The Andrew Davis team: Andy Mallor, Richie Gillespie, Macey Dale, Jordan Roy
When I first met Andy Mallor, owner of upscale menswear store Andrew Davis and a well-respected senior partner specializing in family law at a Bloomington, Indiana law firm, I was amazed by the synergy of his two careers. (What better motivation to shop for new clothes than a guy going through a divorce hoping to meet women?) Mallor believes he’s been incredibly lucky to have combined his two passions. Here, we chat with him about current business and how to adjust to a pandemic.
Q: So, are you a lawyer with an interest in clothing or a retailer who loves the law?
A: That’s a tough question. I always wanted to be a lawyer so after graduating in 1971, I went to law school at Indiana University, as did my wife Jane. It wasn’t until our children were grown and she became tenured at IU that I could afford to open a store.
I’ve always loved retailing. I must have inherited the schmata gene and if I’d had the means to open a store in ‘71, I would have. I worked at Bamberger’s Newark while in high school and knew every SKU in the men’s department.
Q: Can you talk a little about your store?
A: The store started out at 1,200 square feet and we’ve expanded to 2,000. We carry upper-end collections and we have a great young staff. We’re in a college town and customers who discover us say they never expected to find our taste level in Bloomington, Indiana. We consider ourselves image consultants rather than sellers; we’re a resource for people to make their lives better.
We carry a curated mix of near-luxury goods: Hickey Freeman, Peter Millar, Baldassari, TMB PT01, Robert Jensen, Edward Armah, Magnanni, Luciano, Stenstroms, Samuelsohn, Stantt, Rhone, Faherty, M.Singer and many more. Tailored clothing is still a large part of our mix but it’s been down-trending these past few years. Unfortunately, there’s no demand for tailored clothing now and with the demise of suits go sportcoats, dress shirts, dress trousers, dress shoes, neckwear, accessories. We’re moving to strengthen our business in upscale casual sportswear but we’ll need to sell lots of it to replace our tailored volume.
Q: How long were you closed when the pandemic hit and what’s happened since?
A: We shut down the last two weeks of March through April and May. We managed to keep our staff and pay rent thanks to PPP and we kept some business going via appointments, gift cards, and style boxes. The top 20 percent of our customers were incredibly supportive but there’s only so many times you can go back to the well. Fortunately, we’d never been cash-poor: we had no debt for years and a line of credit that we never used. So, we didn’t ask our vendors for price breaks or dating, although several offered which was greatly appreciated. Clearly, both sides have to adjust game plans these days. We at first resisted taking a disaster loan but ultimately, there was no other way.
Q: What are you most worried about?
A: With so much of our business from out-of-towners, parents of college kids who come here from all over the country, my biggest fear is that we won’t see these clients before next year. We had a good month of June based on pent-up demand (we missed plan by only 4 percent) but July has been very slow. A year ago, our biggest concern was that a nearby parking garage was torn down; this year, there’s no problem finding parking spots… We’re on sale but no one cares: when there’s no demand, the price means nothing. (It’s like Viking offering $1,500 credit on a cruise…)
Q: Did you cancel a lot of fall goods?
A: We adjusted our orders in line with our planned inventory which of course was planned down. But we worked with each of our brands individually to see what they could deliver. There’s still some uncertainty in terms of the Italian mills but we’re not worried about getting enough product. With all the cancellations, we should be able to find what we need.
Q: So, you’re optimistic about business returning?
A: I think it will come back: for customers who aren’t traveling or taking vacations, cash is building up. With our great team, fresh product, and a new e-commerce site (just launched this week), we should be okay.
But our industry is in the midst of a giant shake-up: many long-time execs are losing their jobs and there’s no place for them to go. And with virtual trade shows replacing real trade shows, we’re becoming more dependent on fewer brands: those we already know and trust. We’ll certainly be narrowing our resource structure and it will be harder to bring in new.
Fortunately, we have a new system for better communicating with our clients and we’re increasingly involved with aggressive inventory planning and cash management via Blacks Retail.
Q: Some industry observers believe retailers should completely reinvent themselves: drop what they’ve been doing and create a whole new business model…
A: I don’t think we need to totally reinvent ourselves but we must be sensitive to the realities of the marketplace. We’ve been through crises before (‘01, ‘08) but the uncertainty of this pandemic makes now seem like 2008 on steroids. But for those who survive 2020 and 2021, I believe business will come roaring back.
Q: Is the legal business any healthier than men’s fashion? Has the pandemic meant more divorces as couples spend more time together?
A: The divorce rate is about the same, but estate planning has been very busy. People are suddenly aware of their own mortality which is a good thing if it causes us to make the most of the time we’re here.