Talk of the bay
Casual Male hope to grow by losing 'big'
By MARK ALBRIGHT
Published September 19, 2005
New management at Casual Male Big & Tall has discovered what somehow eluded their predecessors for decades: men who buy big- and tall-sized apparel aren't particularly proud of being called big and tall.
So the chain will change its name to the more athletic-sounding Casual Male XL.
"We finally discovered what women's plus-sized apparel retailers learned long ago," said David Levin, chief executive and president of Casual Male Retail Group, the Canton, Mass., chain that has turned things around while overhauling how it does business.
The chain took its cues from JCPenney, which, along with Dillard's, is its biggest rival in the $6-billion men's super-sized apparel trade. JCPenney began calling many of its bigger sizes for men "athletic fit" since the 1980s and credited the fitness boom.
The revelation for Casual Male came after surveys revealed many of its customers were embarrassed to be seen in public carrying the chain's shopping bags. Rather than just change the bags, Casual Male will change its name and banish the "Big & Tall" nameplate from 62 places where it appears in each of six test stores. Barring a customer revolt, the rest of the chain's 496 stores, including five in the Tampa Bay area, will change in the spring.
The name change is partly an exercise in self-actualization. Most of its business comes from men with 46- to 50-inch waist sizes. But the new marketing focus is on men who shop for sizes 40 through 44 at department stores, find the selection sparse, yet don't consider themselves candidates for big and tall sizes even though they are. Casual Male estimates there are as many men walking around with 40- to 44-inch waists as the bigger sizes.
The chain fills half its racks with brand names found in department stores. It has also been able to draw out reluctant shoppers by getting converts to buy from catalogs and its online Web site, where the typical order is triple the $75 average of a store visit.
"But until we can get our average customer in a store more than twice a year, our comparable store gains are going to be 3 yards and a cloud of dust, rather than 8 to 10 percent," Levin said.
[Last modified September 16, 2005, 20:28:02]
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