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?

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.