Derrick Walker has parlayed a background studying engineering at MIT into a string of retail positions. He's worked at Radioshack and Finish Line, consulted for Brooks Brothers and, most recently, served as head of marketing at LensCrafters. His focus in these roles has been largely on customer-relationship marketing and customer research, digging into enthographic and analytics.
But his new task as CMO of Casual Male Retail Group is even more challenging. It's "the opportunity to be a part of a major brand transformation," he said. "We're closing down almost all of our Casual Male Stores and opening DXL, or Destination XL, in its place." The idea is to rid the marketplace of any negative perceptions that may be associated with the Casual Male brand, while showing existing customers that there's a better solution in the revamped stores flying the DXL banner. "We don't want to lose that connection with existing customers, but for new ones we want to have a disassocation," he added.
Mr. Walker held an agency pitch, selecting Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham to create a branding and ad campaign that includes TV, radio and digital executions. Historically the approach has been very direct-marketing focused, but Mr. Walker wants to change that . "One of the things that Gotham did that was somewhat unique was they engrossed themselves in the lives of our consumers," he said. "Beyond that they took the research and were able to formulate opportunities that we weren't exploring at the moment to help us expand our goals."
Ad Age : Why are big-and-tall men underserved?
Mr. Walker: The women's movement has been phenomenal in allowing people to have confidence regardless of their size. That hasn't been the case as much with the male consumer, and I think there's almost more of a negative stigma with being larger than there is for the female consumer. Look at the Dove [Real Women] campaign, or Lane Bryant stores -- there's a sense of pride in having curves. When you look at men, there's not been anyone to define how you should feel in clothes regardless of your size. We want to offer with DXL a sense of rejuvenation, and a store that 's geared just for the bigger guy in terms of the types of selection we have of sizes and brands. It will give them a sense of pride.
Ad Age : What percentage of the U.S. population falls within your category of consumer? Are the trends pointing to an increase?
Mr. Walker:We think that within the male population in the U.S age 20 and above, we have the ability to service 40% of those customers. That means they are over 6'3" or over a 40-inch waist or both. The average waist size in the U.S. is around a 38-inch waist for males. Our target is really to go after the 42-to-46-inch-waist guy, as well as anyone who is larger. But we have larger penetration already with those above a 48-inch waist. As America gets larger, our challenge is that there are going to be more and more retailers going after the larger consumer. We have a decided advantage in the brick-and-mortar space, but online it becomes a matter of depth of assortment and breadth of assortment and not necessarily about price. Our goal is not to be the value player in the marketplace, so we have to rely on other key assets that we have, which is our products and the strength of our brand.
Ad Age : What are the attributes that are associated with the retail experience for a big-and-tall man, and how do you want to change those at DXL?
Mr. Walker:We find that department stores as a whole are very hard for the big-and-tall customer. It's hit or miss when it comes to finding things in their size, and there's not a great collection of brands for them to choose from. What's probably worse is they are not getting the customer service they need. ... The respect isn't necessarily there in the mainstream department stores. What we've heard from our customers is that they are being punished by retailers for their weight, and there is a self-consciousness they have about shopping in those environments. We want to regain the sense of pride in shopping. Larger consumers tend to shop less frequently in part because they feel they can't look as good as other consumers. We've heard again and again that [big and tall] consumers have to go from store to store to store just to find a few pieces that look good on them.
Ad Age : Does that mean DXL is changing the format of stores?
Mr. Walker:We've made our dressing rooms larger and we added seating around the store with an element of a concierge service, where [customers] can have clothes brought to them. Even the parking element is a factor. The reason we're not in malls is that we want to make sure our stores are as accessible to consumers as possible so they can get in and out as quickly as possible.
Ad Age : Are there e-commerce or mobile opportunities?
Mr. Walker: One of the things we see is tremendous growth in the number of people hitting our website via mobile. We're reshaping our website and making it less transactional. We've gone through some initiatives to clean up the site and make it more easy to navigate, and now we'll go through an exercise to make sure it's on-brand. We're able to also offer virtual inventory inside the store.