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Shapewear Business Booming in Mexico

The market is gaining traction as high obesity rates are encouraging women to buy an expanding range of products to flatter their figures.

A bestselling shaper by Maidenform in Mexico.

A bestselling shaper by Maidenform in Mexico.

Courtesy Photo

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s shapewear market is gaining traction as high obesity rates are encouraging women to buy an expanding range of products to flatter their figures.

“Control lingerie and clothing are all the rage,” said Maria Eliazar, women’s lingerie buying director at Sears de Mexico. Sales are so brisk that they now account for 25 percent of the women’s total intimates category, up from 10 percent in 2012, she said.

Mexico reportedly has the world’s second-largest obesity rate behind the U.S., according to industry statistics. A Mexico sizing study published in 2012 showed women in the 18-to-25 age range have an average height of 5 feet 2 inches and weigh 170 pounds, which puts them into overweight territory.

“There is a very big overweight and obesity problem in Mexico, which is why the shapewear market is huge,” said Carlota de la Vega, director of Mexico City-based fashion consultancy Cantra.

Miguel Angel Andreu, director of another Mexican fashion consultancy, Cedetex, said the market has grown to account for 8 percent of Mexico’s annual $400 million to $500 million intimates market, a line of business that grew 5 percent in 2011. The shaper category is projected to grow an additional 12 percent by 2016, driven by strong demand for stretch and functional product varieties.

According to Andreu, Mexican women are increasingly seeking sophisticated, functional shapewear that offers benefits such as applications that eliminate body odor, as well as a new generation of synthetic breast-enhancing bra cups.

Mexican women over 35 years old are big shoppers of high-stretch panties, while younger women favor boxers, bikinis and bodysuits, said Andreu, who recently conducted a study about lingerie consumption patterns in Mexico.

He said 45 percent of women in Mexico prefer to buy shapewear in department stores, compared with more than 50 percent who travel abroad and prefer to buy their undergarments at Victoria Secret.

In a July survey — which interviewed 400 women ages 14 to 63 in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Guanajuato — 30 percent said they purchased shapewear and related control apparel.

Aware of the demographic’s potential, international labels have been rushing into Mexico, and many have launched aggressive marketing campaigns to gain an edge on the competition. Their incursion has helped boost the segment’s popularity in a country where shapewear and control items were traditionally viewed as taboo, explained Eliazar.

“Two to three years ago, this kind of clothing was linked to old women,” Eliazar said. “Many women used shapewear but they didn’t want anyone to know.”

New comfort, stretch and functional technologies combined with more sophisticated colors and patterning have broadened the consumer base.

According to Eliazar, three brands top the intimates business at Sears de Mexico: Maidenform, Body Elegance and Oscar Hackman. Key items include control camis and bodysuits, as well as high-and-low-waist panties.

Jose Ferrer, women’s wear director at high-end department store El Palacio de Hierro, also singled out shapewear as a high-flying category. He said El Palacio sells a range of mass-market and premium brands with Maidenform and Wacoal doing particularly well. Other top-selling brands include Simone Perele, Chantelle, Passionata and Donna Karan, as well as Spanx legwear.

Ferrer added that Mexico’s luxury lingerie sector is “basic and traditional.” However, there is a growing demand for lingerie that is more fashionable and sexier. To profit from that trend, El Palacio recently opened Agent Provocateur’s first door in Mexico, he said.