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Stocking the latest styles can be a challenge for any clothing retailer — but it’s even more so when your clientele is defined by big and tall sizes.

Casual Male Retail Group has been providing clothes for big and tall American men for more than 35 years. While big and tall has been a part of the U.S. clothing market for decades, most retailers cater to this cohort primarily by focusing on size over style. After acquiring big and tall chain Rochester Clothing in 2004, Casual Male expanded its inventory of styles: The company recently debuted Destination XL, a larger-footprint store focusing on a wider selection of inventory and styles, and is in the process of consolidating its 400-plus smaller stores into nearly 250 stores.

Most will be Destination XL stores, which average 10,000 sq. ft. and carry everything from value-priced private labels to high-end designer names. It’s perhaps one of the only stores where a plus-size man can find more than 100 brands like Reebok, Cole Haan and Canyon Ridge in sizes up to 7XLT and waists up to 80 inches.

Dennis Hernreich, Casual Male Retail Group COO and CFO, says the company’s customers are not defined by any demographic other than their size – meaning they can range from teenagers looking for the latest fashions to professionals in their 60s looking for a business wardrobe. Hernreich says Casual Male tries to meet all of those needs under one roof — and on one website.

“You go to a [traditional big-and-tall store] website and you see about 20 styles,” he says. “Come to our website and you’ll see about 5,000 styles.”

With an inventory of large and uncommon sizes, Casual Male’s clothing often has to be specially made on runs outside of the regular scope of clothing manufacturers; the company needs to regularly communicate with hundreds of designers and manufacturers to ensure the specific size requirements hit shelves. All of that can make for inventory challenges.

Simplified communication
Casual Male employs software solutions from NGC Software to help manage its supply chain. NGC’s product lifecycle management (PLM) solution has been ranked as one of the top for the fashion industry and offers a variety of benefits like increasing speed to market and enhancing efficiency by using product development calendars.

NGC’s PLM system can also improve production adoption rates by simplifying decisions earlier in the lifecycle, as well as reduce sampling costs by establishing product viability.

Mark Burstein, NGC president of sales, marketing and R&D, says the company’s solution acts almost as a “Facebook-type environment” where retailers, designers and manufacturers can communicate and stay abreast of new designs, creations and needs.

“You can log in and see all of your designers and styles and what’s happening,” he says. “You have designers in Boston and factories in China, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This lets everyone communicate in one place.”

It’s not just that big and tall clothes are “bigger,” says Hernreich. Some products are designed with stretchable materials that allow optimal fit. Hernreich says many shirts incorporate dry technology and many dress shoes expand by up to a half inch.

“Just about everything we sell has some sort of unique property to it,” he says. “We have a custom set of specs for every size we carry.”

When combined with the NGC supply chain management (SCM) solution, clothing retailers can track their entire product line from design to manufacturing to warehouse delivery. Destination XL prides itself on offering a wide variety of styles and brands in larger sizes, so there’s no room for delays.

“If [customers] need goods in certain sizes and a customer walks in and can’t find it, there’s a good chance he won’t come back,” Burstein says. “It’s also critical for seasonal clothing … If you don’t have the right products to show people, you’re going to miss out on the sale.”

The big picture
Because Destination XL focuses on providing an entire wardrobe, it also needs complementary accessories: designer belts up to size 60, shoes up to size 17 with widths of 3E and extra large hats and sunglasses. The Destination XL site even has a home and living section with products designed specifically for large men, including heavy duty bicycles, seat belt extenders, XXL headphones, chairs, even an extra large ski vest.
“We’re increasing our store size [and product selection] to make it one place … the most convenient, one-stop destination for the large man,” says Hernreich.

Burstein says the key to managing the flow of inventory is supply chain visibility. NGC’s PLM system starts with an interactive line planning tool that allows retailers, brands and manufacturers to view the line development process. “Tech packs” allow all product data to be updated via a centralized web portal so that users can view and update product information in real-time. A digital asset library also maintains all images, photos sketches and color chips to allow consistent information exchange between retailers, brands and designers. There’s also a material development component that lets users request materials from a variety of suppliers. Finally, the PLM solution offers sampling, costing, sourcing, testing and compliance, calendars and global collaboration.

Hernreich says it has made the entire process much more efficient and effective. Whereas years ago Casual Male had a normal sourcing function that required it to be on international phone calls at all hours of the day, it can now handle such operations via the web portal.

“It allows for a stream-like process to enable more frequent communication, more transparency and [allow us to] deal more with factories,” he says. “We get better costs, a better quality product and it just makes more sense.”