Editor’s letter: action plan

by Harry Sheff

After many seasons of talking, menswear execs are actually doing. And with some strong results.

Karen Alberg GrossmanBernie is having a conversation with God. “God, I think Sammy of all people should win the lottery: he’s a generous man, always doing mitzvahs (good deeds), helping his neighbors, feeding the hungry, serving the needy. No one is more deserving…”

God: “He wants to win the lottery? He should buy a ticket…”

This anecdote, shared by Raffi Shaya, reminds me of how often we in the industry expect great results without taking the necessary steps to attain those great results. For several seasons now, industry execs have been talking the talk: I’ve heard endless discourse about innovating, updating, upgrading, price/value relationships, thinking out of the box, partnerships, relationships, offering greater margins, taking greater risks, strengthening in-stock programs, improving service, growing online business, growing international business, shortening the supply chain, ad infinitum. But due perhaps to the tenuous economy, few companies have matched their talk with action, postponing any meaningful change “until the economy turns…”

But finally, according to our industry overview in this issue, it seems many companies are making those meaningful changes, with or without an improved economy. Among our random sampling of menswear execs, most have implemented some truly impressive action plans that are, in several cases, already yielding results. What’s more, their predictions for our industry’s future are far more positive than anything we’ve heard in awhile. Let the optimists prevail!

And speaking of optimists, our retail profiles in this issue feature two of the most positive, highly respected merchants in our industry: Mario Bisio (Mario’s in Portland and Seattle) and Debi Greenberg (Louis Boston). Both took over businesses from their fathers; both have gone to great lengths to create their own unique fashion emporiums. Both travel the world to find fabulous product; both are passionate and outspoken about key industry issues. Says Mario, “We take in goods too early because the markdowns start too early. I believe vendors with monobrand stores could extend the selling season by creating best practices within their own stores.” And from Debi, “Most retailers don’t get it: they’ve trained the customer not to look for new and better but to accept the same old-same old, only at a discount.” Read how these two savvy and candid merchants (with very different merchandising strategies) survive and prosper in a highly competitive marketplace.

Also in this issue, the launch of our fabulous new downtown section, focusing on all things young and contemporary, written by our young contemporary team and led by our young and talented editor, Elise Diamantini. For here at MR, we strongly believe that a more contemporary market is our future. And as Jim Twining of Southern Tide suggests, “One of the best ways to attract the younger customer is by involving younger people in the business. If every sales person in your store remembers buying gas for $1 per gallon, it might be time to look around…”