by David Rubenstein
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Dear Karen,

I know our men’s clothing business is changing and change can provide opportunity. But I’m a little disappointed in the attitude that some wholesale “partners” have taken since this pandemic hit. Unfortunately, many have become just vendors, rather than true partners.

I realize cash is a problem for both vendors and retailers, but some vendors have managed to help their retail partners while still looking out for their own needs. For end-of-season shipments (like February 25th deliveries), they’re giving their retail partners discounts on these invoices, thereby allowing them a chance to make extra markup selling their large carryover inventory. This discount will directly help the retailer’s overall margin; extra dating is not the same thing.

Retailers are not asking vendors to take a loss but rather to share their planned profit on end-of-season shipments so we can stay in business and continue to be customers. A big clothing brand recently told me that they can’t give a discount because they have to cover their costs. It seems to me they’ve covered their costs and added a profit in the price they charge us. While this might make sense under normal circumstances, it’s less viable in a pandemic. I’m suggesting they share their potential profit to help their retail customers stay in business for future seasons.

Let me emphasize that there are many vendors who are partnering by offering discounts, but others (mostly big vendors) are clearly less concerned about independent store survival.

David Rubenstein is an independent retailer in New Orleans; he can be reached at drubenstein@msn.com.


  1. I believe that the bigger vendors who have already opened or will open their own stores, will be less cooperative with specialty stores/independents. They will continue to develop their own brands under their terms. Their tenure with department stores is also coming to an end as these companies begin to declare bankruptcy and/or reduce footprints.
    Specialty stores need to develop and promote private labels, more exclusive brands/items, and more unique services and ways of providing great value for the clients

    1. I think that Retailers should review with the vendor what works for both parties. Offer a menu of ideas and see what works for both. That is how partners work together.

  2. Specialty retailers need to step out of their comfort zones and find new vendor partners. I manage a brand that is giving back 10% of its profits to its retailers, giving great margins, and guaranteed deliveries throughout the 2020 season and beyond. The response has been Im overbooked with my current brands (that will not be able to deliver new goods). This is where the big disconnect is. If a new brand is offering a basic, focused assortment then the shops should give them a try. My suggestion is toss out the old playbook and give new vendors that are giving back a shot. Its a win/win on all fronts..

  3. I agree with you Tom. I just see the days of guaranteed margins, Markdown money, chargebacks, RTV abuse, etc disappearing. Both parties need to be responsible for their respective businesses without being so adversarial.

  4. David has a good point. Some time ago I attended a round table discussion where David stunned everyone by saying he considered “profit” an expense before the bottom line. He’s actually right. If you do this with a sense of looking north of the final results on your spread sheets, you can expand that expense known as “profit”. That applies to retailers and manufactures. Dating and discounts are different for sure; spot on David. The help for extra profit for the retailer with a short selling season this time will come back in spades on the spring season orders; which is coming up soon.
    Now is the time for transparency in our relationships as we are all going to be dealing with an unknown ramp up.
    We have to share what’s going on if “we are all in this this together”.

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