by Karen Alberg Grossman


How many independent retailers would invest in a new freestanding location in this highly challenging era? Nick Usie from Partners’ Ltd. in Lafayette, Louisiana (200,000 population, but this destination store also attracts shoppers from neighboring cities) explains the move and shares his passion for the business.

Partners’ dates back to 1977: it was founded by Nick’s dad, Donald Usie (still active in the business), and two partners (hence the name); Donald ultimately bought out his partners and moved into a new 6,500-square-foot freestanding location about a year ago. The repercussions were immediate: Nick says business has been exceptional this past year (albeit somewhat less so in the fourth quarter after oil prices tanked), and nicely ahead of 2014. More importantly, says Nick, “we saw many new young faces in the store” and new young customers are the future.

Clothing and furnishings still generate half the men’s business at Partners’; successful brands include Luigi Bianchi, Circle of Gentleman, Samuelsohn, Jack Victor, Hugo Boss, Boglioli, and Corneliani. “Luigi Bianchi is, in my opinion, one of the best values out there. Pretty much every category (suits, soft coats, trousers) looks exceptional; another plus is that they offer multiple fits.” Usie also singles out Circle of Gentleman for their unique looks. “These are not the same plaids you see everywhere in the market. The collection appeals to our customers because the product truly stands out.”

Sportswear is also growing nicely at Partners’, with Meyer trousers and 34 Heritage jeans showing strong gains. Says Usie, “34 Heritage is one of the few better denim brands still offering a clean easy fit. They feature the same cool colors and washes in their classic fit as they do in their slimmer fits so those guys who aren’t sold on slim can still have a broad selection.”

Asked what he’s looking for as he shops for fall ’16, Usie says he’s seeking out special “impulse items” like Dion socks (merchandised on a fixture strategically placed next to the cash register) and Saxx luxury underwear (selling more than 1500 pairs a year). “Women shopping for themselves will readily pick up an item or two for their men,” he observes.

And speaking of women shoppers, Nick’s mom Mavis buys all the ladies’ wear at Partners’: Trina Turk, Nanette Lepore, and other upscale women’s brands generate about 40 percent of total store volume.