Once the domain of big and tall shops and companies hawking weight-loss products and services, the plus-size business is expanding about as rapidly as Americans' waist lines. Companies selling all manner of lifestyle and home products aimed at making life easier for overweight consumers are selling everything from super sturdy folding chairs to oversized toilets, sunglasses and caskets. Here are seven companies that are cashing in on America's obesity epidemic.
The oversized business isn't limited to the living. Goliath Casket is making sure the plus-size crowd is comfortable for eternity.
Launched in 1985, the Indiana-based company specializes in large coffins that offer extra width, length and depth.
While a standard coffin is just 24 inches wide and 6 feet, 8 inches long, Goliath Casket offers them in three different styles up to 52 inches wide and 8 feet long.
Forrest Davis, a longtime welder in a casket factory, started the company as a way to ensure large people have respect in their final moments.
“He wanted to build something that was dignified and that would give the family some closure and honor,” Keith Davis, Forrest Davis’ son and the company’s current owner, told BusinessNewsDaily. “He didn’t like to treat anyone with disrespect.”
Keith Davis said the company started out making just a handful of the oversized caskets each week. Today, as many as 200 are sold in that same timespan.
“We are growing exponentially,” Davis said. “There are lots of people (needing this) and there are going to be more and more every year.”
One California company is making a business out of helping those who are overweight do their business. Big John Products offers a specialty line of toilet seats and supports for plus-size customers.
At 19 inches wide, the Big John Toilet Seat is 5 inches larger than a standard seat and can hold more than 500 extra pounds.
Big John also offers specially designed supports for wall-mounted toilets that increase the weight capacity from the usual 350 pounds to more than 1,000 pounds.
"Our products are ideal for the oversize market," Big John Products President Scott Kramer told BusinessNewsDaily.
Over the last four years, Big John Products has increased distribution all over the world, reaching customers in countries including Europe, Australia and Canada, Kramer said.
"We have grown it by five times its size, which shows there is a significant demand for our products," Kramer said.
Kramer equates the demand to the general population becoming more accepting of large people.
"Overweight is no longer niche," he said. "It is quite mainstream."
The Big John toilet seats and supports are sold in a variety of retailers nationwide and on the Big John website. The toilet seats are sold for between $100 and $168; the toilet supports cost $200 each.
At 6-foot-3-inches and 300 pounds, Rico Elmore knows better than anyone the trouble in finding glasses that fit.
The Indiana man became so fed up with the process that he left his job in the automotive industry and founded Fatheadz Eyewear so he could sell appropriate-size varieties himself.
"I couldn't find any eyewear that fit and I came to the realization that I couldn't be the only one," Elmore told BusinessNewsDaily.
The glasses — sized as wide, wider and widest — range between 5 7/8 inches and 6 5/8 inches wide.
Elmore started the company with just a handful of styles in 2004 and today sells more than 50 different pair of sunglasses and prescription eyewear. Fatheadz launched its new women's line, Dea, earlier this year.
"I am literally watching our business grow every single day," Elmore said.
Elmore said he hears daily from thrilled customers who say his glasses are the first to fit them in years.
"It's pretty entertaining to hear some of the responses," Elmore said. "They really appreciate it."
Fatheadz and Dea eyewear is priced from $30 to $80, and can be purchased online.
With its array of hard-to-find products that improve a plus-size lifestyle, BrylaneHome's Plus+Size Living is making it easier to live large.
The company specializes in unique products that improve a large person's lifestyle and add comfort to their daily life. Plus+Size Living offers more than 400 different products, from personal care and fitness options to an exclusive collection of oversized chairs, furniture and bedding.
This month, the company unveiled its new chairs and recliners for the spring and summer seasons, all of which can support as much as 500 pounds. The line includes armless office chairs with a 29-inch seat and 25 percent more foam for comfort, a three-in-one massaging recliner rocker and an extra-wide wingback chair and matching storage ottoman.
"With an ever-growing number of plus-size consumers, the demand for specialty products that cater to this emergent market segment has never been greater," said David Milgrom, vice president and general brand manager for BrylaneHome.
Other products available at Plus+Size Living include oversized patio furniture, sturdy airbeds and high-capacity scales that can hold as much as 550 pounds. The company also sells a scale that projects the user's weight onto the wall in front of them so it is clearly visible even if they can see the numbers on the scale beneath them.
While some businesses specialize in individual products for plus-size people, Oversize Solutions offers all of them.
The online retailer sells a vast array of specially designed household items for larger customers, with everything from reaching tools and step stools to portable chairs and bathroom scales available to customers.
David Fransko started the company with his father-in-law in 2007, after seeing a demand for products for the overweight.
"The problem was there wasn't a one-stop place all under one roof," Fransko told BusinessNewsDaily.
"We felt this niche was underserved and that we could do something that would really help people."
Oversize Solutions started with just 60 products, and today sells more than 200.
"Over the past four years it has grown tremendously," said Fransko, noting that customers' joy over finding the right products is particularly gratifying. "It has gone way, way beyond my wildest dreams."
Among the company's most popular products is a heavy-duty bed frame that can hold up to 2,300 pounds.
"You wouldn't believe how big of an issue that is," Fransko said of the need for that product.
Other popular items include step stools that can hold up to 1,000 pounds and folding lawn chairs that can hold up to 400 pounds. The Big Kahuna chair, which can hold 800 pounds, is a new addition to the line.
One online jeweler is making it easier for large men to say "I do."
JustMensRings.com recently broadened its selection of large-size men’s wedding bands through size 20. The rings are available in an assortment of unique and traditional metals, including stainless steel, titanium, tungsten, silver, cobalt chrome, ceramic, gold, palladium and platinum.
As a way to making shopping for plus-size rings easier, the online jeweler launched its "Shop by Ring Size" and "Large Size Rings for Men" sections – letting men know immediately if their perfect ring is available in their size.
The rings are sold in hundreds of styles, with price tags ranging from $20 to as much as $1,600.
Bill Fabrey founded Amplestuff, a company that sells a wide range of products for plus-size people, after watching his wife struggle with everyday tasks because of her size.
"We thought there must be things that would make her life easier," Fabrey told BusinessNewsDaily.
The company was launched in 1988 with the belief that everyone deserves the best possible life, no matter what their size.
One such product is an oversized clothes hanger that measures as much as 6 inches wider than the standard variety.
"Isn't it silly that all these large clothes are made, but you couldn't find anything to hang them on?" Fabrey asked.
The online retailer offers a number of plus-size versions of items readily available to average-size people, such as fanny packs, socks and hospital gowns. The New York-based company also offers products such as airline seatbelt extenders and books and videos designed specifically to solve the unique problems of larger people.
Some of Amplestuff's most popular items include the airline seatbelt extenders, plus-size fanny packs, blood pressure cuffs and bathing sponges mounted on a stick for hard-to-reach spots.
Amplestuff already has grown from 70 products to more than 200, and Fabrey anticipates the business will only grow as more people become aware of the specialty items.
"I constantly run into people who would benefit from our products, but they don't know they even exist," Fabrey said.
The business has received a great deal of positive feedback from people grateful for products that can make their daily lives easier.
"They like our attitude that we understand the hassles they have to go through," Fabrey said.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter before working in public relations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.