Retailer Targets Really Big Consumers

Discussion
May 31, 2007

By George Anderson

The Casual Male Retail Group sees an extremely large market opportunity selling products designed for extremely large people.

The company is launching its LivingXL catalog and online site with products such as the world’s biggest toilet seat and a lawn chair that will support up to 800 pounds. LivingXL is looking to make its mark by moving beyond just big and tall fashion to offer other items that speak to the needs of larger people.

Peggy Howell is a 300-pound woman and she’s also the very customer that LivingXL caters to. She told The Associated Press, “When I’m trying to buy lawn chairs, I want to get one that’s wide and sturdy. My sister and I share a home in Las Vegas, and whenever we go to a party or an event, we take our special collapsible lawn chairs. We know we’ll feel secure in them, and comfortable.”

Ms. Howell added, “You can find these kinds of specialty things once in a while, but they’re not always easy to find. When you do, you tell all your friends.”

LivingXL is a rebranding of SuperSizeWord.com, a business that Casual Male bought last year.

“We knew from our Casual Male stores that they didn’t like ‘Big & Tall,'” David Levin, CEO of Casual Male told the AP. “They certainly wouldn’t like SuperSize, especially with that movie Super Size Me.”

Bill Mabrey, president of Amplestuff, a catalog and e-tailer operating in the same space as LivingXL, agreed that sensitivity is an imperative for success. “Often, people who need this stuff have a sense of hopelessness, and some are even afraid to go out in public because there’s no place they can go and sit down in a chair without breaking it,” he said.

Mr. Levin is looking for LivingXL to become something truly unique in this niche. “We believe we’ve created something that doesn’t exist. I’m sure this catalog will morph into something different than what you see in its first initial edition.”

LivingXL intends to mail 2.5 million catalogs as part of its first run.

Ms. Howell is among those happy that LivingXL is there to meet her needs. “It is an underserved market, and one I believe more and more retailers will be taking a more serious look at,” she said. “We need more than just clothing.”

Discussion Question: How significant a market opportunity do you see for companies such as LivingXL and Amplestuff? What are the keys to growing this type of business?

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15 Comments on "Retailer Targets Really Big Consumers"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

The plus size business, like any other retail category, may look like a great opportunity, but nothing is easy in retailing. Casual Male knows that better than anyone, since the company exited bankruptcy in 2001. The #1 direct marketer for men’s big & tall clothing is JCPenney, and they’ve been #1 for many years. BTW, JCPenney distinguishes between clothing for the obese versus clothing for the tall. Most other brands simply sell clothing made larger in all directions simultaneously.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
14 years 11 months ago

This is a great and potentially quite lucrative idea. How many commentators on RetailWire, like me, slapped their foreheads today and said, “now why didn’t I think of that?!” For an ample person merely to be able to buy a folding chair that allows them to comfortably attend an outdoor concert or a child’s soccer game is a gift. I think the potential for ” XLgifts” given by friends and family members from these collections will also be a significant sales opportunity.

For those marketers whose image of bigger people is that they are strictly ensconced in the lower socio-economic strata I will just say this: As a frequent theater goer where the tickets can run in the $90.00 range and as a frequent flier where the tickets often run in the $600.00 range, I seem to be seated quite regularly next to XL folks!

Amy Dutton
Guest
Amy Dutton
14 years 11 months ago

While there is a market for the XL crowd…there is another underserved market–the tall men that are not XL. As a spouse of a 6’7″ man and daughter of a 6’5″, both of whom wear a Large Tall–I know that this consumer will not shop where the focus is on the overweight or XXL. When will our mainstream retailers realize that there are all normally proportioned tall men (and women) and offer selections for them?

Liz Church
Guest
Liz Church
14 years 11 months ago

I think the web-based shopping experience will remove any of the reservations a large-sized customer may have about buying these products. Customers don’t have to worry about judgment from others if their purchases can arrive through the mail instead of a brick-and-mortar store. I also think this is a great service to the “large” consumer. Just because someone is overweight doesn’t mean they don’t deserve quality products to make their lives more livable.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
14 years 11 months ago

I do believe that there is a substantial under served market here. I also agree that many oversized people suffer from an image problem and the way that these products are marketed is critical to their success. While many of the target market may have less disposable income, there are still large enough numbers of them to be a significant market segment. And the size of this niche market appears to growing–no pun intended. Any company that offers the right products in a way that gives them dignity and, better yet, makes it seem cool, will be a BIG winner–again not trying to be funny.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

My reaction is not only as a BrainTrust member, but as a member of our society. I am really happy when our technology-enabled marketing culture finds markets of under served consumer segments. It makes me feel that our economic system works. I don’t know how big the market is, but if you are an entrepreneur with a right-sized business committed to serving this population, I’m sure the business economics would work.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

Great marketing move that I think Casual Male will make a real impact on. Both they and Lane Bryant have figured out how to sell to this market without offending those people who need and want their products.

A great case of using the knowledge they have learned in one segment to move into additional areas.

Sue Nicholls
Guest
Sue Nicholls
14 years 11 months ago

Whether it is “extra large” people, or any other consumer group with specifically different needs, there’s a potential market for new business. The challenge for LivingXL is going to be how they market to the target market in an unoffensive way. They need to understand their target consumer and their needs–how many extra large consumers plan to maintain their weight, and how many plan to lose weight? If consumers plan to lose this extra weight, they probably won’t commit to premium priced products for the short-term.

On the other hand, there is a reality out there. Obesity affects millions of people, and if there are products that can help them be more comfortable and have a better functioning life, then the purpose is served. Many people stay obese their whole life, and have a hard time finding products to meet their lifestyle. These people most likely represent the target market for LivingXL.

David Biernbaum
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

The marketing opportunity for LivingXL and Amplestuff is “huge.” So many manufacturers and retailers cater to the not-so-silent majority of “regular” size people that it’s almost too obvious that the greater potential is for the “niche” sizes that most people today really need, be it “too large” or “too short” or “too fat” or “too skinny.” The majority of real people are “too-something.” The only intuitive suggestion I would have made for LivingXL is to call it what is really is, LivingXL-Plus.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
14 years 11 months ago

I think it is more accurate to describe the opportunity as having a potentially significant market rather than a significant market. While the statistics tell us there are many potential customers, the size issue is one that still requires getting past “self-image.” Many potential customers will not see themselves as actual customers because they will deny they fall into a special size category. At a minimum, this is a niche marketing opportunity–a well-crafted message tied to the right product and strong word of mouth marketing could create a profitable business. That alone is a success.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
14 years 11 months ago

The market is significant. Just sit in an airport or shopping mall and people watch. With the percentage of overweight people in North America, it will certainly do well if executed correctly.

To take advantage of this market, retailers must make “being overweight” cool. Take a lesson from Lane Bryant. They have attractive, large models. None of their signage or advertising says they are for big women. As a matter of fact, nothing in the store says they are targeted on big. A consumer may just suddenly realize they are in a big woman’s store. They have worked on making the large woman beautiful. They have stylish, sexy and beautiful clothing. This is most important for men also. They must play to the ultra ego. If LivingXL positions itself that it is manly and cool to be large, they’ll have a win!

Kurt Jetta
Guest
Kurt Jetta
14 years 11 months ago

If I’m not mistaken, the Extra Large segment (talking weight here) skews significantly lower income. That would tend to mitigate any MAJOR market opportunity for clothing, since clothing tends to be a more discretionary purchase (above a certain maintenance level).

It seems more likely that mainstream retailers will migrate their product mix towards this segment rather that having to develop a distinct, niche-oriented strategy.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
14 years 11 months ago

This is a perfect convergence of retail and the internet. The ability for a niche market to emerge focused against a very targeted set of consumers is another sign of how retailing is changing. In the past it would be difficult for any single geographic area to be large enough to support catering to a niche like this. Now with the internet the ability to re-define markets and to do so profitably is where retail is headed.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
14 years 11 months ago

These retailers better have a “comforting and respectful”
unique selling proposition (USP) phrase that doesn’t insult
their target audience.

Oh, yes, marketing is needed for all niches, if to be successful!!!! And, importantly, some very different and fun products to wear, or just have fun with.

So why haven’t other retailers niched this opportunity…
whether in foods, sports wear, games, etc? Hmmmmmmmmmmm

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

I was at Wal-Mart recently and had difficulty in finding the clothes I wanted in my size. I wear pretty much medium-large sizes. What they did have was plenty of XXXL available. Either Wal-Mart does not know how to keep the correct amount of product on hand or they are anticipating huge sales to some huge people soon. Seems to me Wal-Mart has this market covered pretty well. I agree with Kurt Jetta that this market skews toward lower income which someone like Wal-Mart is going to have an advantage over compared to a niche marketer.

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