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Catalog helps you live life large

Casual Male taps a growing niche

Casual Male chief David Levin learned about what is now LivingXL from an article on obesity. (STEPHAN SAVOIA/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

At first glance, the catalog's pitch for lawn chairs appears ordinary: A seated man and woman relax near a tree-lined lake shore, enjoying drinks.

But look closer. "Supports up to 800 lbs," reads the text next to the man's $139.95 lawn chair.

Flip deeper into the catalog, and the products get even more specialized, such as a Big John toilet seat with a 1,200-pound capacity -- "larger than any other toilet seat in the world" -- for $124.95.

The products are in LivingXL, an online and print catalog launched in May by the parent company of Casual Male XL, the nation's largest chain of men's plus-size clothing and apparel stores. Casual Male Retail Group, of Canton, hopes to parlay the marketing know-how from its 500 stores into the largely untapped market for specialty products that make life easier for the growing population of obese men and women.

The chain is the first large retailer to enter the niche, now served by a handful of mom-and-pop catalog and online retailers offering a limited selection of products with little marketing glitz.

For 300-pound Peggy Howell, who runs an online store featuring art with positive depictions of heavy people, LivingXL could help her more easily find products that give her confidence.

"When I'm trying to buy lawn chairs, I want to get one that's wide and sturdy," Howell said. "My sister and I share a home in Las Vegas, and whenever we go to a party or an event, we take our special collapsible lawn chairs. We know we'll feel secure in them, and comfortable.

"You can find these kinds of specialty things once in a while, but they're not always easy to find," she said. "When you do, you tell all your friends."

LivingXL is the new incarnation of www.SuperSizeWorld.com, a Vancouver, Wash.-based online store that Casual Male bought for $400,000 in October. Casual Male chief executive David Levin learned about the business while reading an article on obesity.

The switch to a new name was in keeping with the company's rebranding of its stores last year from the old name Casual Male Big & Tall to Casual Male XL -- a move that dropped the word "big" to eliminate a term often seen as a code word for "fat" in the euphemism-rich world of branding.

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