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Got a number of emails reacting to last week's firing of George Zimmer, founder of Men's Wearhouse, who also served as its on-camera spokesman with the catch phrase, "You're gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it."

Last week, Zimmer was let go by the company that now owns Men's Wearhouse. There were, apparently, conflicts about how to run the company, with some saying that Zimmer, 64, was having a hard time letting go of the reins as younger managers were brought in.

There was even some suggestion - though not officially - that a man with gray hair and a beard was the wrong spokesman for a company trying to appeal to men 20 and 20 years younger. One store even implied that Zimmer was no longer relevant ... which may be the worst thing you can say about an executive. Though there was a social media uproar indicating that Zimmer may be more relevant than the company believed.

MNB user Kathleen Whelan wrote:

He was the guy  in charge telling us about the lengths to which Men’s Wearhouse would go to make sure that the customer got to the event looking fabulous.  It made it personal, and differentiated Men’s Wearhouse from other formalwear  rental companies.  If that’s not relevant, that’s really too bad ... I believe there’s still something in human beings that wants – or at least appreciates - a personal connection to a brand.

MNB user Monte Stowell wrote:

There are darn few Icons in this business world and George Zimmer is an Icon. The young guns who wanted Mr. Zimmer ousted were probably never taught anything about loyalty and respect in their MBA courses they took in their high priced colleges and universities. Instead of ousting Mr. Zimmer, they should know that he is the face of men’s Warehouse and the single driving force that made it what it is today. My bet would be that none of these young guns could ever build their own new business from the ground up and be as successful as George Zimmer has done with Men’s Warehouse, as they do not have the knowhow or the maturity to understand the human interaction that it takes to build a culture to be successful.

Mr. Zimmer did something right, as his principles of integrity, respect, entrepreneurship, and being focused on the customer were the hallmarks that he knew would help him to grow his business into a major retailer that has name recognition for both himself and his company.


From MNB reader Todd Loesch:
 
It’ll be interesting to see how the Men’s Wearhouse situation plays out. Microsoft was (and essentially still is) in the middle of a similar PR nightmare after they announced some of the features of their new Xbox. They refused to listen to their customers leading up to the announcement, and stubbornly tried to force features down their throats that customers specifically said they didn’t want. Then Microsoft dug itself into an even deeper hole by calling out and alienating a good chunk of their own customers. Many loyal Microsoft fans took to Facebook, Twitter, and numerous forums, and were extremely vocal about switching their allegiance to Sony (Microsoft’s main competitor in this space). As you say…shows what happens when you don’t listen to your customers, and it’s a great example of how powerful social media can be. The public firestorm was so bad that Microsoft recently did a complete 180 on the most-hated features, but I’m sure they’re still in full-on crisis mode.

Anyway, like you said, the George Zimmer story is far from over. But I’m interested to see how Men’s Wearhouse handles this situation. Will they simply ignore customers and hope the issue goes away? Will they actively alienate their own customer and make things worse? Or, can they learn from Microsoft’s PR blunder?


From MNB user Steven Ritchey:

For years, when the occasion came that I would need to buy a suit, which is admittedly rare, I would go to the Men’s Wearhouse.  They always  had the styles I looked for, attentive salespeople to advise me and tailors who understood how to fit a suit and alter it.  Now, after the founder has been ousted, I may not be going back there, and it is getting to be time for a new suit.  I’ve not gone on Twitter or Facebook to express my displeasure, but I still probably won’t be back as I don’t want to support the current management.  I wonder how many other people are like me, who just quietly won’t go back.  They won’t miss me per se, since I’m not there often enough to notice, but if enough like me don’t return, they’ll miss that.

And from another reader:

I found it humorous that the day after I wrote this blog post Mr. Zimmer was fired.  I share it with you in case you find it useful...

3 Minutes Changes Everything.

So I decided to spend some money today and buy a new suit. I have two suits and a blazer which are perfectly serviceable, but I bought the suits at least 13 years ago and the blazer is probably 8 years old. Amazingly they still fit, though not as well as they once did.

Anyway, I'm feeling good today so I decide I'm going to get a new suit, and that I'm going to get it at The Men's Wearhouse.  I like this company's commercials. I like how the president has a quiet confidence in his brand.

So I go. I walk into the store with dress shoes in hand - after all, if you're getting fitted for a suit of clothes, you need to have the footwear you usually use along for the fitting.

There are four people behind the front counter, and one in front of it. One employee is clearly helping the lone customer, and the other three employees are standing there. The female gives me a half-hearted greeting, as if she's embarrassed to say hello to a customer. The two free males ignore me.

I head over to the racks, shoes in hand and plainly evident. It should be perfectly obvious not only that I'm shopping for a suit, but that I know what I'm about - I have my shoes!

I select a couple of sport coats first before realizing that the suits are on the other side of the store. Meanwhile, the female has gone behind the back counter, and one of the males is fiddling with the ties on display near her and the other is watching him. The customer and his employee are still together at the front counter.

So I head back across the store and start looking at the suits. I'm not really sure what size I am, so I start holding them up to myself and looking in the mirror. I'm not really sure what I want, either, but I'm willing to listen. I mean, yeah, it has to be black, but other than that, I'm pretty open.

Now, all this can't take more than 3-5 minutes, and probably closer to three than five. But during this time NOT ONE of the three free employees approached me. I mean, I can't make it more obvious that I'm wanting to buy a suit - other than approach the employee myself and announce it.

Which, to be fair, I could have done. If I were really serious about needing a suit, maybe I would have.

But the fact is, I don't need a new suit. I just decided to buy one. They're in business to sell people like me suits. Should be pretty simple. I presume they work on commission, so if one of them had said those five magic words ("Hi, can I help you?"), I would have bought a new suit today and they'd have made some money.

They didn't. After a few minutes, I left. I thought about going to one of the area department stores, but I decided against it. After all, I don't need a new suit. I was sad enough at the state of customer service already, and the local department stores weren't likely to improve my outlook.

You know the really sad bit? How much money did The Men's Wearhouse spend on those commercials over the past decade to get me into that store for those three minutes?


All excellent points. Thanks for sharing.

And, by the way, it reinforces a point often made here on MNB - that the people on the front lines are the most important people in any retail organization. Doesn't matter how great the marketing is, how extensive the selection is, or how great the products are. If the people on the front lines don't deliver, all the other investments are for naught.
KC's View: