medhat

Super Member
In today's Wall St. Journal, apologies if it's paywalled, but you probably get the idea:


Curious for the Forum's thoughts. How does a retailer known for traditional clothing make it in the 21st century? Put another way, if you came in as either the new owner or CEO, what would you change about BB? Even before the filing they announced the closure of their American manufacturing plants, so that's already done. Close more stores? Change design focus? This is posed purely as an intellectual exercise, I personally haven't thought of an answer yet that seems to make sense to me.
 

krock

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Really a sad piece of news. May be a sign that trying to go against the fast -and hype- fashion trend leads you to Chapter 11 outcome. Which in turn leads to more "prada" and less "church" on the shelves.
 

DorianGrey

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I've expected this for some time.....even before the shutdowns. I used to buy most of my professional clothes through BB but after about 2012 I found their quality decreased and their sizes were off (for me). This is about the time they did their China offshoring and first real change of the cut of their clothes...as someone with a belly it just didn't work for my anymore. Then they seemed to target the Millennial/ hipster crowd the last few years. Everyone I knew who shopped there regularly seemed to bail too. I was wondering who their customers were these days.

I still have my stock BB clothes I bought in the late 90's through the 2000's and it is soooo different that what you find today...but I guess that is true with just about all clothes brands. I personally think the offshoring to China was the downfall of the clothes industry for the well dressed male.
 

Matt S

Connoisseur
I stopped caring about them years ago when they made less and less interesting clothes. They've made their clothes as boring and as mainstream as possible, at prices just slightly too high for most people to justify buying boring clothes. Their biggest problem is that few people are excited to shop at their stores. They don't make much for the class menswear enthusiast anymore. They tried to update their clothes for a more modern audience, but the clothes are not modern enough. They've placed themselves as a go-to store for people who need quality officewear staples, but these days that's not enough when there are cheaper options for those who have no interest in spending a little more for quality. There needs to be excitement.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Everything Matt ⇧ said, plus even its Red Fleece line - a clear attempt to go after the J.Crew / youth market - never really found its groove.

I like some of the items I've gotten from RF over the years, but in most cases, J.Crew made a better quality version for less (sale price vs. sale price).

To be fair, maybe there was no answer. BB was the go-to classic business-suit / wardrobe store up through the '80s. Then, that market started to shrink (casual Friday morphing to casual all the time / tech dress down / etc.) and BB either had to shrink aggressively - close stores - and become a niche business, or try to morph into a modern all-purpose mens store (which really doesn't exist).

It tried the latter and failed, but again, maybe failure at the scale (number of stores it had) was inevitable. Heck if it was 1988 and you asked me, even knowing what I know now, how could BB be saved from its 2020 fate, I don't know that I'd have a good answer.
 

richard warren

Senior Member
Brooks Brothers going under? I liked the old Brooks Bros. where you could buy a three button suit in a vast array of colors and fabrics, and well made shirts and good shoes. But I have little sympathy for boomer sadness at its passing, nor do I blame the decisions management made to try to adjust to the reality that since around the 1970’s each succeeding generation has been about half as wealthy as the preceding one. The “class menswear” market is accordingly rather small. I know people with children in their 30’s who follow the same profession I did who rely on assistance from their parents, at an age when I was pretty much buying anything I wanted.
 

Dhaller

Advanced Member
I hadn't really shopped at BB in a while - for a number of years, I've stuck exclusively to locally-operated men's shops (in Atlanta, that means H. Stockton, Sid Mashburn, Guffey's, and Miller Brothers).

I did like the fit of their Regent line (I'm a perfect Regent Medium in sport shirts), and used to hit them on their "4 for $199" sales... but that's a warning sign, right there, only shopping when there's a sale.

When they introduced the Milano fit, I was skeptical, because that's tight even for me (I like pretty fitted clothing).

If I were a private equity firm crazy enough to buy it?... I'd try to "blue ocean" a return to classic authenticity. I'd pull manufacturing back stateside (with a few exceptions like Irish and Scottish sweaters), focus on classic style (I'd keep the tailored fits and jettison the Madison, because, frankly, baggy isn't "classic", it's a modern concession to fast-food-fed Americans), and I'd go for really quality fabrics and makes, overdeliver on the customer experience, and keep a tight leash on tailoring.

And I'd charge accordingly... there's no such thing as four quality shirts for $199. Sorry. I'd shift my marketing communications from price/deals to quality/authenticity... more content marketing.

I'd do lots of limited editions, like a sweater you can only get *this* year - I'd want a dynamic mix of staples (for constant traffic) and seasonal speciality items (as attention interrupts).

Basically, offer a high-end menswear experience which I can replicate over multiple locations nationwide. I'd also have probably just one very nice, well-placed store per city - I'd be a destination, not a convenience.

I think I'd add local items, as well... like a store in Dallas might have classic boots (it's business attire there!), suitable hats, etc. Make location matter... it's worth visiting the BB in Dallas if you have some time during a business trip.

I might even create programs with high-end business-friendly hotels (Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons) to provide "emergency services", like 24 hour tailoring, shirts delivered, etc. Make it an executive service.

(Making this up as I type, obviously, and I actually know nothing about retail, but I think with the right vision, classic menswear can survive.)

DH
 

Mr.D

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I hadn't really shopped at BB in a while - for a number of years, I've stuck exclusively to locally-operated men's shops (in Atlanta, that means H. Stockton, Sid Mashburn, Guffey's, and Miller Brothers).

I did like the fit of their Regent line (I'm a perfect Regent Medium in sport shirts), and used to hit them on their "4 for $199" sales... but that's a warning sign, right there, only shopping when there's a sale.

When they introduced the Milano fit, I was skeptical, because that's tight even for me (I like pretty fitted clothing).

If I were a private equity firm crazy enough to buy it?... I'd try to "blue ocean" a return to classic authenticity. I'd pull manufacturing back stateside (with a few exceptions like Irish and Scottish sweaters), focus on classic style (I'd keep the tailored fits and jettison the Madison, because, frankly, baggy isn't "classic", it's a modern concession to fast-food-fed Americans), and I'd go for really quality fabrics and makes, overdeliver on the customer experience, and keep a tight leash on tailoring.

And I'd charge accordingly... there's no such thing as four quality shirts for $199. Sorry. I'd shift my marketing communications from price/deals to quality/authenticity... more content marketing.

I'd do lots of limited editions, like a sweater you can only get *this* year - I'd want a dynamic mix of staples (for constant traffic) and seasonal speciality items (as attention interrupts).

Basically, offer a high-end menswear experience which I can replicate over multiple locations nationwide. I'd also have probably just one very nice, well-placed store per city - I'd be a destination, not a convenience.

I think I'd add local items, as well... like a store in Dallas might have classic boots (it's business attire there!), suitable hats, etc. Make location matter... it's worth visiting the BB in Dallas if you have some time during a business trip.

I might even create programs with high-end business-friendly hotels (Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons) to provide "emergency services", like 24 hour tailoring, shirts delivered, etc. Make it an executive service.

(Making this up as I type, obviously, and I actually know nothing about retail, but I think with the right vision, classic menswear can survive.)

DH
Great comment! I particularly agree with moving manufacturing stateside as well as having an executive service with hotels.
 

Titus_A

Super Member
Dhaller's general approach is sound, but he misses on a few points.

1. The criticism of the Madison cut is misplaced. Tight fits in business attire are a turn-of-the-twenty-first-century fashion. Brooks Brothers' bread and butter in its heyday was a classic American sack suit that, while not the Madison on numerous levels, was closer to it than to any of the other newfangled named lines.

2. Brooks Brothers already doesn't maintain more than one store in most markets. Is there more than one in Atlanta? There's never been more than one in Nashville or Memphis or any other mid-American city of which I was aware.

3. You can have a perfectly decent shirt that you sell from time to time at 4 for $199, because Brooks Brothers has done it for some years now. Their must-iron pinpoints aren't the telos of dress shirts, but they're a dang fine, perfectly serviceable shirt. I have never encountered a better shirt in the same market range. I suspect that a detailed breakdown would show that dress shirts have been one of their best-selling items across time.

Other than that, I think he's right on the money. There isn't room in the casual-wear market for these guys, and they clearly can't capture the disappearing market for discounted business attire. I would excise the mountain of "hip" offerings that came out every season, including the entire men's Red Fleece line (some of the women's Red Fleece items have been more classic) and just own what the company is: a purveyor of classic business and formal wear.
 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
Basically, offer a high-end menswear experience which I can replicate over multiple locations nationwide. I'd also have probably just one very nice, well-placed store per city - I'd be a destination, not a convenience.
I'd like that too, but I don't see it flying as a business model anymore. Too much cost chasing too small a market. The stratification of the American menswear market is just following the stratification of American income, I.e., a lot, and not too much. The immediate future will likely be typified by two types of retailers of men's clothing: as a department of large, nation wide chains in big box stores, and comparatively smaller retailers in smaller spaces with comparatively few stores.
 
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Mr. B. Scott Robinson

Advanced Member
I would say shrink to a small footprint and go all in as a men’s prestige brand drawing on the history of the company.

Luxury brands are have been growing in market share over the last decade. BB still has a good reputation and has not suffered the same overexposed fate that Burberry had to overcome.

Stop trying to compete at the low price point and go all in on service, quality, and exclusivity. Have professional sales people who work hard to cultivate clientele and get rid of the cash till drone mentality.

Focus on Made In USA, and feature the people who put product on the shelf in exchange for a decent living wage.

Give the employees a minority share in the ownership so they have skin in the game.

Or simply pack up and call it a day.

Cheers,

BSR
 

Woofa

Super Member
Agreed with mr Robinson completely. would it be so horrible if bb just closed? For most of us they are already a shell of what we remember. Times change, bb played a big part over the last 100 years. Better to retire gracefully than keep holding on and making no one happy. Maybe open a museum somewhere so people like us can see the things they did well for so long.
 

never behind

Senior Member
I would say shrink to a small footprint and go all in as a men’s prestige brand drawing on the history of the company.

Luxury brands are have been growing in market share over the last decade. BB still has a good reputation and has not suffered the same overexposed fate that Burberry had to overcome.

Stop trying to compete at the low price point and go all in on service, quality, and exclusivity. Have professional sales people who work hard to cultivate clientele and get rid of the cash till drone mentality.

Focus on Made In USA, and feature the people who put product on the shelf in exchange for a decent living wage.

Give the employees a minority share in the ownership so they have skin in the game.

Or simply pack up and call it a day.

Cheers,

BSR
To me these are the options. Go to a niche, high quality, classic shop or just call it a day.
 

Dhaller

Advanced Member
2. Brooks Brothers already doesn't maintain more than one store in most markets. Is there more than one in Atlanta? There's never been more than one in Nashville or Memphis or any other mid-American city of which I was aware.
Atlanta has four BB locations: one downtown, two in malls, and a smaller "oops I forgot something!" store at the airport.

I suspect only one of them makes any real money (Lenox Mall).

DH
 

Dhaller

Advanced Member
Agreed with mr Robinson completely. would it be so horrible if bb just closed? For most of us they are already a shell of what we remember. Times change, bb played a big part over the last 100 years. Better to retire gracefully than keep holding on and making no one happy. Maybe open a museum somewhere so people like us can see the things they did well for so long.
Admittedly, BB doesn't uniquely solve any problems.

As I said earlier, there are plenty of fine men's clothiers in my town, independent shops with knowledgable staff (there are folks at H Stockton *now* who were selling me suits in the 80s!).

DH
 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
On a related note; former Brooks' President, Paulette Garafalo, who left in 2016 to assume the role of CEO of Brooks' down the block rival, hopes soon to be able to do for Paul Stuart what she did for Brooks! ;)
 

waterside

Starting Member
I've expected this for some time.....even before the shutdowns. I used to buy most of my professional clothes through BB but after about 2012 I found their quality decreased and their sizes were off (for me). This is about the time they did their China offshoring and first real change of the cut of their clothes...as someone with a belly it just didn't work for my anymore. Then they seemed to target the Millennial/ hipster crowd the last few years. Everyone I knew who shopped there regularly seemed to bail too. I was wondering who their customers were these days.

I still have my stock BB clothes I bought in the late 90's through the 2000's and it is soooo different that what you find today...but I guess that is true with just about all clothes brands. I personally think the offshoring to China was the downfall of the clothes industry for the well dressed male.
China has been updating its economic structure in recent years and they got rid of many low-cost, low-technology, cheap-labor based industries. That's why you see more and more clothes made in other countries with even lower wages. Soon people will miss the good old "Made in China" days...
 

David J. Cooper

Super Member
Vancouver has a full line full retail store downtown, an outlet store near the airport, a mall sized store in the airport and a store in the suburbs that sells outlet store goods for full retail.
 
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