Casual Male wins big with leisure goods

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A week after launching the new Living XL catalog on May 15, Casual Male Group Inc. had already sold out of what it thought was a six month supply of two different portable lawn chairs, one that holds up to 500 pounds and another that can take up to 800 pounds.

The company knew there was a market for lifestyle products targeting big-and-tall and plus size consumers. It just didn't realize the extent of the demand for talking scales and airplane seatbelt extenders until recently. "This is rolling out differently than we imagined," said Ric Della Bernarda, senior vice president of marketing at Casual Male. As a result of the unexpected demand, the company is already reconsidering how many drops there will be for Living XL this year and what the book's circulation will total in 2007.

The first catalog was mailed to 250,000 names from Casual Male XL's and Rochester Big & Tall's lists, as well as to prospecting lists that included women. The next catalog is scheduled to drop in late August or early September.

Casual Male has more than 25 years of experience in the big-and-tall men's apparel market. Living XL brings the company into the hard goods category for the first time and extends its reach into the women's category. The company isn't considering branching out into plus-size women's apparel.

 "There are a lot of players out there in the women's area," Mr. Della Bernarda said.

Casual Male acquired e-commerce Web site SuperSizeWorld in October. Its goals for the acquisition were to aggregate all the products onto one site, build a bigger Web presence and launch a catalog. The name of the business was changed to build an association with the Casual Male XL business. Casual Male also expanded the product selection by about 25 percent. One of the ways it is getting new product ideas is from customer suggestions on the Web site.

 "We really want to be supportive of the community and want them to tell us what needs they have," Mr. Della Bernarda said.

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