After firing, customers turn on Men's Wearhouse

Fans vent about the way founder George Zimmer was treated, and marketing experts worry that the company is throwing away business by discarding its spokesman.

By Jason Notte Jun 20, 2013 3:40PM
People walk past a Men's Wearhouse store on November 2, 2011 in Oakland, Calif. (© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)Kicking founder and spokesman George Zimmer out of the company is getting Men's Wearhouse (MW) an earful from customers now, but it's their potential silence down the road that should worry the clothing chain.

A tone-deaf post on the company's Facebook (FB) page on Tuesday that featured a shot of a Calvin Klein Taupe Plaid sportcoat and no mention of the dismissal of the man who led the company since founding it in 1973 drew hundreds of comments blasting the retailer.


"Just fired the only thing your brand had going for it. Never using again," Facebook user Scott McDonald posted. "Think about it," Brad Gates of Salt Lake City wrote. "How loyal are they going to be to their customers if they can so nonchalantly stab the very founder of their company in the back?"


Repeatedly, customers vowed never to shop at the specialty retailer again after the company outright dismissed the man whose soothing timbre once told them, "You're going to like the way you look, I guarantee it." The company still hasn't said why Zimmer was fired, but it continues to use his image and his trademark quote -- in enormous sans serif type, no less -- on its website.


Zimmer is reportedly furious. "Instead of fostering the kind of dialogue in the boardroom that has in part contributed to our success, the board has inappropriately chosen to silence my concerns through termination as an executive officer," CNBC quotes Zimmer as saying.


Bloomberg notes that Zimmer and Douglas Ewert, his handpicked chief executive officer, have been at odds over the potential sale of the company's K&G apparel chain and a recent $30 million stock buyback. By throwing Zimmer out, however, marketing experts say Men's Wearhouse is throwing out entire demographics.


"There is a case to be made that an icon never lasts forever and he was definitely getting long in the tooth," Laura Ries, the president of marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries, told Bloomberg. "But this is abrupt. . . . Just because you change the messaging doesn't mean kids will think you're cool."


The millennials Men's Wearhouse appears to be fishing for, however, aren't the buyers who boosted sales 5% last quarter. The chain's loyal, greying customer base that Zimmer played such an active role in recruiting is becoming more of a worry than a commodity as the company's growth potential drove its share price up 19% last year -- ahead of the S&P 500's ($INX) 14% gain over the same period. With stakes that high, Men's Wearhouse is gambling that a slightly higher voice and some darker whiskers will bring in the young, flush shoppers its covets.


"The question is if the future of Men's Wearhouse is tied to the millennial shopper," Richard Jaffe, an analyst at Stifel Financial, told Bloomberg. "Does George resonate with the children of the baby boom as he did with my dad? The answer is we don’t know."


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323Comments
Jun 20, 2013 4:38PM
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Terrible how you treated George. Not getting my business anymore, I guarantee it!

Jun 20, 2013 4:27PM
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The way this was handled was poorly done...show a little respect for the guy who founded a multimillion dollar company.  This is like throwing a parent away when you no longer have a use for them...i mean really!!!!
Jun 20, 2013 4:32PM
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I think it is shameful that you can employ your imagination, vision and creativity to start a company from nothing, work long hours to nurture and grow it, lead it to national prominence and profitability only to be unceremoniously cast out into the cold by a group of people who think they are smarter than you. 

 

If there is a lesson to be learned, it is to not ever give up control of your company to anyone or any group.

 

I wish Mr. Zimmer nothing but the best in his future endeavors and I hope to see the names of the people who ousted him in the Public Records of the Bankruptcy Court.

Jun 20, 2013 4:50PM
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I was going to purchase my self 7 suits and accessories one for each day of the week but not now I will shop another Gentlemen's Clothing store. Way to go Guy's!  I am of the Graying male generation now in my late 50's
" NO SALES FOR YOU! "
Jun 20, 2013 4:41PM
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Little respect showed for a man who earned it.

They lost my business.

Jun 20, 2013 4:35PM
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They are trying to cater to millennials? IF they get out of their parents basement long enough to go on a job interview they are more likely to be wearing  flip-flops and shorts, not a suit.
Jun 20, 2013 4:49PM
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Count me out as a future customer.  I guarantee it. 

Jun 20, 2013 4:33PM
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Will not shop there anymore. They are on my don’t buy from list and will tell others do not shop there and why. Not nice.

Jun 20, 2013 4:59PM
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I have been a loyal customer for over 30 years and have bought at least 50 business suits there plus rented a Tux or two over that same period.  When my son needed to rent a Tux I sent him to Men's Warehouse.  When he needed to purchase suits, pants and sport coats he knew right where to go.

Well, NO MORE.  We both liked George Zimmer with his "I guarantee it" slogan.  Yes there where times when things didn't fit just right but, THEY WERE FIXED RIGHT AWAY AS WE WAITED.

Without George (you felt like your father was helping you pick out your clothes and they really wanted you to look your best at all times) I will be going to Joseph Bank from now on.

BRING BACK GEORGE ZIMMER and get rid of the current Board!!

Just saying....
Jun 20, 2013 4:58PM
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George Zimmer is a class act.  I mute TV commercials when they come on but I would listen to him.  What a mistake.  I'll never shop there again.
Jun 20, 2013 4:25PM
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I'm sure he won't be in an unemployment line anytime soon.  If I was worth as much as George Zimmer, I'd quickly start a new company and watch it boom.  Afterall, he knows the ropes like nobody else.

Jun 20, 2013 4:31PM
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They could have kept him on in his current position and still used a younger, fresher spokesperson.  I am 46 and his ads were the only reason I used to shop there.  I have to admit with a previous commenter, however that Joseph A. Banks has better quality and better prices!  In regards to men's warehouse I will never shop there again as I expect the business that I shop at to have the same integrity and loyalty that I expect of myself.
Jun 20, 2013 4:28PM
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Zimmer can do what Charles Schwab did.  Let them run the company into the ground, and then buy it back for a song and remake a fortune.  Happens all the time.
I have never been a fan of their stores.  Their look was not what you wanted in a Fortune 500 setting, but I hate seeing someone get screwed by their handpicked successor.  I have seen that too many times too.
Jun 20, 2013 4:55PM
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Bought a tux and several suits, sports coats, slacks and shirts over the years.   Quality is always OK for the price.   Agree that Jos A Bank has better quality and price.   Agree with all that say this reflects poorly on how they view loyalty, whether that is a customer or the founder.

 

Loyalty these days ends past the register.   They will be BK in under 3 years...I guarantee it.

Jun 20, 2013 4:43PM
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Biggest, wrong move this company could ever do. They lost me and my friends and I can bet thousands upon thousands of young men too. How many men today can say  or remember when Dad or even Mom took them for their first suit or set of dress clothes.

With the Dad style of  voice that Zimmer put forth young men and older ones too felt very comfortable in hearing him say that never changing ad verbiage .

If this is the direction the boards of larger companies are heading then I can only warn "Jack" to be on the lookout so he doesn't lose his big head too.

Jun 20, 2013 4:48PM
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I'm pretty sure that millennials don't wear suits.  If they dress up it is a golf shirt with the collar up!

Nobody knows the shoping habits 20-somethings better than a room full of crusty old businessmen.

 

I suppose they will have A&F style ads with shirtless guys wearing only a sports jacket, laying on a rock next to the ocean.

Jun 20, 2013 4:47PM
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A company that would fire it's own founder in way the Mens Wearhouse did will NOT be getting my business. Highly questionable move ...sure shows how classless they are as a company. I 'd rather pay more with a "reputable " company then buy from MW
Jun 20, 2013 4:13PM
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It's never been a great company. The "face" is the only thing that gave it a brand.
Jun 20, 2013 4:19PM
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My beef isn't with George, who is likeable enough.  Joseph A. Bank has better overall bargains.
Jun 20, 2013 4:46PM
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I am sure he has terminated a lot of people over the years for various things. I will wait to see if the reason comes out. But him being fired or let go is not like most of us. They say his net worth is around $700-$800 million. I think he will be OK.
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