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Trends: Plus Size mannequins

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Trends: Plus Size mannequins

Mannequins are a larger-than-expected industry, at over $10 billion. And while they’re primarily used in physical stores, it turns out that the rise of secondary clothing markets like Poshmark are a notable and growing segment of the mannequin market.

Sellers report that photographing their apparel on the mannequin makes their listings stand out from the others where clothes are often flat on the floor. And though something like this stands out less as it becomes more common, there quickly comes a time, when adoption is high enough, that not doing it makes a listing stand out negatively. On top of all this, the industry is growing: Poshmark and ThredUp both went public earlier this year, and both have roughly a $3 billion market cap.

And although mannequins are such a big business, only the wholesale channels are fully built out: Top search results for mannequins on Amazon, for example, still have relatively low sales volumes.

More broadly, the clothing business is about selling two things: clothes people will actually wear, and a look they will aspire to. As the average body size rises—the average weight increase for Americans from 1960 to 2010 was nearly 20%—the gap between how models look and how customers look has grown. The body positivity movement has also led to greater acceptance of a variety of shapes and sizes and brands have taken note, creating demand for plus-size mannequins.

Especially for small-scale retailers, it can be more practical to have a mannequin than to hire models, and since smaller retailers can be more adaptable to a changing market—they haven’t made their brand synonymous with thinness, since the brand isn’t well-known—they’re better positioned to cater to plus-size customers.

Carrying plus-size clothing in stores has a cost. As sizes go up, there’s more variation in body shape, which means it’s harder for customers to find what they want, and inventory stays on shelves for longer. This has discouraged some stores from offering a more comprehensive lineup of clothes. But they’ve ultimately responded to demand: as their customers start buying larger outfits, stores respond by stocking them and marketing to those customers.