Best Buyers 2012: Joey Mendez, Halls

by Elise Diamantini

Kid in the Halls: Joey Mendez juggles buying and managing Halls Downstairs.

On how he got into retail:
I grew up in Kansas City, studied fashion merchandising and always had retail jobs. Six years ago I started at Halls on the sales floor; after a few months I was promoted to assistant manager and now I’m the buyer and manager for Downstairs, the contemporary section.

On an average day:
I’m in my office about 75 percent of the time and on the floor the rest. Because I’m department manager, I’m on the floor every other weekend. I work directly with the sales team and my assistant department manager on merchandising, visuals and all the operational things. As a result I feel like I have one of the most knowledgeable sales teams because I work with them on product knowledge every day.

On what’s selling:
I think a lot of people had bad outerwear businesses last year because it was so warm, but we’ve already seen outerwear vests selling for fall. Layering is another trend. We’ve pushed it for awhile, but guys are finally catching on. Quarter-zip sweaters and outerwear vests help outfit that cold weather look. In denim, it’s all about novelty: colored, coated, etc. Price point matters and ours ranges from $150 to $250. Hudson is offering some great colors this season so we’ve seen growth in that business. We’re also experimenting with corduroy and are seeing an uptick in bottoms. The silhouette in denim is a regular straight leg. We do sell relaxed straight, skinny straight and boot-cut styles, but regular straight leg jeans are driving the business. In terms of brands, we do well with Marc by Marc Jacobs and John Varvatos Star USA.

On spring 2013:
Every spring has color but there was so much of it for 2013. Colored denim will finally go mainstream. I was happy to see that there was less plaid! We’ll replace it with more striped wovens, patterns and allover prints.

On the Downstairs customer:
Part of our success has been appealing to a broad range of guys. We outfit that conservative guy who wants to look good without stepping out too far and we have the fashion-forward guy, too.

On merchandising:
We buy from over 75 vendors, so we’re becoming more analytical as far as which vendors we’re going to continue with, and which ones we have to let go. Our guys shop by brand. We don’t do shop-in-shops, but we do have a few vendors with bigger representations. It can be difficult when you’re working in a small selling space (1,850 sq. ft.). We also group like brands together, so you’ll find Ben Sherman next to Penguin; Theory with Hugo Boss Red.

On what he needs from the market:
It’s great that brands are creating partnerships with us. We’re working together on things like swaps, trainings and contests (which have all been successful). Swaps in general are such a great tool. If something’s not moving, communicating with your rep helps because a lot of times they’ll take it back. We can either fill in what is selling or get something new if it’s not.

On when he’s not working:
I’m kind of boring! I like to work out, go to dinner, drinks and to the movies. I have two shitzus, Jack and Jake. I’m a total nerd too. I love video games and sci-fi.

On his mentor:
My DMM Todd Epperely. He believed in me from the beginning. He’s very much a “throw you in the fire” kind of mentor, but he’s given me more and more responsibilities. He is demanding but he’s that way because he knows I can do the job. I wouldn’t be where I am without his mentorship.