Wigley, Stephen M., Thomson, Jennifer A., Teller, Christoph and Almond, Kevin (2012) The ‘Obesity Crisis’ and Fashion Retailing – a UK view. In: 19th Eirass Conference on Retailing and Consumer Services, July 9th-11th 2012, Vienna, Austria.

UK government statistics show that 25% of all British adults are, by clinical definition, obese. Projections suggest that by 2050, 60% of men and 50% of women will be obese. Similar statistics are recorded throughout the western World. Despite this apparent crisis in the contemporary and future health of the average UK consumer and the concomitant historic changes in their body shapes and sizes, they continue to be subject to unrealistic, often artificially enhanced and allegedly dangerous images of what is fashionable. These images are powerfully projected in the promotional activities of fashion brands. Thus a situation emerges where idealised images of body shape and size are increasingly, and increasingly obviously, different from the reality of most consumers. What effect does this have on fashion consumer behaviour, on consumers’ perceptions of themselves, and on the marketing initiatives of trend-led apparel retailers catering for customers who are of larger size? This paper investigates this issue using mixed methods to explore the relationships between female fashion consumers’ conceptions of fashionability and body image, the resulting effects on their consumption behaviour and the marketing responses of fashion retailers. Part of a wider study exploring issues of body shape and size in fashion design and marketing and consumer behaviour, the conference presentation will cover initial findings from the retailer and consumer perspectives.

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