No longer a niche market, the plus-size market in the United States has become the norm. According to American Demographics, 61% of today’s 20- to 74-year-olds are overweight and 44% are obese (defined as more than 30% above ideal body weight).
A Florida-based market research publisher, Marketdata, estimates that the typical plus-size woman spends $932 each year on clothing; annual spending in the plus-size market is estimated at $17.1 billion for 2000. Additionally, plus-size clothing accounted for 17.7% of women’s apparel sales, up from 14.9% in 1999.
The numbers are more than just interesting—they’re a hint for jewelers. Just as plus-sized clothes adjust trends for a larger woman’s body, jewelry must do the same. Jewelers must be aware of how fashion interacts with body size and be able to make appropriate recommendations for plus-sized customers, says Carolyn Pope of Crews Jewelry, Grandview, Mo.
Pope says that while a specifically plus-size collection of jewelry is not appropriate for the fine-jewelry market, it is necessary to understand the needs of plus-size women. “It’s certainly something that we should be aware of,” she says. “We have to let them be comfortable with their size and show them appropriate jewelry.”
Jewelry Information Center director Elizabeth Florence suggests showing jewelry that is expandable or otherwise adjustable to reduce inconvenience—and even embarrassment—when a customer wishes to try it on.
Pope says plus-size customers generally look best with larger jewelry. It is the jewelers’ responsibility to help the customer realize that, for example, a larger earring is going to look better than a smaller piece.