Excelling at XL

Health issues are certainly a big factor behind the demographics that point to larger and heavier customers with over two thirds of the US population being termed overweight or obese. But both the service and retail sectors' seem to find catering to that growing market to be a heavy lift. Fitful efforts over the years by a few companies to address the needs of plus-size customers have more often than not alienated, as is the case with airlines, rather than satisfied that market segment.

Retailers are looking to change the foregoing with a new impetus that takes a holistic approach to both inventory and floor space. According to market researcher NPD group a big factor driving it is that a "third of U.S. men are defined as obese while the big-and-tall market accounts for just 8 percent of total menswear sales,a third of U.S. men are defined as obese, the big-and-tall market accounts for just 8 percent of total menswear sales."

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that "growth-hungry retailers seek new opportunities and are targeting the 36 million obese men in the U.S. Casual Male Retail Group the largest U.S. big-and-tall chain, last year created a new store concept, Destination XL, which aims to offer better selection and service. Men's Wearhouse plans to test three big-and-tall stores in August, after noticing revenue in that category grew 40 percent faster last year than sales of regular apparel (emphasis added). J.C. Penney has launched The Foundry Big & Tall Supply Co., which last month opened 10 stores."

The travel industry remains eons behind in addressing the market's needs.  Airlines' initiatives, such as they are, remain mired in a mix of caution for fear of reproach (and lawsuits) and thinly disguised disdain for folks of size. Some "recommend" an upgrade to business or first class to guarantee extra space with the passenger being expected to pay for the "upgrade". 

The hospitality industry is eveb more of a laggard perhaps because most hotel rooms, even in space-constrained metropolises like Manhattan inherently capable of handling plus-sized guests particulalry if outfitted with king or queen sized beds both of which are 80" long. The lone hotel/resort, Freedom Paradise, catering largely, if not exclusively, to the "size-friendly" market opened several years ago in Mexico and seems not to have done very well probably more due to execution than any lack of customers. Ditto for the cruise industry  with rare exceptions.  Seems like an opportunity to weigh in on.


Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.