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Business suits, business models - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
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captainsblog
captainsblog
Business suits, business models
Earlier today, I did something that I haven't done since George W. Bush was President:

I went into a mens' clothing store and purchased business suits.  Four of them.

You may find this somewhere between wretchedly excessive and stupid. I completely agree- that it's a stupid way to do business.

Blame the guy at the Bank.

----

There's been a Jos. A. Bank location near us for years- two doors down from the gym I'm at almost every day.  Back before some serious weight loss, I checked out one of their sales and found I'd fatted myself out of their inventory; I'm down enough to at least have some selection there now.  And you need to have some with their current recurring promotion:

Buy a suit, get three free.

They've run this at least four or five times since the fall, when the other guy lawyer in my Rochester office tipped me off to it. A stroke of luck on a case earlier this week made it possible, so I went in, hoping (a) I'd fit, and (b) they wouldn't be ridiculously overpriced. The answers were: Yes, and No, not really.

I didn't see a single two-piece in the place for under 300 bucks. Most in my size range were more than twice that, and some were over $800 that didn't look all that fancier-schmancier than the ones in the $600-ish neighborhood. Still. Three free, yo. So I wound up topping out just under 700 for the most expensive, and threw in the one clearancey one that was closest to 300 as one of my freebies. (The guy wound up cooking the register so I got the four for the $650 amount that was kinda the average of the four.)

The whole model seems weird- overpricing your shit and then giving 75 percent of it away for nothing? It's a variation on the old joke about the failing merchant, who brags, "I lose money on every suit but I make it up on the volume." It definitely keeps your employees hopping, having to do four times the work for the same commissions. And wouldn't you think they'd put an extra tailor or two on staff for the extra workload? Nahhhhh.

They also charge for alterations (unlike the competing* Mens Wearhouse model, which charges less and does free lifetime alterations, but doesn't do these kinds of big-deal come-ons), but Joe's alteration charges are reasonable. The whole shebang, with tax and two altered, was just over 200 per suit- about what I've always paid on average.

Most of my original collection came from the opposite concept- slash prices on everything. Rochester is still home to the Hickey Freeman clothing factory, and in the 80s and early 90s when we lived there, the Big Thing was their annual "outlet sale"- three days in, usually, a vacant vast storefront rented for the occasion, with $2000 suits knocked down to the low hundreds. But with the "lows" came the "no's"- no rainchecks, no alterations, no appointments. So you lined up in the cold in the predawn hours of Friday morning (did I mention this was in November?) to get the best, and often the only, selection. I usually did buy three or four at a time, but that was choice, not come-on. I found a good tailor near home and most of those lasted well after our move here. Toward the end of my days there, our firm started getting "private sale" passes to come in the day before, but so, apparently, did every other firm in town, and so you instead lined up in the cold in the predawn hours of THURSDAY morning for the same shit.

After we moved to B-lo, they tried taking the show on the road here- renting out a vast abandoned furniture store for the occasion (ironically subdivided later into the local home of Syms, where an educated consumer was their best customer and smarter than the idiots who bankrupted the company). But by then, neither the home or road shows were the same. Casual Fridays and Other Days had cut supply, and Bush recessions took their tolls. Hickey Freeman started doing them more often during the year, but with less to sell and smaller discounts. As of a few years ago, I'd still see ads for them, but that ship of suits has sailed for me.

I'll get two of the four back in a week or so; the other two are being switched out for slightly different coats and then those will get altered (or maybe I'll hold on that for awhile). And to be sure of having enough for the kitchen project, I'll go out next week and try to find at least four new clients. Maybe one of them will even pay;)

* I seem to recall that these two chains were going to merge after Mens Wearhouse sacked its founder and longtime TV pitchman, George Zimmer. Ah, they DID merge, and he was only mildly unhappy about it. I wonder if he'll guarantee that I'll like the way I look.
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