The average American woman is 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighing about 165 pounds with a waist circumference of about 38. That's a pants size 16 or 18—sizes that most outdoor brands aren't making and retailers aren't selling. Marmot, and many others, stop at size 14 or 16 for women.
But the need and demand is so clearly there.
As part of its commitment to inclusivity—and tapping a market opportunity—Marmot this week said the brand is extending its standard size system of XS to L in women’s and S to XXL in men’s by adding plus sizes to its line. Marketing messages will also include a wider variety of athletes and adventurers.
"Dealers have asked for this," Brand Director Chris Harges told SNEWS. "As we thought about its viability, it’s not as if it’s wholly getting pushed from the brand side. We’ve had dealers both on the specialty and department store sides of the business say, hey is this available?"
Marmot is starting with women's apparel, with two jackets, five tops, and three bottoms in the new sizes launching in Spring 2020. Women's sizes will go up 3X in tops and 22 in bottoms. More styles will be added in Fall 2020, along with men's big-and-tall sizing.
"The first rule is that this is normal," Harges said.
Not only do the extended sizes attract more customers, they exemplify that such sizes are as welcome in the outdoors as someone who's, say, a size small. REI’s Force of Nature campaign paved the way by showing all types of women as models. PrAna has also added plus sizes. Patagonia's women's pants go up to size 22.
Marmot hopes extended sizing will give retailers a reason to stock its apparel
"We think plus size and coming big-and-tall sizing will give dealers another reason to stock Marmot styles," Harges said. "What we really think is impactful is the brand’s return to innovation and true top-of-mountain product."
Marmot was recently excused as a Grassroots Outdoor Alliance vendor, in part because of its aggressive direct-to-consumer marketing policies. "Brick and mortar is an important part of our business, growing, though not as fast as our e-commerce dealers—that mirrors what’s happening in the category marketplace overall."
However, Harges said they believe brick and mortar is the best platform for Marmot's innovation. "That’s where the consumers who really value this kind of premium, high performance product shop," he said. "So specialty is a key element in our re-vitalization of the brand."
As to the thinking of the Grassroots leadership and the decisions they made, Harges said he doesn't have any insights. He added, "I can tell you we have some incredibly valuable dealers who are GOA members."
Marmot is adapting to the new normal through plus and big-and-tall sizing
As more brands adopt wider size runs—in apparel and even other gear—it will be up to retailers as to how they'll organize their shops and online stores. Harges said that in their research, they found that customers prefer separating plus sizes, so they're easier to find.
But there's certainly more learning and adapting to come.
In one retail shop, Harges noticed how plus-sized shorts from one brand loosely hung off the hanger because the hanger wasn't wide enough. He said Marmot is also noticing a trend in larger sleeping bag sizes and a desire for comfort bags as opposed to mummy bags—both to accommodate different sleep styles and different sizes. Marmot's new Yolla Bolly bag, which has a throw blanket-like flap built into the bag, is one option.
"My takeaway from this is we’re all a little late to react here," Harges said. "This is a part of our market and we should be supporting it. And we all should be racing to support it, but we’ve got learning to do along the way on the retailer and the brand side. "
As of press time, no images of the new sizing were available.