Photo by Salt Water New England

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

NYT: Brooks Bros. could end up closing its three American factories


A reader sent us this article:  Brooks Bros., ‘Made in America’ Since 1818, May Soon Need a New Calling Card, including:
Mr. Del Vecchio opened elaborate flagship stores in global capitals, and hired well-known American designers such as Thom Browne and Zac Posen to create high-end collections that could be shown during New York Fashion Week, with mixed results. 
... Later, the social movement toward casual Fridays, the rise of the dressed-down tech uniform and the shift toward online retail all began to chip away at the Brooks Brothers market, and it struggled to adapt.

19 comments:

  1. Sad days indeed!

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  2. Yes, times and tastes have changed, but that's not all that ails Brooks Brothers, which alienated its core constituency to go whoring after a cool-oriented market that was never going to embrace it anyway. BB didn't draw the new customers it coveted, while it lost a lot of the old ones.

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    1. Interesting. My brother said almost those same words when describing the state of his church.

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    2. Well said. I believe a very similar sentiment applies to Polo/Ralph Lauren. It use to be classic decent quality offerings. I don't understand what has happened in the last several years. Ostentatious with grossly oversized logos; the veteran sales associate at my local emporium told me that they are going after the urban client. I don't even know what the urban client is. Sad.

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    3. @Anon.12:14: I had to smile when I read what your brother said about his church. I said pretty much the same thing about mine. The Episcopal church where I live has been turning itself inside out to attract college students and younger people, but it hasn't happened, and it won't.

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    4. Anonymous, I wasn't going to mention church, but I was actually thinking of that when I wrote my comment. I've seen these things happen with organizations of many types, including churches. Especially churches.

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  3. Totally agree.

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  4. The preceding posts said it as succinctly and eloquently as it could be said, but the thing that astounds me is that Brooks Brothers walked away from its core clientele over thirty years ago. That it has endured so long is a strong testimonial to the power of what it once was. I honestly believe that our millennial offspring would still shop there if Brooks had not forsaken their Made in the USA sack suits and jackets and the many other very specific things that were their hallmark.

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  5. I'm absolutely not a business person but I'm thinking any company can appeal to the masses to gain and keep loads of customers. That's not really special and it seems to be all about the money. I would prefer to be distinctive and do a more limited number of things really, really well. If that appeals to a smaller core group, so be it. Again, what do I know about business? I just appreciate fine quality.

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    1. Experienced and well-educated businessmen make mistakes all the time. It's part of taking a risk. The trick is to make more good ones than bad ones.

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  6. Many Men's Stores are struggling to adapt to a more casual world...

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  7. I hate typing this, but "back in the day", I bought most of my clothes from Brooks Brothers. Their sack suits, full-cut oxford shirts, Italian kiltie tasseled cordovan loafers, rep ties. The service, where the same salesman, who'd been there for years, knew you and what you wanted. And the can't miss after-Christmas sale.

    Do I still shop there? Yes, but it's a "shopping" experience instead of a "buying" one. The Brooks Brothers brand can no longer be relied on for quality. It's pick-and-choose. Sad.

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  8. Read Jim Collins' book or better yet, go to his web site on why companies fail. It applies across the board to all human endeavors, companies, stores, churches, denominations, cities, restaurants, everything we do. Some seem to adapt with ease to changing tastes and technology and cultural norms, as if they were setting them themselves rather than adapting to them. Others seem determined to turn success into failure, such as New Coke. An interesting show if you sit back and watch.

    BB could have OWNED the business casual business, just as their sack suit became the standard business uniform. But they forgot WHY it became the uniform. It was simple. You could live in a sack suit comfortably all day long and still look good at dinner. Hang it properly overnight and the high quality wool came right back into shape. BB just forgot WHY they were successful. If they had remembered, they could have applied that to business casual clothes, or at least had a chance.

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  9. Why hasn't another retailer emerged to sell the sort of clothing that BB used to sell? Perhaps the market for such clothing is smaller today than it was 50 years ago, but it is a loyal market that appreciates quality and timelessness and is willing to pay a fair price for well-made clothing that will last. Some people still wear suits to work (at least some of the time). People still dress for weddings, bar mitzvahs, religious services, banquets, etc.

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  10. A discerning purchaser can too easily find higher-quality alternatives at the same price point. The move toward casual office environments hurt Brooks, but direct sales from great manufacturers like Alden and made-to-measure oxford cloth shirts from Mercer & similar made Brooks Brothers obsolete for me, except for their higher-end men's suits.

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    1. Andrew, I agree but took it a step further. I like the convenience of OTR suits and jackets, and the suits and jackets I have bought from O'Connell's were every bit as nice as the Golden Fleece suits from Brooks in the seventies and eighties.

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  11. Just as polls and articles are showing that Americans now want to buy American-made goods —and want to avoid made-in-China goods in particular—Mr Del Vecchio says that Americans don’t care where their clothes are made. Instead of shutting down US production, he should be ramping it up and advertising the fact to anyone who will listen! Let’s hope someone with a commitment to making high quality made-in-America goods buys the factories and capitalizes on this welcome trend.

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  12. J.Press and Mercer just acquired a few more clients.

    J.M. Virginia

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  13. Which four presidents didn't Brooks Brothers dress ?

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