Next is selling kids’ clothing in “plus fit” sizes to cater for children of different shapes and sizes.
The “plus fit” is sold alongside a slimmer “slim fit” size on the retailer’s website, for children aged three to 16. They define the larger size as being “more generous through the waist and hips for a comfortable fit”.
“But it’s not the retailer’s fault,” he told HuffPost UK. “The fault is, we now have such an obesity problem in this country.”
Fry continued: “The fact is, people as young as three are showing up at stores wanting to be clothed and clothing manufacturers have no alternative but to say: ‘You are a customer, you want to clothe your children, so we will produce a size of clothing that will fit your children’.”
He said many people are likely to be appalled by the move, but added: “We’ve known this is going to happen for years and years and the Government is still refusing to do anything serious to overcome the problem.
“The critics are probably failing to realise this.”
A Next spokesman told The Telegraph: “Our different ‘fits’ cater for children with different size waist and hips, taking into account that children come in all different shapes and sizes.”
However, Kim Roberts, chief executive of HENRY (Health Exercise and Nutrition for the Really Young) told HuffPost UK she believes the need for the plus clothing size is a “sad symptom of the fact that child obesity is now the single biggest public health crisis in the UK”.
“Obesity is incredibly difficult to reverse once established in children,” she said. “In fact, government data shows that just one in 20 children who are obese at age five will return to a healthy weight by age 11.
“What we need now to protect our children from the harmful physical and emotional health effects of obesity, is significant investment in evidence-based training for health and early years practitioners, as well as expansion of early years obesity prevention programmes such as the HENRY programme.”
HuffPost UK has contacted Next for further comment.
The National Obesity Forum is a group of health professionals and specialists who are “sickened” by the obesity epidemics in the country - particularly the one which affects children.
They believe the prevention of children becoming overweight and obese “remains a priority”, so treatment should focus on reversing the trend of weight gain and, when appropriate, weight loss, as well as monitoring of both eating and physical activity habits.
Read more about their research into childhood obesity here.