SHOPPIN’ IN MEMPHIS: A QUICK LOOK AT THE MENSWEAR BUSINESS IN THE CITY OF BLUES

James Davis
by Karen Alberg Grossman

It’s unusual for any one U.S. city to sustain more than one or two exceptional independent menswear stores but Memphis has at least three, each with its own distinct niche. Here, a quick look at current menswear business in this fabulous city of blues and barbecue.

Oak Hall

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Now in its sixth generation of family ownership (what are the odds of that?), Oak Hall has expanded its flagship, has recently opened a new store in Nashville now 2,000 square-feet, it will expand to 10,000 square-feet in 2017) and operates a sizable Vineyard Vines store in the same center as its flagship. The flagship is modern and bright with a warm and welcoming energy, thanks in part to Jake, the lovable Dalmatian who greets customers as they enter the store (and of course has his own business card!).

According to Oak Hall star seller Tim Pait, tailored clothing continues strong: key brands include Zegna, Isaia, Samuelsohn, Canali and Luciano Barbera. Luxury drives suit sales (almost 30 percent is MTM) but sportswear is growing at many levels, with strong business in Barbour, Peter Millar, Ballin, Billy Reid, AG and more. Both denim and five-pockets are trending, as are quilted vests. The Oak Hall women’s department is exceptional, with a young sophisticated vibe and strong business in contemporary brands.

In addition to beautiful clothing, Oak Hall boasts a fascinating heritage that dates back to the Civil War era, lots of memorabilia is showcased in the store: history buffs should ask for Bob Levy: he knows it all!

James Davis

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After a major remodeling four years ago, James Davis’ 11,000 square-foot store is now totally focused on menswear. The mix is moderate to luxury; Van Weinberg, Rob Joyner and team have done an impressive job catering to the lifestyle and taste level of a broad customer base, including millennials.

Observes MTM expert Zebelum Rushing, who’s been in the men’s clothing business for 30 years, the past eight at James Davis, “Younger guys are opting for slimmer fits, but we do a strong custom business for a broad age range and in a broad price range: Trans and Coppley to Hickey Freeman and Oxxford. The beauty of MTM is that it allows retailers to build close relationships with customers. Once a guy comes to appreciate perfect fit and fine fabric, he’s not going back.”

Off the rack suits at James Davis range from $595 (Betenly, Bluejacket) to $1995 (Hickey Freeman) with strong business also in Hugo Boss and Peter Millar. Sportswear (especially performance) continues to grow, most notably in Peter Millar. Highly anticipated annual events at James Davis include their annual Christmas party, Father’s Day cookout and various cocktail parties in collaboration with local businesses.

Lansky Bros.

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There was only one Elvis Presley, and only one Bernard Lansky, may they rest in peace. But the legacy of both is now in the more-than-competent hands of Hal Lansky (Generation 2) and Julie Lansky (Gen 3, carrying Gen 4) in five fabulous stores in Memphis’ Peabody Hotel and the new Lansky Bros. Clothier to the King store at 126 Beale Street, the original Lansky location where Bernard sold Elvis his first suit.

Lansky’s business benefits tremendously from four factors: a constant flow of new customers at the Peabody, the eternal popularity of Elvis, a broad mix of product (much of it at impulse pricepoints) and a recent focus on private label (Lanskys, Clothier to the King, TCB Taking Care of Business). It is because so much of the mix is exclusive to Lansky’s (e.g. Elvis’ Wedding Jacket, the Walking in Memphis patterned shirt), that they’ve been able to build a successful business online.

(Editor’s note: If you’re heading to Memphis, be sure to eat at Porcellino and Craft Butcher—you will thank me.)