Overweight Teens a Plus for New Apparel Catalog

Jan 01, 2001 10:30 PM  By

Research compiled by the Mayo Clinic indicates that 20% of U.S. adolescents – including an estimated 8.5 million teen girls – are overweight. That’s part of the reason Amy Kirschenbaum and Tracey Hattem founded apparel catalog Turnstylz, which targets teenage girls who wear junior sizes 13-14 through 24-25. “We want to let our audience know that they are not alone, because not everyone is a size 2,” Kirschenbaum says.

The 16-panel fold-out Turnstylz mailer was slated to drop after Christmas – when teen girls have more disposable income, Hattem says. The 200,000 recipients’ names came from the subscriber list of Mode magazine, which targets plus-size females, from Weight Watchers, and from summer camps for overweight teens. They also used age, gender, and weight overlays to more specifically target Turnstylz’s audience. The catalog founders credit Phyliss Sorese, vice president of marketing for women’s plus-size apparel catalog Silhouettes, with sharing insight on mailing strategies, such as alternative list sources for plus sizes.

“It’s really crucial to reach the right girls,” Hattem says, because girls who do not wear plus sizes but somehow receive the catalog could be offended or grow self-conscious.

Offering the right clothing and accessories is also crucial, considering that trend-driven teens are a fickle audience. And while there may not be any major catalogs devoted exclusively to selling plus-size teen apparel, several established teen brands do offer plus-size selections. Girlfriends LA and Delia’s, for instance, both sell items in sizes up to 3XL.

Kirschenbaum and Hattem drew on their experience as former merchandisers for silk blouse manufacturer Sunnex to negotiate with vendors on minimum buying requirements. “We were able to lower the merchandise minimums,” Kirschenbaum says. For example, if a manufacturer normally required 700 items for a minimum shipment, Turnstylz persuaded it to lower the requirement to 400 items.

Since the founders lacked mail order marketing expertise, they hired consultants and a creative director, Susan Allen, with previous catalog experience. The second edition of Turnstylz is scheduled to mail at the end of February. The expanded product selection includes intimate apparel and swimwear.