As the estimated $10 billion yoga segment continues to gain popularity, analysts believe there is a potentially lucrative market for clothing companies to outfit curvier bodies. More medical experts are recommending yoga, as nearly two-thirds of the adult population are overweight or obese. Yet overweight consumers often struggle to find comfortable activewear.
"There's a huge target market" for plus-size activewear, said Jaime Katz, an analyst at Morningstar. "It's significant and it shouldn't really be ignored because it's getting bigger as a percentage of the total population."
Yoga Journal found that spending on classes, clothes and other items grew from $5.7 billion in 2008 to $10.3 billion last year. Research company IBISWorld estimates that consumers will spend $332 million on fitness apparel sold in specialty plus-size women's clothing stores this year — which doesn't include purchases of plus-size clothes at brands that also sell standard sizes, like Gap's Athleta brand.
Analysts say it's short-sighted for clothing companies to accept the stereotype that overweight people aren't interested in fitness or exercise. A 2010 Gallup poll found that 53% of overweight people and 41% of obese people say these exercise three or more days per week. Meanwhile, the number of yoga practitioners, which skews more than 80% female, jumped 29% in the past four years, according to a Yoga Journal study.
Selling yoga wear in larger sizes can generate repeat business, if larger customers subsequently lose weight, as well as customer loyalty that might cross over to its growing stable of other brands. On its investor conference call in February, CEO Glenn Murphy indicated that Athleta was a gateway brand. "We're bringing new customers into the Gap Inc. portfolio and family of brands with Athleta," he said.
The Athleta brand includes yoga clothing in sizes up to 20. By contrast, Lululemon's sizes top out at 12.
"I think Lululemon needs to be concerned about Athleta," said Jahnia Sandford, an analyst at Kantar Retail. "Activewear and yogawear is definitely an area for growth," she said. Offering larger sizes show that a brand is "catering to that shopper's specific needs and making it known you have these specific styles available to her."[Source: "More Yoga Brands Find It's Not a Stretch to Offer Plus-Size Yoga Attire." White, Martha C. CNBC.com. 13 May 2013. Web. 23 May 2013.]