The Mysterious Disappearance of Target's Plus Size Section, Explained


Target hasn’t had the very best 12 months, customer relations-wise. Back in November, a massive data breach left millions of customers vulnerable to the ass-ache of credit card theft. And in recent weeks, stirrings online suggest that across the country, the store’s plus size departments are quietly disappearing. When they look for answers, some customers are told the sizes are being phased out, and others given a shrug. So what’s going on?

An eagle-eyed reader tipped us that in recent weeks, she’s looked for plus sized clothing in Targets in Indiana and Ohio only to discover that the section had been replaced by a clearance section chock full of Smalls and Extra Smalls. An investigation led nowhere.

I found an employee and asked if they had moved the section elsewhere. She told me that they had been clearance-ing out the plus-size clothes since Christmas and weren’t getting any new stock at all. A couple weeks ago Target sent them a small, vague placard for them to put in the plus size section saying something like “Big Changes Are Coming” although I can’t remember the exact text. She said she thinks they’re getting all new stuff, but said that they’re apparently not in any hurry to do so, because she’s not expecting to get anything for “a while.” She made it sound like the new line had been delayed and they had no idea when Target would have plus-size clothes again.

The reader found a similar situation at a store near her sister’s house in Ohio. In fact, plus sized shoppers around the country have noticed the section is gone, replaced either with a teeny tiny placard promising big big changes or with nothing.

And they’re not happy.

Retailers have a long and storied history of flipping a middle finger to plus sized shoppers, and so it’s hard to blame women for feeling upset that a store they once patronized no longer has anything for them. Old Navy, for example, now exclusively carries its plus sizes online. Saks discontinued its plus size line, and The Limited, after launching a plus size brand called Eloquii, quickly gave up on it and sold it off again after a tepid effort to, you know, sell cute clothing. A quiet phase-out of plus sizes by a massive retailer like Target would be, to many shoppers, disappointing but exhaustingly typical.

Thankfully for fans of Target’s plus size section, this isn’t one of those times. A spokesperson for Target’s public relations office told Jezebel that the plus size section isn’t getting phased out; it’s getting revamped.

Target is absolutely not exiting the plus-size business. Rather, our new spring styles – which will include a number of new contemporary options – have been delayed. They will arrive in stores this month.
We recognized the delay might spark a few questions. As such, we created a temporary sign for the plus-size department informing guests that new spring styles were on their way. Additionally, our store team members received communication so they could address questions and direct guests to for additional plus-size options.

Better than nothing, I guess. But Target’s rollout of these changes were, at best, clumsy and at worst, alienating to a large bloc of shoppers during a time when the company would be well-served to coddle the fuck out of everyone who whips out their debit card within 500 feet of one of their stores. Of course, no one can predict mysterious, vague “delays” in receiving clothing shipments. But the company could have used the gap in inventory to hype the new section instead of confusing customers with halfassed implication of a top-down corporate directive. Imagine how different this could have been had Target splashed large, colorful teaser images of some of the cuter items in the new “contemporary” line in the plus size section instead of a small, easy-to-miss sign that some store managers didn’t even post? What if they’d given plus size fashion bloggers a preview of the line before it was released? Proactive cheerleading would have nipped this in the bud before it even started, and maybe even turned this headachey negative into a buzzy positive.

According to Target, the line will be arriving in stores before the end of the month. And while they can’t offer any preview images (because why would they want to do something cool and savvy like that?), the spokesperson assured us that plus sized customers are welcome, in the meantime, to shop for clothing online. Just like at every other store.

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