New book says retail stores aren't designed for the plus-size consumer

A new book released this week, titled "Defined by Design", has shone a light on the discriminatory nature of store layouts. Professor Kathryn H. Anthony, the book's author, discovered that the traditional retail store layout isn’t suited for the plus-size consumer, with the majority of plus-size sections being placed out-of-sight, with tiny aisles and an unwelcoming feel.


A Torrid retail location - Tucson

Anthony found that department stores were the biggest offenders: plus-size aisles were cramped, tough to navigate, and usually located in out-of-sight locations in stores. While there were mannequins in the plus-size sections, none of the mannequins were ‘plus size’, nor did any of the advertisements or store imaging feature plus-size women. In addition, there was also a clear shortage of mirrors. 

In comparison, plus-size specific stores were brightly colored, and filled with plus-size mannequins and advertisements featuring plus-size models.

To further aid her research, Anthony quizzed a group of plus-size men and women between the ages of 15 and 50 on their shopping experiences. Some 75% of the surveyed group said they found plus-sized areas obstructed and tough to access; 97% said plus-size sections were difficult to navigate; and 91% said plus-size sections were not spacious.

Some 26% of plus-sizes shoppers were comfortable shopping in a mainstream (meaning not plus-size specific) retail store. Only 18% of respondents found plus size sections were welcoming places to shop. Some of the respondents said that plus-size sections in mainstream retailers make them feel like ‘second-class citizens”.

"Defined by Design" is published by Penguin Random House Press.

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