Sales of plus-sized womenswear have soared 45% over the past five years with the market predicted to reach £3.8bn this year.

The research by consumer research firm Mintel showed that almost a quarter of UK women wear clothes in a size 18 or over.

Plus-sized womenswear chain Evans is the latest retailer to cash in on the growing market. Evans is to offer exclusive ranges from about five young fashion brands in selected stores and online. A launch date has yet to be decided. The retailer is expected to roll out an ecommerce site for the offer under a standalone name, which has yet to be decided.

Marks & Spencer introduced a plus-size range of kids’ uniforms last month. Designer label Marc Jacobs is understood to be launching pieces in size 14 and above.

Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at Mintel, said: “Rising levels of obesity in the UK mean that plus-size consumers are increasing and these shoppers are looking for improved choice in plus-size clothing and more fashionable garments. Given the numbers of not just plus-size women, but also men, with a third wearing XL clothes or bigger, these consumers can no longer be considered a minority or niche sector and retailers of all types of clothing need to wake up to the growth potential of this market.”