2015 against a 4.4 percent increase for the market as a whole. Moreover, Mintel forecasts the highest sales growth rate to come from sales of children’s clothing for those under age 2, in anticipation of birth rates continuing to stabilize and increase.

“The children’s clothing market is positioned for growth given stabilizing birth rates, increasing consumer confidence and expenditures, and expanded youth populations, namely among Hispanics. Retailers need to pay attention to Hispanics and Asians as children under age 12 in these two demographics will outpace the rest of the country’s youth,” continued Smith.

One quarter of parents shopped at consignment or resale stores in 2015, up from 19% in 2013

While children’s clothing sales are experiencing tepid growth, there has been a marked uptick in the number of parents shopping at consignment and resale stores. In fact, nearly one quarter (23 percent) of US parents shop at one of these stores currently, up from 19 percent in 2013. Buying children’s clothes at consignment or resale stores is particularly popular among younger Millennials (28 percent) and those living in urban areas (28 percent), as well as unmarried parents (26 percent).

“The resale market is one to watch, as parents become more comfortable with acquiring pre-owned clothing. Not only is this a way for them to make some money by selling their own children’s clothing, but it helps them save money, too. This is important to many parents who may place spending limits on their children’s clothes given how fast kids tend to outgrow their apparel,” said Smith. “Several resale sites have garnered significant venture capital of late, signaling an appetite for pre-owned clothing at least for the foreseeable future. Traditional retailers should consider how to offer similar trade-in or exchange programs to provide a solution for the challenging fact that children don’t stay in any one size very long.”

Finally, proving that children are aware of trends when they come into fashion, Mintel research indicates that one quarter (26 percent) of US children usually choose their own clothing items. Girls in particular are significant influencers in children’s fashion with 66 percent of girls age 6-11 claiming they wear what they want compared to 60 percent of boys the same age. Less than one third (31 percent) of boys claim they don’t care what clothes they wear compared to one quarter of girls (26 percent).

“Retailers should not underestimate the influence and purchase power of children. They are in touch with fashion and what’s in style, and many drive purchase decisions particularly as they become old enough to realize their preferences. Social media is key for brands to expand the sphere of marketing outreach to include children,” concluded Smith.

Press copies of the Children’s Clothing US 2015 report and interviews with Diana Smith, Senior Research Analyst, Retail and Apparel, are available on request from the press office.

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For the latest in consumer and industry news, top trends and market perspectives, stay tuned to Mintel News featuring commentary from Mintel’s team of global category analysts.

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