Just two months after S&K Menswear filed for bankruptcy, and a month and a half after it announced it would close an additional 30 stores, CEO Joe Oliver was fired today in a surprise move. I’m sure Joe was surprised, since he issued a press release just ten days ago announcing that the company had paid off its secured debt of $24 million, had sold its headquarters building to help pay off that debt and that customers seemed to like the new casual lines of clothing it was now offering. But I guess all of that wasn’t enough.
Joe is a nice guy and I’m sure he will go on to bigger and better things. In the spirit of my prediction that Circuit City would crash and burn, similarly I think S&K Menswear is done and here’s why. Today, I went shopping for pants!
I know what you’re thinking: It’s easy to predict a company will go under AFTER they declare bankruptcy. Maybe so, but this time my prediction is based on dogged footwork and solid deduction. Or is it solid footwork and dogged deduction? Anyway, here’s what happened.
I wanted to buy a couple pairs of pants for work and always looking for a deal, I hit three stores on Richmond’s West End that I thought might have the right stuff. First up, Mens Wearhouse. A salesman greeted me immediately and after looking at a few pairs of pants, I decided to keep looking because I thought $99 each might be high. Next, I went to the S&K Menswear down the street.
At S&K Menswear there is a big sign in the window advertising 50% off everything in the store. I thought two things: one, I should be able to get a great deal here, and two, since this store is just a few feet away from the company’s corporate headquarters and basically serves as its showroom, it should have a great selection. But I was wrong.
When I walked in I was greeted by a very friendly young man who offered assistance, so far so good. But once I started to look around, I was struck by how barren the store looked, especially when compared to the Mens Wearhouse I had just visited and in hindsight, to the Joseph A. Bank store I would visit next and where I would ultimately buy my pants. There was a lot of open floorspace, but not much in the way of selection for the items I was looking for.
I had made my way around the store and was heading back toward the entrance when I saw a rack of good-looking khaki pants that caught my eye. Now I was getting somewhere! But upon closer inspection, I noticed every pair of khaki’s were size 32 waist (something to work towards). A salesman nearby must have noticed my surprise and said, “I know, all the khaki’s are size 32.”
And that was it, I walked out, probably never to return again.
My prediction is that S&K Menswear is done. After 40 years in business, it will be very sad to see them go.
UPDATE: The day after Joe Oliver was shown the door, former chairman and founder’s offspring Stuart Siegel took on an executive role at the company, while one of the company’s turnaround specialists, Jonathan Tibus took the title of Chief Restructuring Officer. Speculation is that Siegel has taken on a larger role in order to position himself to purchase the company. It’s been reported the company can be yours for a cool $3 million.
When I met Joe Oliver, I was under the impression that he was a turnaround guy. I don’t know what another turnaround guy is going to be able to do, but I wish him the best.
2 responses to “S&K Menswear Against the Ropes”
Unsolicited advice from a long time marketer.
Should S&K really be trying to sell or save themselves I hope they read this blog and fix some fundamental things.
Stuart or Jonathan, this is for you.
You have an important brand during these trying times known for value clothing. Consider a 360 degree approach to your customer. Make sure EVERYTHING you do is in line with what your brand stands for. this means from the way you answer the phones, the way your greeter is dressed and how the image of your store is viewed by the consumer.
Retrial is nearly impossible. Give a customer a bad experience and think they are going to return when there are so many similar choices within a mile of your store—not likely.
Perhaps Stuart and Jonathan should take a walk-about their own stores and see for themselves what they are offering the public and ask themselves, how can I better meet the needs of my customer? Having a wall full of nice pants in one size does more harm then good. You might as well take them off the shelves and put them on ebay where there may be people searching for an item in just that size.
I for one will be interested in seeing if these guys are serious about turning this 40 year old brand around. Right now is the time to revitalize a brand in this position, I hope they have the wisdom and enough commitment to see it through.
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