by Karen Alberg Grossman
John McCoy posing for a fashion illustration by Brian Stonehouse in 1969.

Having been through a few cycles of ups and downs in his 56 years in the business, menswear rep John McCoy is well equipped to share his crystal ball view of the men’s business.

Q: How are things going at the moment?

A: Well, aside from the fact that I can’t pay the rent and I furloughed my team, things are fine. I estimate that retail is running on average down 50 percent from last year for the stores that have opened. And this depends on whether the numbers I get from merchants are real or hopeful estimates.

Q: What’s selling right now?

A: Suits are not, except for some made-to-measure. Obviously, there are few places to wear them these days. So it’s all about casual: polos, T-shirts, Bermuda shorts, track pants, five-pocket pants, khakis. Unfortunately, these items can’t make up lost volume in tailored, and many consumers remain cautious with their discretionary spending.

Q: Can you predict fall 2020?

A: Realistically, business will be challenging: if retailers haven’t paid spring invoices, vendors will be hard-pressed to ship fall. Factors are risk-averse in normal times and that caution has been super-sized since the pandemic. So, vendors and retailers need to be creative in order to get fall shipped. During pre-pandemic times, vendors could carry certain merchants based on history and friendship. Now, with the world upside down, financial risk is not an option in the struggle to survive.

Q: How likely is a turnaround?

A: Until there’s a vaccine, we’re all treading water. And even with a vaccine, it’s going to take time to get 330 million Americans vaccinated. We’re in a depressed economy at best with 40 million people collecting unemployment So, I think it’s at least two years before we can start to return to pre-pandemic normal. We’re in a situation unlike anything before in our history: the reality is day-to-day problem-solving that requires smarts, agility, and patience.

McCoy’s NYC showroom

Q: How many stores do you think we’ll lose?

A: When things were good 15 to 20 years ago, retail expanded to the point where the golden goose is now cooked. In fact, we’ve been overstored for years, with large department store chains adding hundreds of doors — full-line and off-price. So, we’ll probably have a contraction of at least 30 to 40 percent of currently existing doors. Look at Barneys’ sad demise, leveraged out of business. Look at Madison Avenue in New York from 57th to 72nd Street–more than 40 vacancies; it’s a depressing scene. Look at Lord & Taylor, Stage Stores, J. Crew, and Neiman Marcus filing Chapter 11 and JCPenney’s closing nearly 200 stores. There are rumors of other giants bringing in bankruptcy specialists to resolve their over-stored issues. There will be closings and bankruptcies of specialty men’s stores as well. And many vendors will disappear as a result of fewer stores to sell. It’s simple supply and demand. 

Q: Can you share your strategy going forward for the brands you represent?

A: Currently, we’re able to fill the immediate needs of our clients. In July, we’ll begin shipping fall but the year as a whole will be down dramatically. Fortunately, we represent some great companies: Gran Sasso, Gardeur, Masons, Blauer, Mauro Blasi, Belvest, and Echizenya, our directional Japanese pant collection. Our suppliers are financially strong and are moving rapidly to address the needs of our customers. They are committed to serving specialty stores with in-stock assortments, and quick response made-to-measure. They’re also committed to not competing with our retail partners by not selling direct-to-consumer. All in all, I’m very proud of our association, friendships, and cooperation with our suppliers.

Q: What are your hopes for our industry?

A: I still remember the definition of merchandising that I learned as a student at FIT (then a one-room log cabin schoolhouse): “Merchandising is having the right product, in the right place, at the right time, at the right price.” As merchants, I know we’ll figure this out, deal with the challenges, work through it together, and come out okay on the other side. So that’s my prediction and my greatest hope. For despite the current tumult, I still really love this business.


  1. Well said on all points John…. truth hurts but you told it as it is and I hope
    we are both here to see the successful
    transformation of the men’s business,
    Whatever that means…..
    Stay safe and well and keep at it !!

  2. I have known John since 1973 when I was the men’s fashion director at may merchandising .his comments are right on target as always

  3. Sad but true John. The job at the moment is to stay healthy. Hope you continue to be.

    1. Having all the Rights has always been the formula to a successful retail career. The right customer base with a social calendar with places to go and to be entertained will help start the New normal of menswear industry.

    2. Having known John for at least 50 years and being a speciality store 38 miles south of where John grew up in Hagerstown Maryland, I’ve seen a lot and I believe that John nailed it regarding the future – Being a retailer .. the cup is always half full

  4. It’s painful to see someone like John, who put his great work into the better menswear industry struggle like this in the 9th inning, due to the pandemic. His predictions are likely the unfortunate truth.

    1. I think we all have to prepare for the worst while we hope for the best, which is why I so appreciate those industry execs who are being brutally honest.
      But like John said, even if it takes two years, we will get through it and businesses that get ‘right-sized’ will be much healthier in the end. The big question is: what can luxury merchants add to their mix to make up for lost volume in upscale tailored clothing? (Although I believe suits will remain the uniform for weddings, proms and graduations so the category is not disappearing!)

      1. After living with the tailored clothing industry as a mainstay of the apparel industry for my entire career I actually believe that we are on the brink of it becoming much less important even for many of these situations that you mentioned. a sad demise for a crucial part of a man’s wardrobe for so many years

      2. One of the replacements for the tailored clothing volume is easier found in the cooler regions of our country….I have been pitching it for years, it’s Outerwear ! Replace the sportcoat and the suit jacket
        with “Transitional Outerwear”….meaning use different weights of outerwear for different seasons of
        the year….Fall, Winter,Spring…… and even Summer whereby a lightweight ,unconstructed linen or
        cotton jacket is the “outerwear” piece. I am not saying that it will be easy to survive this transition but
        you will need to be inventive and nimble to do so….As my Custom Tailor Grandfather ,My Mens Retail
        Grandfather and My Mens Retail Father all said to me : “Why would you leave college to sell Mens Suits?”
        In actuality, I have outlived the real”Suit Business.” This might not be the end of Menswear but for sure it will never again be the same business I loved… when I followed my passion and walked into 1290 Ave.of Americas for the very first time. Hang on, everyone, Change is not just coming, Change is here !

      3. John, you have the experience, integrity and insight. Always enjoy doing business with you. We will get through this together.

  5. As John loves to always ask ” Where have you been? What are you doing?”
    I spent 4 plus years with John working on all products and many brands and learned more than I ever expected.
    Our industry doesn’t have a surplus of , Passion, Work Ethic, Intelligence, Courage, and a surprising good eye… Just some
    of the reasons I so enjoyed working with John and respecting him so much. His message is clear and accurate… It calls for all
    of us to be Inspired, and good partners to come out the other side of this.

    Finally, the illustration by Brian Storehouse just Screams Midnight Cowboy!!!!! Love you John.

    From one Dinosaur to another, Stay Safe, and Healthy
    Gary Wasserman

  6. John, you said it the way it is….no reason to sugarcoat this difficult period in our lives.
    Having been a friend for over 45 yrs, I have every confidence that when the dust finally settles, you’ll be there doing what you love!
    Stay safe…stay healthy.


  7. I’ve been in the business so long I actually remember Johnny Carson wearing a Nehru Jacket on the tonight show as well as MOD and the first Carnaby St shop at Sterns on 43rd. St and ave of the Americas.

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