Lane Bryant brushstroke ruched T-shape top Spring 2010

Lane Bryant brushstroke ruched T-shape top from the Spring 2010 collection. Photo:

Is the plus-size market, er, downsizing?

Charming Shoppes, Inc., the plus-size specialty retailer with up to 2,121 stores nationwide -- including Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, and Catherines chains -- announced plans that it would close 100 to 120 of its branches this year.

The announcement comes on the heels of a tough 2009 -- the Pennsylvania-based company closed 160 stores just last year.

Jim Fogarty, president and chief executive officer of Charming Shoppes, is trying to keep things positive.

"Our first-quarter 2010 to-date same-store sales comp through eight weeks was approximately (4) percent, which, while still negative, reflects improvement across all of our brands from our fourth-quarter comps and progress in our Spring assortments," Fogarty said in a release to investors yesterday.

"Further, our Internet business was up 35 percent in that same time period, benefiting from the August launch of our new Web sites and the February launch of our universal shopping cart linking our four apparel Web sites," he added.

The mixed news hasn't been enough to stop the cost cutting. For 2010, closing underperforming stores will cost Charming Shoppes about $7 to $9 million, but in the long run, the plan is expected to save the company beaucoup bucks.

As for plus-size gals, there's still a bright light in the style market: More fashion magazines are casting curvy ladies for their covers.