By  on March 31, 2005

Spring is in the air, and shoppers must be itching to get out of doors and into stores by now. BigResearch, an Ohio-based firm that focuses on retail, has ranked the favorite department and specialty stores of women 18 and older who shop most often for clothing at those store types (remaining percentages fell into the “other” category). Three out of the top eight specialty chains are owned by Charming Shoppes Inc., America’s largest plus-size specialty retailer.

14.7 percent
Owned by Gap Inc., Old Navy opened in 1994. The company’s mission is to “offer affordable, fashionable clothing and accessories for adults, kids, babies and moms-to-be.” Old Navy’s low prices, along with awareness of current trends, makes it a top choice for specialty stores among women.

14.2 percent
As America’s most famous plus-size retailer, Lane Bryant — owned by Charming Shoppes Inc. — has more than 700 stores in 46 states, situated primarily in malls. Growth strategies include increasing its presence in strip malls. Revenues hit $904 million for fiscal 2004.

12.1 percent
Fashion Bug, which opened its first store in the Sixties, is also part of the Charming Shoppes empire. The retailer sells fashionable, reasonably priced apparel geared to women ages 20 to 49. Besides regular sizes, Fashion Bug also carries plus-size, maternity and girls’ sizes.

4.7 percent
This plus-size chain was acquired by Charming Shoppes in 2000. Its apparel is more classic than trendy, catering to women age 40 to 65. Catherine Weaver opened the first store in 1960, intending to bring style to the plus-size market. The concept caught on and was purchased by a group of investors soon after.

* 5. AVENUE 
3.6 percent
Avenue is owned by Rochelle Park, N.J.-based United Retail Group Inc. Avenue’s chain of 560 plus-size stores provides fashionable clothing in sizes 14 to 32, at prices that target the middle-mass market.

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