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Casual Male Goes XL


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April 03, 2006

Casual Male Goes XL

David Kiley

It’s not too often that I can say that something I said to a CEO seems to have led to an actual change in brand strategy. And I don’t think Casual Male CEO David Levin was blowing smoke when he said a comment I made to him in 2004 spurred a decision he was on the fence about: changing the name of the stores.

The chain, which sells “casual” and “business casual” clothing for big and tall men is changing its name from Casual Male Big and Tall to Casual Male XL.

My comment to Levin back then was how men I knew who shopped Casual Male, as well as his Rochester Big and Tall stores, didn’t appreciate the “Big and Tall” brand on the bags. That sentiment was echoed by salespeople at the Rochester stores. So, big and tall came off the bags, though the words are still on store signage.

Changing to XL may not sound like much, but Levin says in the six-city test where stores were rebranded that the new signage is bringing in new faces, especially men who wear sizes 42 and 44 pants. Because there was a visual emphasis on BIG AND TALL on existing store signs, men in those smaller big sizes didn’t think the store catered to them at all. That was frustrating. According to NPD Group, there are twice as many men sized 42-44 as there are men who wear sizes 46-60. That’s (excuse me) a big market to ignore. Those 42-44 men are what we call in retail “the end of the rack” guys. Companies like Lands End, LL Beane and even Brooks Brothers have increased their offerings in those bigger sizes. But most stores simply don't offer much in 42-44.

Casual Male and Rochester Clothing usually have more selection in the 42-44 range and spec out better fitting cloths than the other guys. But if you think guys wearing sizes North of 44 don’t like shopping at a store called “Big and Tall,” try asking a guy who is within a size or two of taking full advantage of the selections at any regular men’s store in America. Now way he's shopping at a big and tall shop.

About 500 Casual male stores are undergoing the change, which includes a color shift from black and yellow to a logo that is blue and burnt orange. These changes come after the chain has added several attractive brands to the mix: Reebok, Ecko Unlimited, Nautica, and Rocawear. And George Foreman’s clothing line has become the chain’s private label.

I’m glad my observation about the bags had some effect on Levin. The only thing is…I’m not too keen on the change. I don’t like Casual Male XL all that much better than Casual Male Big and Tall. Levin confessed to me back in 2004 that he certainly wouldn’t call the chain Casual Male at all if he was starting with a clean sheet of paper. But the company is loathe to ditch the familiar name.

Anyway, as sales have been up in markets where he’s been testing the XL stores, all I can say is…what the heck do I know?

06:00 PM

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YES! I have been saying the same thing. Where could Casual Male really use some work? Their product mix. I buy all my shirts at either Eddie Bauer or L.L. Bean because those stores carry 100% cotton shirts. Casual Male looks like it outfits the entire male cast of The Soprano's. Until they stock a more classic look, my money will keep flowing to Bauer and Bean.

Posted by: michael at April 4, 2006 12:23 PM

I used to buy clothes and bring my own bag. As an overweight teenager I never wanted to be seen with those bags. Thank you.

Posted by: BG at April 4, 2006 04:25 PM

As an employee of Casual Male, I've known several parents to come and shop for their sons because, "he's too embarrassed to come in here." However, the real benefit of this change will be the smaller sized stock in pants and shirts that we will begin to carry IN THE STORES. Our catalog always had these sizes, and perhaps some of the upper end stores carried them as well. But, I've noticed more of it arriving weekly as we approach the changeover. By the way, we also carry 100% cotton shirts in that catalog. Check it out!

Posted by: Sandra at April 30, 2006 08:51 PM

I'm a 3x kind of guy and have been looking for some plain cotton short sleeve casual shirts. The place I had to order from was JcPenny. But their selection was minimal this time of year. Rochester didn't carry many either and if I found one there, the price was high compared to JCP.

Good idea to change the name, but don't forget to change the attitude of some of your sales people.

Posted by: Herman De Piero at November 17, 2006 08:12 PM

many years ago I purchased some clothing from the casual male store in Binghamton N.Y.. The quality was so poor I decided not to shop there any more.However I recently purchased a pair of George Forman jeans fromtheir catalogue. The fit and finish were excellent (comparable to Lee and Levi) and they have worn like iron.I abuse them but i cant wear them out and they get more comfortable with every washing. If this is an indication of a move towards better quality I will purchase more from them. I hope so because they do have a more extensive selection than JCPenney at simular pricing.

Posted by: s. chris at December 2, 2006 01:45 PM

I AM SO LIVID I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. FOR AS LONG AS CASUAL MALE HAS EXISITED, I'VE SPENT 500 TO $1000 YEARLY ON BIG MAN CLOTHES. IT SEEMS THAT YOU NO LONGER WANT OBEASE PEOPLE IN YOUR STORES. I JUST RETURNED FROM MY FINAL EXPERIENCE WITH CM XL. I WENT TO PICK UP 4 OR 5 NEW CASUAL SLACKS. IN THE WHOLE STORE ONLY 1 (ONE) PAIR OF 60X30 OR EVEN 32 COULD BE FOUND. I ASKED WHY NO BIG SIZES AND HE SAID I SHOULD SHOP FROM YOUR CATALOG. SO YOU NO LONGER WANT THE FAT PEOPLE WHO MADE YOUR BUSINESS GO FOR YEARS. I COULD GO ON, BUT WHAT IS THE USE. BE SURE I WILL TELL EVERYONE I KNOW THAT OBEASE PEOPLE ARE NO LONGER WELCOME BECAUSE WE MAY EMBARESS YOU. GOOD LUCK WITH THE SLIM FOKES WHO YOU ARE CATERING TOO.

YOU PROBABLY WON'T PRINT THIS SINCE I NOTICED ONLY POSITIVE COMMENTS.

Posted by: J.WHITFIELD at January 3, 2007 05:08 PM


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