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Charming Shoppes and Plus Size Clothes

Sep 5, 2008
The first public face, outside of the original Charm Shoppes store, of Charming Shoppes was the Fashion Bug stores which opened in the 1960's. Considered pioneers of computerized inventory management and sales, Fashion Bug stores were wildly popular and expanded quickly all the way through the 1990's.

In 2000 Charming Shoppes purchased Catherine's Stores Corporation in an effort to firmly plant themselves into the plus size women's clothing market. They followed this quickly with the purchase of Lane Bryant in 2001, adding the plus size powerhouse to its already successful Fashion Bug and Catherine's dynasty. It quickly followed the Lane Bryant acquisition with the launch of Pettite Sophisticate, a store catering to smaller size women.

If we take a look at the company's financial performance based on their stock price, we see that in 1993 they split their stock, and immediately afterwards saw a sharp decrease in stock price over the next three years (adjusted for split price). That brings us to 1996, a year when the Charming Shoppes successfully remade itself as a socially responsible company by helping women and children in need, focusing on women's' health issues, and brining attention to family and financial issues that women face. This program was championed by then CEO Dorrit J. Bern, and marked an immediate, sharp rise in stock price that lasted through the year.

Charming Shoppes stock price continued to fluctuate up and down over the next several years, but moved generally in an upward trend. It was seemingly unaffected by the acquisition of Catherine's and Lane Bryant, and was in a holding pattern through much of the late 1990's and early 2000's.

In 2003 we see a sharp rise in the stock price that has continued through h2007 before seeing any decline whatsoever. This can be directly tied to the opening of the Lane Bryant website to internet sales, a move that brought an incredibly lucrative new revenue stream in for the Charming Shoppes Corporation. Sales have declined in 2008, one can assume in part due to the prevailing economic conditions in the country.

Compared to previous years, sales for the Charming Shoppes Corporation are down $265 million over the first two quarters. That's 20% of their total sales. Not something to take lightly. Taken as separates, Lane Bryant is down $47 million, Fashion Bug is down $69 million, and Catherine's is down $24 million. It's possible that they'll make up the difference in the second two quarters of the year, but historically they have had very few strong 3rd and 4th quarters.

What does this mean for the plus size fashion industry? Not much, but the Lane Bryant sales figures are a good indicator that there is quite a bit less demand for plus size clothes so far this year. One can assume this is due in part to less disposable income due to the slowing economy and gas prices since none of the other large fashion houses has seen a comparable rise in sales.
About the Author
Allen is a freelance writer who follows fashion topics at many different levels. Look for more information on plus size designer clothes, plus size designer fashion tips and designer plus size shorts here.
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