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Neiman Marcus Realizes What It’s Missing With Plus-Size Shoppers

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But will it treat what’s ailing the department store?

Neiman Marcus Last Call storefront. Photo: Baltimore Sun/Getty Images

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Neiman Marcus is making a foray into the plus-size market. The Dallas-based department store is unveiling Last Call Plus Size departments in five of its Last Call outlet stores.

Starting this weekend, shoppers will be able to find designer goods in sizes 14 to 24, or up to 3X, in special “in-store boutiques,” according to WWD. Designer names will include NYDJ, Marina, and Nic + Zoe. The five locations — in Georgia, Texas, Florida, Maryland, and Michigan — open February 18th.

“I always have customers come up to me and say, ‘We love your jewelry. We love your shoes. When are you going to carry clothes for people like me?’” Frank Crisci, vice president of merchandising at Neiman Marcus Last Call, told WWD. “It struck a chord that we are not serving this customer the way we should be. It’s a huge market, and we’re not playing in it.”

Indeed — most retailers aren’t, at least not in a big way. For women who shop above a size 12 or 14, the luxury end of the market is the most barren. While Old Navy may offer tees and dresses up to a size 30, the Chanels and the Diors of the world do not.

It’s a sore point for many shoppers, who are ready and eager to spend more on designer clothes if only they were available: 78 percent of respondents in a recent survey of plus-size shoppers said that they’d be willing to spend more money if designers offered more options, and 80 percent said they’d likely purchase an item from their favorite designer if that designer made plus sizes.

More and more designers and retailers seem to be waking up to that fact. The market for plus-size women’s clothing is over $20 billion, by some measures; and Neiman Marcus, which operates 29 Last Call discount stores, has found itself under pressure, like most other American department stores in the past year. Rumors of a sale floated around last summer, and in December, the company reported a 7.4 percent decrease in total revenue in the first quarter of 2017 compared to 2016, a loss blamed largely on young shoppers with loose store loyalty and a hunger for discounts.

To reach those young customers, Neiman Marcus is testing out innovations like a partnership with Rent the Runway. But taking aim at plus-size customers could also seriously help. After all, the money is there, ready to be spent — stores just need to start stepping up.