Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Future of Big and Tall: The Little Guy!

I was always tall for my age; way taller than anyone else my age and because of this I have always been interested in the big and tall apparel market.  So, in 1990, when an opportunity presented its self to create a label I made sure that we also developed a line of big and tall tee shirts under the label, "Turner Originals."  Having now achieved 20 years of market success its time to focus on the next 20 years and there is no place better to seek out opportunities than to explore the bigger market;  the key to success in niche markets is to adapt a big trend to the specifics of your niche market.

Now, the plus sized apparel market as of 2008, represented approximately $29 billion dollars in annual sales and is projected to grow to over $42 billion dollars in annual sales by 2012; and overall, plus sizes represents the fastest growing niche within the apparel industry.  There are three major retailers in the big and tall menswear market, JC Penney, King Size, and Casual Male, and they are all aggressively attempting to increase their market share of this profitable niche market.  Casual Male has come up with "DXL" or "Destination XL" which represents a big and tall mega store and JC Penney, not to be outdone, has announced that they are opening up 300 big and tall retail stores under the banner, "The Foundry Big & Tall Supply Co." and the interiors of these concept stores are awesome as shown below: 

These stores are big at 6,000 sq. feet, and according to Myron Ullman, CEO and President of JC Penney:
“With big & tall customers making up over 50% of the male population and spending nearly $6 billion on apparel, footwear and accessories, we saw an opportunity to serve the fashionable and professional big & tall customer who is often frustrated by the lack of sizes and fits, availability of brands and the overall lack of customer service in their category.  Offering an upscale environment and extensive assortments of apparel, footwear and furnishings created with them in mind, The Foundry Big & Tall Supply Co. is positioned to address all of the needs of the big & tall customer -- one of the largest and fastest growing segments in the market place today.”
King Size Direct, a catalog company that I have been shopping from since the early 1980's, took to the internet, while Casual Male bought their retail competitors and developed a catalog/internet sales channel and JC Penney is finally stepping up its activities.  While a consumer may favor one over the other the reality is that their product lines are not all that much different; the labels are different but the product is the same.

What the plus sized consumer wants is variety and individualism;  the days of being "branded" by the clothes you wear are over and thus, Nautica, Dockers, and Timberland no longer have the drawing power because they are so readily available through numerous retail outlets. 

The future belongs to companies such as Mod Cloth and or Bonobos (I am not the only one who believes this considering that these two companies received a combined $21 million dollars in venture capital funding).  Its not about "what" you offer as it is "why" and "how" you market it.  In my niche  companies like Threadless and Cafe Press have led the way to a new consumer centric, Web 2.0 inspired business model.  I have been a fan of Threadless for a long time and I cheer them on every chance I get because you cannot help but admire the brilliance of the model!   Threadless continues to blaze new paths and has now expanded successfully into accessories, kids wear, and I am sure that they will continue to expand their retail stores and will continue to add product lines in the future.

From information garnered via the internet, by combining tee shirts and screen printing with a Web 2.0 business model you create a new sales channel with average net margins of 35% and annual sales increases of around 50%!

From consumer centric to sized centric! 

The plus sized consumer wants product that are specifically designed for their body types and trendsetting at the same time!  Its about capturing the energy and essence of lines like Affliction, Abercrombie and Fitch, and or Hollister; with designs specifically developed for a plus sized consumer on tee shirts that are truly big and tall.  This just isn't going to cut it anymore:

Its time to offer the big and tall consumer the same consumer centric options available to all consumers and to develop lines of product for retailers that are something more than just a mere license of what is available any where else.  Its obvious that the market is big enough, and growing bigger every day, for the plus sized consumer to have the same choices and variety, but choices and variety that are specifically tailored for the niche! 

By the niche for the niche: Or, size centric!


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Big Men Basics said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts about future big & tall ideas. It's amazing you wrote this over a year ago and still little has improved or changed.

I recently started looking into all of this (how I found your article). I'm working toward similar. Chubstr was my initial inspiration. It looks like the future for big & tall is a good one ... and you have definite wisdom.

I look forward to learning more about your thoughts on the big & tall industry. Wouldn't mind talking with you sometime (maybe connect on Linkedin after doing so).