Mitchells, Marios of Portland Form Joint Venture

Two of the most respected names in luxury specialty store retailing in the U.S. are joining forces. The Mitchell Family of Stores has created a venture with Marios of the Pacific Northwest — a partnership that will bring the Mitchells’ systems and e-commerce expertise to Mario Bisio’s stores in Portland, Ore., and Seattle while giving Mitchells a further foothold on the West Coast.

“This is different than any other deal we’ve done,” said Bob Mitchell, co-chief executive officer of Mitchells. “Mario and his executive team will continue to run the company.”

He declined to be more specific about the financial details of the deal, but said this is “not a short-term situation” and the Mitchells are prepared to “invest heavily to continue to grow” the combined company.

“This is not an exit strategy for me,” Bisio stressed. “In fact, it’s a long-term commitment to me, and combined, we’ll have more capital and power in the market. It allows our long-range plans to come to fruition on a faster timeline and protects our brand.”

The Westport, Conn.-based Mitchell family, whose specialty store business has estimated sales of around $140 million, has slowly been expanding its reach. The business was founded by Ed and Norma Mitchell in 1958 and it is now run by their sons and grandchildren. The retailer’s first acquisition came in 1995 when it bought Richards in nearby Greenwich, Conn. Ten years later, it bought Marshs in Huntington, N.Y. In 2009, the Mitchells made their first foray onto the West Coast when they inked an 11th-hour deal to acquire the assets of San Francisco-based Wilkes Bashford out of bankruptcy for $4.6 million in cash.

Since these acquisitions, Mitchells has continued to increase its volume and buying power within the upscale market. The company has also added women’s wear to those stores.

Marios’ story is very similar.

The business was founded in 1960 by Mario Bisio Sr., who opened a family clothing store in Portland. Mario Jr. started working at the store during high school and became a full business partner in 1973. He expanded to Seattle in 1982 and added women’s wear in 1994. In 2006, Marios 3.10 opened in Portland, catering to a more casual lifestyle. Industry sources estimate the volume at around $30 million.

The Mitchells and Bisios have been friends for decades. The two are part of the Forum Group, a group of non-competing specialty stores who exchange details about their businesses.

“This is about making Marios better,” Bisio said. “By working with long-term friends that I trust completely, I can share my dreams and concepts to push my retail concept to new levels.”

“It’s an opportunity to leverage each other’s strengths,” Mitchell added. “We’re growing, but we want to continue to grow as fast and prudently as possible.”

Allan Ellinger, senior managing partner of MMG Advisors, who worked with Bisio on creating the venture, said the deal “marries the two best fashion retailers in America. Culturally, they’re very similar and the way they think is in perfect alignment.”

He said the partnership gives Bisio “a real strategic opportunity to take advantage of the systems and financial strength of the Mitchells. And for the Mitchells, it’s a long-term opportunity to partner with one of the great retailers in the Pacific Northwest with a great following.”

Mitchell said his company will offer expertise in “e-commerce, systems and clientele” to Marios stores. And while Bisio would have eventually invested in these things himself, as a sole operator, it would have taken much longer.

The name on the stores will remain the same and the executive team will also remain intact. That includes Lynwood Holmberg, fashion director; Simon Chan, senior men’s buyer, and Patsy Carlson, chief operating officer, the retailers said.

Chris Mitchell, Bob’s cousin, who oversees Marshs, will spend one week a month at Marios as integration officer, “blending both worlds,” Bob Mitchell said.

Bisio said he has “long envied” the Mitchells systems and is eager to have it implemented at his stores as well. “And it gives us an immediate e-commerce solution. With e-commerce, scale is a very important piece.”

He said that by integrating into the Mitchells systems, the Marios customers will now have access to five times the inventory that is available. While there are differences, both businesses carry similar brands, including Brunello Cucinelli, Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss and Canali. Women’s wear represents 52 percent of the mix at Marios and 55 percent at Mitchells Family of Stores.

“The pillars of the business are very similar,” Bisio said. “And the crossover and synergies are overwhelming.”

Specifically, Mitchell said he sees further opportunity to expand Marios’ women’s jewelry business and its made-to-measure men’s business. “We will invest in those to increase the growth rate,” he said.

The partnership also gives Bisio the peace of mind that his business will be in good hands when and if he chooses to retire down the road. He has a daughter in the business who works for Brunello Cucinelli who he hopes will eventually join the business, but she’s not ready to join the fold now.

Does this deal mean the Mitchells are open to taking on bringing other luxury specialty stores into their fold? “We’ve never been ones to rush and we’re going to renovate our two Connecticut stores next year,” Mitchell said, so that project and the integration of Marios are currently enough.

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Mitchell Stores Announces Strategic Partnership with Mario’s of Seattle and Portland

Westport, CTThe Mitchell family, owners of Mitchell Stores, based in Westport, CT has announced a strategic partnership with Mario’s luxury retail stores in Seattle, WA and Portland OR.

 

“Mario’s is a jewel in the Pacific Northwest and we are very excited to work with Mario and his team to continue to offer world class stores that are perfectly tailored to Seattle and Portland” said Russ Mitchell Co-CEO.

 

“This joint venture will open up an expanded universe of world-class product, inventory, technology and services to our customers,” Mario stated.  “I am thrilled to partner with my longtime friends the Mitchells to launch an exciting new era for our stores and customers.”

 

The Mitchells have expanded through a commitment to developing the finest locally focused luxury clothing stores.  Mitchell Stores includes a portfolio of five other luxury retail stores on both the East (Mitchells and Richards) and West coasts (Wilkes Bashford). The partnership will give Mario’s access to five times their current product selection through Mitchells fully integrated in-store and online inventory. As systems are merged later in the year, Mario’s customers will enjoy a new expanded e-commerce world, including not only e-shopping, but also an enhanced electronic relationship with their current Style Experts including an integrated virtual closet and reserve in store capabilities.

 

“The only thing we love more than fashion is the customers we are privileged to serve. Nothing will change regarding the extraordinary service for which we are known,” said Mario.  “Our highly-regarded Style Experts will still be the heart and soul of our stores and our buying and management team will continue to keep Mario’s a locally targeted store. The only changes our customers will see are the ways in which we are able to serve them even better.”

 

“We look forward to working closely with Mario and getting to know his customers, designers, staff and friends in the Seattle and Oregon areas. Everything about how Mario runs his business, from the exquisite product selection to the impeccable service is completely in synch with our culture.” said Bob Mitchell Co-CEO. “We have no doubt this partnership will be seamless and synergistic, benefitting all parties, especially Mario’s customers.”

 

The fashion communities who have known both of us for decades are also thrilled with the new partnership.

 

“I have learnt with great pleasure the news about the new partnership between your esteemed families: Mitchell and Bisio. We have always shared the same view on life and business; you are successful entrepreneurs and really respectable people. I would like to congratulate you from the deep of my heart” - Brunello Cucinelli, CEO Brunello Cucinelli

"With Mario's fashion sense and the Mitchells' customer-focused retail expertise, I expect the combined strengths of these two iconic and family-owned specialty stores will create a potent force in luxury retailing.  The Mitchell family and Mario Bisio are both longtime Zegna customers and trusted partners.  I wish Bob and Mario the best of success – Ermenegildo Zegna, CEO Zegna Group

Mario’s and Mitchells have been working together since 2000 as members of the Forum Group, a collection of independent stores located in the US.   “For fifteen years we have traded ideas and dreams, now we get to jointly execute them.”  Mario stated.

 

Allan Ellinger, Senior Managing Partner of MMG Advisors represented Mario.

 

ABOUT MARIO’S

Mario Bisio Sr. opened the first Mario’s store in Portland’s Lloyd Center in 1960. In 1973, Mario Jr. became a full business partner with his father. A year after Mario Sr.’s passing in 1975, Mario transformed the store. He made his first buying trip to Europe becoming the first retailer to bring Canali to the US. Mario’s was also the first to offer Ermenegildo Zegna and pioneered Diesel Jeans to the Pacific Northwest.

 

Over the decades, Mario grew his legendary Seattle and Portland stores to include women’s apparel, jewelry and the only Brunello Cucinelli shops in the region. In 2006, Mario’s 3.10 opened in Tigard, catering to customers who favor a stylish, casual lifestyle. MR Magazine awarded Mario Bisio the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. In 2014, MR Magazine recognized Mario’s as One of The 10 Most Influential Stores in North America. Visit www.marios.com

 

ABOUT MITCHELL FAMILY OF STORES

Mitchells Family of Stores was founded in 1958 by Ed and Norma Mitchell in Westport, CT with their original store, “Ed Mitchells.”   A second generation, Bill Mitchell and Jack Mitchell, author of the retail classic “Hug Your Customer,” expanded the business and store, adding women’s and in 1995, a second store, Richards of Greenwich.

 

Today, Mitchells Family of Stores is run by third generation of Mitchells and includes three east coast stores: two Mitchells stores in Westport, CT and Huntington, NY and Richards in Greenwich, CT. In December of 2009, they acquired the Wilkes Bashford stores in San Francisco and Palo Alto. Wilkes Bashford, founded in 1966 by the retail icon of the same name, is one of the Bay Area’s most renowned luxury retailers.

 

In Fall 2014, Mitchells Family of Stores launched a long-awaited e-commerce site. Committed to delivering a unique retail experience, the site is a true extension of their stores, offering proprietary customer service features.  Visit www.mitchells.com

 

For Press Inquiries Please Contact:

Andrew Mitchell-Namdar

Mitchells Stores

VP Public Relations, Marketing and Creative Services

andrewm@mitchells.com

203-521-6235 (cell)

 

Mario Bisio

CEO Mario’s

mario@marios.com

(503) 780-4334 (cell)

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Going Down Memory Lane With Dr Thomas Rusche

Visit www.larryslist.com for this full article and more.

Dr Thomas Rusche, Berlin

Coming from a family of textile merchants, Dr Thomas Rusche is the heir of the SØR Rusche GmbH business and of a first class art collection of Old Master paintings alongside a developing collection of Contemporary Art. Established in the 19th century, the SØR Art Collection has been expanded over four generations comprising 3500 artworks with an emphasis on 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings. After the death of Dr Rusche ’s father, the late Egon Rusche, not only did he take on the management role of the company but also of the art collection as he started to add international contemporary artworks, enabling an interesting dialogue between the two genres.

Dr Rusche goes down memory lane with Larry’s List, recounting collecting anecdotes with his father and explaining the impact Old Masters have on today’s contemporary art.

 

Dr Thomas Rusche, courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Dr Thomas Rusche, courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.

The Collection

You have a long-standing family history involved in the arts. Could you share with us how you got involved in the world of visual arts and what made you want to start collecting art? I was born in a family who has been collecting art for generations and I must admit that I have never asked myself whether I had to start collecting. In this way, I feel like I was born a collector.

At what age do you believe you contracted the collecting disease? When I was three years old. I accompanied my father for the first time to an art fair in Delft.

Do you have any anecdotes you want to share regarding your experiences in collecting art (challenges, proud moments…)? When I was still in primary school, while I was buying old master prints with my own pocket money, my father, next to me, was buying Old Master paintings.

What was your first artwork?  The first artwork I bought, after acquiring prints, was a watercolour with a naval coast theme by Andreas Achenbach.

How many pieces do you believe you possess today?  I haven’t actually counted them in a long time.

Where do you display your artworks? We live with the art and exhibit parts of the collection in a big range of museums in Germany, Europe and USA.

Have you ever sold any of your pieces?  We have sold a few minor Old Masters but we have never sold any of our contemporary art pieces.

Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Shown artworks are by Alicja Kwade, Jonathan Meese, Carina Linge and Marlene Dumas, courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Shown artworks are by Alicja Kwade, Marlene Dumas, courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Shown artworks are by David Lynch, Miriam Vlaming, Benjamin Bergmann, Andreas Blank, Andreas Golder, Slava Seidel, Oda Jaune, courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.

Have you ever presented your art collection publicly? We often show parts of our collection in public exhibitions.

What is art collecting to you, and do you think art collectors have become a necessity in the conservation and development of culture? What are your thoughts on the role of the art collector in today’s society?  Collecting art helps the individual to concentrate on what is important in life. Art collectors are preserving treasures of the past and of today for tomorrow.

Did your father happen to teach you the tricks of the trade from accompanying him to art fairs and auctions? My father accompanied me to my first visits to art fairs and auctions until his much too early death in 1996 and explained me all the hidden secrets of the art market.

What was the best advice he gave you and which you still follow today?  Never sell a piece which is close to your heart. Never stop buying, if you do you are dying.

Do you follow his collecting strategy? In the world of Old Masters I do totally follow him focusing on the golden century of Netherlandish baroque paintings. The collection of Contemporary Art is hopefully not disturbing my father too much in his grave.

My research tells me you have been hosting salons since 2008, allowing a group of art-related people into your private residence in Berlin to view your collection and discuss significant issues related to the works and the art world. There has been an upsurge of salons even today from London to Paris to New York. What was your aim behind hosting salons and do you think its upsurge is due to people’s passivity when looking at art? To understand life and art, human beings need to communicate with each other by exchanging ideas and arguments. This must not be within the format of a salon but a good glass of wine can help to open one’s mind and heart.

Do you think Old Masters still appeal to the public or art collectors, since Modern and Contemporary art seem to take centre stage with their stratospheric prices reached at auctions causing a higher presence in the press? I do believe in the combination of both. A dialogue between Old Masters and Contemporary Art can give us a better understanding of questions we cannot answer. Solving tomorrow’s problems and challenges cannot happen without a deeper knowledge of our heritage and tradition. We often forget about the fact that we all are standing on the shoulders of giants.

 

Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Shown artworks are by Andreas Blank, Andreas Golder, courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.
Shown artworks are by Rosa Loy, Arno Rink, Nicola Samori, Martin Eder & Dutch Paintings from the Seventeenth Century, courtesy of Dr Thomas Rusche.

SØR Rusche Collection

In what direction do you hope to develop the SØR Rusche Collection? Will you be focusing more on contemporary art? If so, which country more specifically? If not, why? I will hopefully concentrate on adding more masterpieces from Old Masters as well as international contemporary art.

What is the aim of the Collection?  To show the beauty and richness of Old Masters, and to lay down a path for new developing art in the 21st century.

Which artists does your Collection focus on in terms of the period, genre, and theme?  We do not concentrate on specific artists but on the whole variety of Netherlandish baroque paintings and contemporary art.

Which contemporary artists do you have in your collection?  I do not like this kind of name-dropping, as we do not collect names but artworks.

What is the focus of your collection in terms of the artists, the theme and genre? We do not focus on any genre or topic but rather collect the whole variety of historical and religious paintings, landscapes, still life, portraits and paintings of daily life themes.

There are more and more private museums developing. Is it necessary today to have a private museum, in order to get the best artworks, for example? We do not have or want to have a private museum. But we still believe that we have the chance to collect good artworks.

Newsadmin
Louis Copeland & Sons Dundrum Town Centre Takes Home Two Awards at the Drapers Independents Awards 2014

On Wednesday 17th September, at The Brewery in London, top Irish mens suit and designer clothing store Louis Copeland & Sons, won two top accolades at the 2014 Drapers Independents Awards 2014 under the categories of:

  • ‘Best store design 2014’ for the Louis Copland & Sons store in Dundrum Town Centre
  • ‘Menswear Independent retailer of the year 2014’ - UK and Ireland

These annual awards play host to the most innovative independent retailers operating in the fashion industry. Drapers are the trade publication for the global fashion industry and recognises innovation and talent across the fashion industry throughout the UK and Ireland. Louis Copeland and Sons received some outstanding comments from judges at this years awards:

Best Store Design:

“In another varied and high-quality field, the judges were unanimous in their praise of the winning store design. The innovation, hard work and even the brave decision to make a serious investment in improving the layout and the look during difficult economic times made this a clear favourite with our panel.”

Menswear Independent of the Year:

The judges were unanimous on this one, saying of this years victor “There was only really one winner here. They have met the retail challenges of today and are financially impressive. No one comes anywhere close to it.”

Having opened it’s doors on Capel Street in 1933, Louis Copland & Sons has grown to 6 stores (Capel Street, Wicklow Street, Pembroke Street, Dundrum Tow Centre, CHQ Dublin and Galway) as well as online www.louiscopeland.com. Opened in 2013, the Louis Copeland & Sons store in Dundrum Town Centre is the latest addition to the store portfolio. The store design was a collaboration between Dublin based Jennings Design Studio and interiors specialist Helen Turkington, coordinated in house by Louis Copeland Jnr.

Speaking on their 2 wins, Louis Copland senior said “Winning these awards is fantastic and is a culmination of all the hard work and dedication from our staff and the long term support from our customers.”

Speaking on Louis Copland & Sons win for Best Store Design for their Dundrum store, Dundrum Town Centre Manager Don Nugent said “We are delighted for the team and want to congratulate Louis Sr, Louis Jr and Paul Cullen on this tremendous win. The Louis Copeland store is a fantastic addition to the selection of premium stores housed at Dundrum Town Centre and we are delighted that this store in particular has been highlighted as an outstanding example of high end store design”.

Although synonymous with suits and tailoring, Louis Copeland & Sons also carries a very exciting collection of casual clothing from top brands including Ted Baker, Boss, Armani jeans, Paul & Shark, Gant and Barbour. For further information go to www.louiscopeland.com

For further information and interview requests please contact:

Louis Copeland Senior 087 2586091

For Further information on Dundrum Town Centre please contact:

Joanne Byrne – Presence PR – 01 6761062 – joannebyrne@presence.ie

Gemma Kenny – Presence PR – 01 6761062 – gemmakenny@presence.ie

WEB - www.louiscopeland.com

FACEBOOK - www.facebook.com/pages/LouisCopeland/109058019127280?sk=wall

TWITTER - @louis_copeland

 

WEB:               www.dundrum.ie

TWITTER:        www.twitter.com/dundrumtc

FACEBOOK:     www.facebook.com/dundrumtc

 

Santa Eulalia’s Luis Sans on Dressing Barcelonians for 171 Years

Luxury retailer Santa Eulalia has done business on Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia for 171 years. Luis Sans, the store’s fourth-generation owner, tells BoF about how the store has stood the test of time and retained lifelong customers.

BARCELONA, Spain — On Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia, home to the city’s most luxurious stores, Santa Eulalia still makes an impact. Today, the high-end store, founded in 1843, is situated once again in a location that it first occupied in 1944. The street-facing cladding is all that remains of the original building. But many of the lessons that the family-owned business has learnt over its 171-year history are as true today as they ever were. BoF sat down with Luis Sans, the fourth generation of his family to be involved in the business, to learn how Santa Eulalia has continued to thrive.

BoF: What differentiates Santa Eulalia from its competition?

LS: Our competition in Barcelona is mainly the stand-alone stores of the big luxury brands: Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermès, Prada. They have a designer, they have collections of really high quality, but they don’t believe in state-of-the-art specialists for trousers, shirts, ties, or even for underwear and socks. They don’t believe in dressing the man from the dinner jacket to the underwear, to fully cover all of his needs, as we do.

BoF: How would you describe your menswear product mix?

LS: We have the best international designers: Valentino, Maison Martin Margiela, Saint Laurent, Lanvin, Christian Louboutin, but we believe not only in high fashion, but also in classic, high quality garments from small manufacturers that do things very well: a very nice handkerchief made in France by a little shop that has been in business for more that 200 years, or someone that does a belt perfectly. We have a truly bespoke section of tailoring and shirt-making and we are the largest tailor shop in Spain. We stock the highest numbers of shoes and jackets. A lot of stores have made-to-measure through the brands, but not straight from a tailor in their own tailor shop.

BoF: How does the Santa Eulalia customer base break down?

LS: In one sense we have the establishment of Barcelona, where more or less everybody knows each other. Barcelona is not such large city, so we have all these very good customers from over the years. Then we also have the new customers who are interested in fashion and in discovering new designers. When new designers come to the market, until they have their own store on the Passeig de Gràcia — which takes a long time because they don’t have the capital to open stores all over the world — we are the first store that has them. So in the way, they come here to see the trends and to see new things. So we have this kind of duality, two worlds mixed in one. In one sense we have this classical, bespoke customer that looks for quality, for service, to have always the same sales assistant helping them. Then we have this other customer, looking for new designers, looking for new things, new experiences and they also shop with us. Seventy percent of our customer base is local, from all over Spain, and 30 percent are foreigners.

BoF: How does that unique combination and your hundred-year-old history factor into the service? 

LS: In my opinion, a store has to have three pillars. One of them is the clothing, the quality of what you offer, and what you sell. Another is the quality of service. We have been in business for 171 years. Not many retailers can say that they have been going for so long. We have some customers who have been customers of ours for decades – for their whole lives, in some cases. We have a family that is the fifth generation that we are dressing. They trust us, they trust our sales people and they trust our service. For us, customer service is key. We hate to have rotation; we have the same associates for a long period of time and they are very skilled, very well-informed, and willing to serve and make the customer happy. The third pillar is the quality of the store environment.

BoF: Tell me about Santa Eulalia’s store layout and atmosphere.

LS: The architect William Sofield from New York designed the store; he also did Bottega Veneta, Tom Ford, Harry Winston and many other stores. It is very important for the customer, the atmosphere you feel in a store, and when you enter. Our fitting rooms are very big, with three mirrors, with very good lighting, and they’re very comfortable. Luxury is about space; you cannot be a luxury store if you are small and everything is next to the other. We have a lot of different rooms – why? To give the customer more privacy, when they are talking to the sales person they are almost alone in that room, instead of everybody watching them. We paid a lot of attention to the feelings of our customers. They do not just go in, shop and get out. They want to spend some time here. There is a relationship there with the salesman and there is a special feeling of going to a place that is almost an extension of your own home.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Santa Eulalia is one of 30 leading menswear retailers recently recognised by The Business of Fashion and Pitti ImmagineTo explore the full list, visit BoF’s new Menswear Hub, where you will also find menswear news and analysis from BoF correspondents and around the web, as well as a live index of the most influential people shaping the global menswear market.

Pitti-Menswear-BoF-Tiles-1000x655-2

Harry Rosen chief getting ready for a retail rumble

Illustration of Larry Rosen, chief executive officer of retailer Harry Rosen. (ANTHONY JENKINS FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Illustration of Larry Rosen, chief executive officer of retailer Harry Rosen. (ANTHONY JENKINS FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

MARINA STRAUSS - RETAILING REPORTERTORONTO — The Globe and Mail

Published Last updated

Scanning the menu at his go-to restaurant, just around the corner from his flagship store on Toronto’s Mink Mile, Larry Rosen looks disappointed.

He’s searching for the one item he always orders: a diet-friendly roasted chicken breast – hold the whipped potatoes – Mr. Rosen’s secret weapon in the battle of the bulge. But upscale Pangaea Restaurant is, on this day, touting unfamiliar Winterlicious deals.

It turns out the eatery still offers the dish, and we both order it. He declines taking bread (“I try to avoid bread”) and wine (only on weekends.) “I’m very disciplined,” he says. “I’m down about 10 pounds from my peak. But I’ve got another 10 pounds to go. Is it working? It’s a lifelong battle.”

The boss of Canada’s top luxury men’s fashion purveyor will need more of that steely discipline as he gears up for an even bigger battle in the escalating retail wars. High-end U.S. department-store retailers Nordstrom Inc. and Saks Inc. are invading this country, starting this year, aiming to steal away Mr. Rosen’s well-heeled customers. Holt Renfrew & Co. Ltd., the reigning premium fashion player here, is expanding and upgrading its stores while putting a bigger emphasis on men’s wear, whose sales generally are growing faster than those of women’s clothing.

Holts is even launching its first standalone men’s-only shop on Tony Bloor Street West, just across from Mr. Rosen’s flagship store.

Today at lunch, Mr. Rosen shows his pragmatic nature in his food choices but also a more aggressive side as he sums up his latest business strategy in two words: “cocky and Canadian.” Changing times call for a change in mindset and he feels the urgency to raise his game.

He has budgeted an unprecedented $80-million in spending over five years to bolster Harry Rosen Inc.'s space by 40 per cent at many of its 16 stores and beef up e-commerce and customer service to keep shoppers away from Holts, Nordstrom and Saks.

He’s betting Harry Rosen can eventually become a $1-billion-a-year international powerhouse, from less than $300-million in annual sales today. But he likely will have to wait for the next generation of the chain’s leaders – perhaps his own sons – to fulfill his long-term ambition.

“This may sound a little cocky and Canadian, but we’ve been serving the leaders of this country – the up and comers, the managers, the owners, the professionals, the entrepreneurs – for 60 years,” he says. “I don’t imagine that one day they’re going to wake up and say, ‘My goodness, what’s missing from my life is an American department store experience.’ … We love competition. Bring it on, because we shine in that environment. Now that is definitely cocky and Canadian.”

Clad in a $6,000 Brioni charcoal microcheck suit, a $200 purple Tom Ford tie, and white boutonniere in his lapel, the 57-year-old looks the part of fashion executive on the offensive. He’s not shy about asserting himself if need be. He recently persuaded Pangaea to restore the roasted-chicken dish to its regular menu after it had dropped it.

Pangaea owner and chef Martin Kouprie recalls with a twinkle in his eye Mr. Rosen’s insistence on the eatery bringing back the  chicken by holding “a gun to my head,” the chef says with a laugh. “He’s a visionary. You don’t want to screw with his vision.”

Marty Grundy, managing director of key supplier Ermenegildo Zegna Canada, said Mr. Rosen can be tough in his business dealings, but has a “wicked” sense of humour. “Larry would like it to be a Harry Rosen-centric country. He understands it won’t be.” Yet he is also conciliatory if given a logical explanation in a disagreement.

Still, pushiness doesn’t always come naturally for Mr. Rosen. He left the showmanship to his father, Harry, 82, founder of the chain and a charismatic figure who is now retired. The chain still runs its iconic “Ask Harry” column, advising men, for instance, on whether their socks should match their shoes or pants. Larry personally replies to online questions. (“Generally the colour of the sock should complement the trouser.”)

“I live and breathe men’s wear,” he says. “If people ask me which way does a cummerbund fold, up or down, I can tell them up and I can even tell them why. This is what I do. You’re not going to find a question on men’s wear that you can stump me on.”

His father became something of a retail legend in 1987 when he posed for the cover of the Report on Business Magazine wearing nothing but a tie. Would the son ever do something like that? “Never,” Larry says.

“My father has always been an enormous risk taker … I’m probably more comfortable not being as much in the limelight as my father. I always joke: My father’s job was to build the business. My job is really not to screw it up.”

He had big shoes to fill. With a $500 down payment, Harry founded the business with his brother Lou in a Cabbagetown made-to-measure shop in 1954. As a boy, Larry hung out at the store, later working summers at the chain. But he never intended to go into the family business full-time. The oldest of four children – only one other worked at the company until she had a family – Larry took a year off after high school to backpack around Europe before getting an undergraduate degree in economics at the University of Toronto and then a joint law and MBA degree at University of Western Ontario in London, Ont.

He practised corporate law at a small firm but by the early eighties his father was rapidly expanding Harry Rosen across the country and suddenly gaining a higher profile. “I just felt this tremendous sense of pride and a feeling that I had to be part of it,” Larry says.

He worked in various management positions at the retailer for 15 years before becoming CEO. But he thinks his early years on the sales floor gave him important life skills. His father was a more natural salesman than he was, but he learned. “I’d advise every young person to learn how to sell,” he says. “It helps you in everything – putting forward your point of view. It teaches you how to convince people that they should appreciate something. Even as a parent, you’re constantly selling. Isn’t life about selling?”

For all his pragmatism, Mr. Rosen can still let it go. He’s a guitarist in a band along with his head of store design and manager of the Bloor Street location, jamming hard rock and blues tunes in a downtown studio. (“I wouldn’t play in public.”) Sometimes his 24-year-old middle son, Ian, joins them on drums. The band is called JP & the Tilfords, after Harry Rosen‘s private label JP Tilford line. And true to his methodical ways, Mr. Rosen takes guitar lessons every Sunday.(Interestingly, Mr. Rosen gave the go-ahead for Nordstrom to carry the Tilford line a few years ago; but when he realized the U.S. chain was coming to Canada, he asked it to drop the label, which it did.)

He keeps in shape by going to a trainer three times a week, usually by 7 a.m., and takes a spin class at a fitness club on Sundays. And while he packs his gym clothes for business trips – he travels as many as 100 days of the year – the scheduling and eating out can play havoc with his “perpetual” diet. “I’d be a pretty heavy guy if I wasn’t this disciplined.”

When it comes to his private time, he prefers to travel to more exotic destinations. Last year he went with his wife – a real estate lawyer whom he met at law school – to Peru, where they climbed to the top of Machu Picchu. He will soon take his wife with him to Turkey, where he has an industry conference, after which they’ll take time off to see the sights. Already, he is reading up on the history of the Ottoman Empire.

But it’s the looming retail battle ahead that occupies much of Mr. Rosen’s time. As he strategizes, old disagreements with his father take on renewed significance. Specifically, over Harry Rosen’s expansion in the 1980s and 1990s into women’s wear and the United States – both strategies that the retailer eventually abandoned. “He wanted to keep it going,” Mr. Rosen says. “I was a big proponent of getting rid of it.” He felt the U.S. operation distracted his top executives’ attention from the core Canadian business, and Harry Rosen was too masculine a brand to stock women’s fashion. Still, two years ago, in anticipation of increased competition, Mr. Rosen again considered branching out into women’s clothing through an acquisition. For now, he’s rejected the idea. He figures Harry Rosen has an edge in specializing in men while its key competitors focus more on women.

“I think there is a war – clouds of war are on the horizon,” he says. “And trust me, none of these competitors are going to be just throwing in the towel. They’re all going to fight for every dollar, and we have to make sure that we execute.”

CURRICULUM VITAE

Beginnings

Born in Toronto, 1956

Family

Married to Susan Jackson, who practised real estate law on Bay Street for 20 years and now focuses on charity work.

Has three sons: Daniel, 26; Ian, 24; and Graham, 22.

None of his three sons work in the business but “I’m hopeful that one day it may come to pass,” Mr. Rosen says. His two youngest work in large management consulting firms; Ian will be heading to one of the prestigious American universities this fall to do an MBA, he’s already been accepted at two. Daniel, the oldest, is doing a PhD in music at Western where he will start law school later this year.

Education

Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto.

Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Western Ontario.

Career

As a teenager, worked summers as a salesman at Harry Rosen stores.

Articled at McCarthys and then practised corporate law at small law firm in Toronto.

Joined Harry Rosen as a buyer in 1986, then worked in store operations at senior management level and became buying director.

In 1997, he was named president and chief operating officer and, in 2000, chairman and chief executive officer.

Other activities

Member of the Ivey Advisory Board, the Ivey Entrepreneurship Advisory Council and the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation Board.

Spearheads Harry’s Spring Run-Off, which has raised more than $3-million.

IN HIS OWN WORDS

On sponsoring a kids’ Harry Rosen hockey team, even though his three sons no longer play in the league: “I think it’s great when the grandparents and the parents all come out and see their little kids dressed in the splendour of Harry Rosen.”

On why he always orders the same chicken dish at upscale Pangaea Restaurant: “I know the calorie count, I know what we’re getting and I know that I’m full after.”

On fashion: “The fashion business is a wonderful business because it’s eternally young. It’s an industry that is dominated by younger people. It’s always reinventing. And I find it keeps me young.”

On joining the family business: “My father had two concerns: One is, I don’t think he wanted the appearance of nepotism. And he made it clear to me when I joined that I would have to prove myself. And the other thing is, I think he wanted us to not feel pressure to join a family business.”

On long-term future: “I’m a big believer that businesses have to grow if they want to engage their people … I confess that in three to five years we’re going to have to find something new. Whether that will be an international expansion or an expansion of our brand into new markets, such as women – I’m not going to speculate right now until we formalize it in our minds.”

On the retail war: “It’s great for me to say we can win this war. But it requires us going out and proving it 365 days a year. You just have to mess up once with a client and you can lose their loyalty.”

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The Oger Story

Oger develops and produces its own fashion collections in Italy. It also presents menswear from almost all of the top Italian brands in the Oger stores in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Antwerp. Exclusive women’s wear is available at Oger Donna in Amsterdam. This also incorporates the franchise store Corneliani. The Outlet store is located in Haarlem. Oger Corporate Fashion also works on the corporate identity of companies, providing clothing for leading companies such as Holland Casino, Yarden, ING and AFC Ajax.

The founder of Oger Holding is Oger Lusink who, in 1989, opened his first men’s fashion store on P.C. Hooftstraat in Amsterdam. His company has now grown to a concern which includes eight stores and a corporate division.

Oger is a genuine family company. Oger’s sons, Sander (Director Marketing & Communications) and Martijn (Creative & Buying Director), are co-owners and will take the tiller from their father in due course.

Mission

The impact of wearing the right clothes is huge. Oger is happy to bring this to the attention of its customers. Your appearance ought to be a reflection of the ‘inner’ you. With the right advice about purchasing a new wardrobe of clothes, Oger continues to champion this important value.

“But Oger primarily provides its customers with a ‘winning’ feeling.”

Oger cherishes the values that bind its employees together; passion (for the trade and the customers); performance (winning together); progressing with others (perseverance and creative daring) and openness. It is the culture that makes employees feel challenged to utilise their skills and further develop their talents. Customers, in turn, feel this in the personal attention provided by and the professionalism of the – approximately 90 – Personal Advisors. They are given this priority as customers form the central point of the company. Just like the Italian clothing maker who takes care of his clients and surrounds them with the mysticism of this fantastic profession.

“We are not clothing the body; we are in fact clothing the soul.”

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“Stories: Faraway/Close to Home” from Mitchells/Richards

We love a great story! To celebrate this passion, we showcase our magnificent Fall Collections with Ireland, a country known for its wonderful lore and legends, as our backdrop. Also featured are some of our favorite stories we’ve collected throughout the years… Click to download PDF Mitchells Fall Magazine

We love a great story. Over the years, we have delighted in collecting tales from family, friends, designers and customers, which never fail to enchant us with their humour, humanity and timelessness.

To celebrate stories, while showcasing our magnificent Fall Collections, we couldn't think of a more perfect backdrop than Ireland! The "Land of Eire" has one of the world's oldest oral traditions and some of earth's most stunning castles and scenery. We look forward to dressing you spectacularly this season and please..........send us your stories!

The Mitchell Family

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Antonis Carouzos dies, age 63

Antonis CarouzosAntonis Carouzos the patriarch and founder of our Greek member Carouzos has died at the age of 63. Antonis will be greatly missed by all IMG members and is survived by his wife Sofia, his sons Manolis and Vassilis and the entire Carouzos family. Their friends in the IMG send the family their condolences, love and support The funeral service and burial will take place in Athens, on Monday August 1st at 5 pm, in the Vouliagmeni City Cemetery and all Carouzos stores all over Greece will be closed for that day in respect and memory of Antonis

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Henry Bucks - Outfitter to PMs ready to serve Gillard

Carolyn Webb – The Age 2010 HENRY Bucks might be a menswear store but staff of the exclusive clothier say Julia Gillard’s gender need not end its run of providing suits for Australian prime ministers.

Managing director Tim Cecil, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Buck, says he would be happy to take Ms Gillard’s call, should she require a smart outfit for a meeting with the Obamas or Oprah.

He admits that when Ms Gillard was elevated to the top job in June, he thought it was curtains for the tradition that started in the early 1900s with Henry Buck and wife Laura’s shirt shop in Swanston Street patronised by top politicians when Federal Parliament sat in Melbourne.

Advertisement: Story continues below Mr Cecil says Sir Robert Menzies (PM 1939-41 and 1949-66) was a ”constant shopper” at Bucks, which now has four Melbourne stores and others in Adelaide and Sydney. Paul Keating bought Zegna suits from Bucks and Kevin Rudd bought ties.

The only PM’s custom Henry Bucks had missed in Mr Cecil’s memory was Gough Whitlam, whose height (194 centimetres) made him ”a made-to-measure man”.

”But then we dressed Malcolm Fraser all his life and we do now, and he was big, too.”

But with the rise of Julia Gillard, ”at first I thought, ‘we might miss out on this one. I suppose we can’t dress them all, we shouldn’t be too greedy’.”

After some thought, however, he now is confident he wouldn’t have to direct her to a women’s boutique.

”In the mid-1960s I was working for a shop in London, Turnbull and Asser in Jermyn Street, which used to clothe Katharine Hepburn, who loved to wear men’s clothes,” Mr Cecil says. ”I was her personal assistant every time she came in. She had shirts, trousers and jackets made for her. She liked quite mannish clothes – well tailored, well made, though not severe.

”She liked men’s fabrics – shirting fabrics, and Turnbull and Asser were famous as a shirt maker; like Bucks they had expanded from a shirt-making base.

”I could probably dress Julia Gillard similarly because from what I see of her she does wear rather similar clothes – jackets and shirts and trousers. Tailored clothing; it tends to suit her.”

Mr Cecil says although Henry Bucks is ”essentially a men’s outfitter” and doesn’t make dresses, its master tailor does on occasion make specially ordered tailored women’s suits and shirts.

”If Julia calls, we will summon all our energy and dress her beautifully. If she rang … I’d have my tape measure ready. I’d love to meet her. I think she’s a very impressive woman.” .

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Mitchells … Built and Growing on Hugs

Jack Mitchell and Robert Reiss at Richards Greenwich, CT. An Interview with Jack Mitchell, CEO, The Mitchell Family of Stores Jan. 3 2011 - 4:01 pm By ROBERT REISS

In 1958, 53 year old Ed Mitchell and his wife Norma, founded a high-end men’s clothing store in Westport Ct., that was build on a different approach to business — later dubbed, ‘Hugging Your Customer’. Today, Ed’s two sons Jack and Bill and their combined 7 sons lead the third generation family business. Mitchells is truly the clothier to the CEO, with well over 500 CEO and company president clients, as well as being a featured Harvard Business School case study. The company has recently grown through an acquisition model of leading high-end clothing stores with great brands experiencing challenging times and marrying them into the Mitchell philosophy … these include: Richards of Greenwich CT. in 1995, Marsh’s of Long Island NY in 2005 Wilkes Bashford of San Francisco and Palo Alto in 2009 and Thomas Miller of Long Island in 2010.

CEO Jack Mitchell codified the concept of Hugs in 2003, when he wrote ‘Hug your Customers’ a best-seller with over 200,000 copies in print. Jack and I recently sat down and talked about the business. Describe the Mitchell model for building customer loyalty?

Customer loyalty is about making the customer the center of the universe. We do that through family values from Mom and Dad, something we call ‘Hugging’. I define a ‘hug’ as any large or small deed that shows you genuinely care about someone as a real person. Everyone in our stores tries to understand every customer as a complete individual. Where they work and play; what they like and don’t like, their anniversary their favorite food, wine, restaurant, sports team and hobby … and if they have kids, their kids’ birthdays and sports or instrument. If someone loves wine send them the right bottle; of course not to a recovering alcoholic. Once we know someone genuinely, we connect with them genuinely by delivering what’s important to them. It could be a handwritten note – of course with a real ink pen – congratulating them on their son being part of a championship junior high football team. Or perhaps they’re going to an important wedding, so we’ll come over and personally tie their bow tie. Anything that makes them know we understand how special they are. As a business, we are completely data driven and the computer remembers everything … and that’s our how we build loyalty, through a hugging culture.

How do you build the hugging culture? Total 100% commitment to personalized customer service. When starting, it’s all about the hiring process. We want people who are honest …which includes being open, caring and transparent. Then they must be nice. They must be passionate to listen learn and grow. And finally, they must be competent and open to new ideas. Which comes first, the employee or the customer? It’s a tough question, as the two are weaved into one and are very synergistic. We’re all here to have fun and service our customers. We know our business is about personalizing customer service. And happy associates make happy customers … but of course I did write Hug your Customers before I wrote Hug your People.

What advice do you have on family business? If it is working well through a set of guidelines or rules; stick to it. For the Mitchell family the most important thing is viewing it 1st as a business and 2nd as a family business. So family members often are entitled to equity, but not to a job. That’s why all of our 7 sons had to work for 5 years outside the family business. This enabled them to develop a specific business skill. Once they have a business skill we try to match that skill to our business needs. We give annual reviews including a modified 360. When you put the right people in the right place on the bus, you get where you’re going faster, and everyone can enjoy the ride. How about merging with other companies

When we went into Wilkes Bashford, we knew they had a leading brand and that our role would be educating them about our hugging culture and letting them understand both strategically and tactically how we do things. So at Wilkes, as with all other acquisitions, we interviewed every person and learned about them as an individual both how they liked to conduct business and what their personal interests were. There is no cookie cutter … you want people to be themselves. We then shared with our new associates our philosophy of how to bring customers back, through Hugs. We discussed how we operate … by focusing on one person at a time and that when you have the personal relationship you build loyal customers for life.

Your culture is all about being customer centric. There must be other elements responsible for your significant success? Of course, as our Mission Statement points out, we are a family-owned high-end men’s and women’s specialty store committed to providing exceptional customer service and high quality merchandise in an exciting, friendly, and visually dynamic atmosphere. I often say we are about C’s…commitment, Customer, Community and Cash. We learned that (C)ash is the only meaningful addition to our hugging culture (since the recession of 1989-1991). I am proud that we consistently deliver on our hugging culture.

Robert Reiss is Host of The CEO Show, which features leaders who have reinvented industry through exceptional customer experience models. The show is nationally syndicated by Business TalkRadio Network. Click to hear podcasts of this and other CEO Interviews www.ceoshow.com

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Wilkes Bashford

Mitchells & Wilkes Bashford Wilkes Bashford is an iconic family business off Union Square in San Francisco long owned and managed by Wilkes Bashford himself, a dapper, flamboyant personality well known in the Bay area for buying and selling the world’s most luxurious menswear.

A year ago Mitchells Family of Stores bought Wilkes’s business and have since stamped Wilkes Bashford with the famous Mitchell’s trademark service and customer focused management. Tyler Mitchell, Bill Mitchell’s son, moved to San Francisco to manage the store. Jack Mitchell and his son Andrew travel weekly or fortnightly to oversee the changes in the store. In the 12 months since Mitchells have owned Wilkes Bashford the store has experienced major but subtle change and unprecedented increases in sales. Wilkes himself continues to play a role in the store and has encouraged the transition from day one

Wilkes Bashford Store Interior San Francisco

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Santa Eulalia Barcelona - Refurbishment

Santa Eulalia Barcelona The new store is under construction and will open its doors in March 2011. The architect in charge of the project is Studio Sofield from New York City. The premises will have 2.000 sq meters and the selling surface will be around 1.500, divided in three floors.

Today, Santa Eulalia is a meeting point of fashion lovers, a multi-brand store which offers its customers an exquisite selection of prestigious international luxury brands: Tom Ford, Prada, Christian Louboutin, Stella McCartney, Proenza Schouler, Dior, Balenciaga, Etro, Brioni, Lanvin, Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana, Miu Miu, Bottega Veneta and Marc Jacobs, among others.

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Hats Off To Harry Rosen

Harry RosenHATS OFF TO HARRY was an intimate occasion celebrating Canadian icon, Mr Harry Rosen.  The Tribute Dinner was hugely successful and raised $1.8million Canadian to support The Harry Rosen Diabetes Chair in Stem Cell Research in the McEwen Centre, University Health Network.  The Chair supports an outstanding investigator focused on applying state-of-the-art stem cell biology and regenerative medicine approaches to further the understanding of the causes of diabetes, andhelp develop treatments for this devastating disease.

The Tribute Dinner celebration took place at the Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 where hats were tossed off to Harry!

About University Health Network University Health Network (UHN) consists of Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital.  The scope of research and complexity of cases have made UHN a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care.  It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, and genomic medicine.  UHN is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto. www.uhn.ca

About McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine The McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine was established in 2003 with a generous donation from Rob and Cheryl McEwen.  Its mission is to be a catalyst for regenerative medicine by facilitating collaboration and promoting research and awareness. Regenerative medicine focuses on healing techniques that use cells to repair or grow tissues, organs and new cells.  The McEwen Centre’s ultimate goal is to accelerate the development of enhanced and more effective treatments for life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and spinal cord injury.  The McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine is located at Toronto General Hospital, and fully affiliated with University Health Network. www.mcewencentre.com

About Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation raises funds for research, education and the enhancement of patient care at Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital as well as for their respective research arms, Toronto General Research Institute and Toronto Western Research Institute. The Foundation’s vision is to enable global leadership and innovation in healthcare by developing and sustaining strong relationships with UHN stakeholders. www.tgwhf.ca

MEDIA LINKS: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/hats-off-to-harry-rosen/article1551544/

http://www.nationalpost.com/related/topics/Hats+Harry/2973706/story.html

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Paddy Power Announce Senior Management Appointment

Top Tailor Louis Copeland dresses Psychic Octopus (09 July 2010)

Paddy Power plc today announced the appointment of Paddy the Psychic Octopus to their senior management team.

Paddy is a first cousin of Paul Oktopus who recently shot to international fame when he correctly predicted all of Germany’s World Cup results. Paddy will be responsible for predicting the outcome of major sporting events for the bookmaking chain from his office at the National Sea Life Centre in Bray, Co Wicklow.

Paddy is expected to arrive in Ireland before the end of July and will undergo a period of “psychic tuning” before beginning his role with Paddy Power. It is hoped that Paddy’s first predictions will be around the forthcoming GAA All Ireland Finals and Ryder Cup.

To celebrate Paddy’s imminent arrival, top tailor Louis Copeland created a one-off 8- tentacled sweater for Paddy the octopus who is used to the warmer waters of his native Mediterranean.

Louis Copeland said “I’ve fitted out everyone from Bill Clinton and Pierce Brosnan to Ronan Keating and Bertie Ahern but Paddy the Psychic Octopus is the icing on the cake. The eight tentacled design presented a unique challenge but I’m very happy with the final product”

Pat Ó Súilleabháin, director of the National Sea Life Centre in Bray said “We’ve had our eye on Paddy for some time now and we’re delighted that he’ll soon be joining us in Bray. As a full cousin to Paul he has already exhibited an exciting degree of psychic awareness and we’re confident that we can develop his ability to a level similar, of perhaps even greater, than his cousin”

Paddy Power & Louis Copeland

Paddy Power said “Paul the Psychic Octopus cost us a king’s ransom during the World Cup so it really was a no-brainer to get Paddy on the payroll”

Paddy the Psychic Octopus will be on public display in the National Sea Life Centre in Bray, Co Dublin from September and his sports predictions will be webcast live from the Paddy Power website.

For more information contact; Louis Copeland, Louis Copeland & Sons http://www.louiscopeland.com/

Mitchells Acquires Wilkes Bashford

The Mitchell family is now wearing a new hat — that of a white knight. Late Monday night, the Mitchells, operators of the largest family-owned specialty store in the U.S. with sales of $100 million, inked an 11th-hour deal to acquire the assets of Wilkes Bashford, which simultaneously filed a voluntary Chapter 11 petition. The deal by Ed Mitchell West LLC is for $4.6 million in cash and is subject to higher offers and bankruptcy court approval. A contingency of the sale is that the purchase be completed by Nov. 30 in order to maximize business during the holiday selling period, according to Bob Mitchell, co-president of Mitchells.

The San Francisco-based Wilkes, a men’s wear institution that opened its doors in 1966, operates a seven-story flagship on Union Square as well as a store in the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, Calif. At the end of last month, the struggling Wilkes closed its store in Carmel, Calif., and, the month before that, a Mill Valley, Calif., unit also was shuttered.

If its offer is successful, the Mitchell family, which owns Mitchells in Westport, Conn.; Richards in Greenwich, Conn., and Marshs in Huntington, N.Y., would gain a beachhead on the West Coast and immediately make it a formidable force within the luxury men’s wear community in San Francisco and the surrounding area.

“The best-run family-owned specialty store business has just gone national,” said Allan Ellinger, partner in Marketing Management Group. “This is fantastic. If anybody can make economic sense out of that retail business, it’s the Mitchells.”

Mitchell said Wilkes Bashford approached the Mitchells in August in its search for a financial infusion. And although expanding to California was not on their agenda, they decided to take a closer look at the business “as a personal favor to Wilkes,” Mitchell said.

Despite the store’s financial problems, Mitchell said he “could see it as a jewel that we felt we could polish and make shine again.” He said the company’s reputation, sales associates and “relationship with its customers and the community mirror what we do in Connecticut and Long Island. Once we put in our infrastructure — the technology, financial planning and inventory management systems — it’ll be a great combination,” Mitchell said.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Mitchells are proposing to buy the inventory, trademark and fixtures and “substantially all of the people.” Wilkes Bashford himself will continue to be the face of the store “in front of the customers and the community.” Although the Mitchells are not assuming the firm’s liabilities, Mitchell said his family believes “we can provide a future for the business going forward.”

As hands-on operators, the Mitchells will move one family member to San Francisco to run the store on a daily basis: Tyler Mitchell, currently vice president of men’s buying and furnishings, will take the plunge. Jack Mitchell, Bob’s father and co-chairman, along with his son, Andrew, vice president of marketing, will spend two weeks at a time at the store during the transition, Bob Mitchell said. The buyers — both men’s and women’s — will travel between the two coasts as needed, he noted. “As challenging as our business has been in Connecticut and Long Island, we have the manpower to do this,” Mitchell said, noting sales have “shown some signs of life” in October. “We decided to stop playing defense and start playing offense.”

Mitchell acknowledged entering the competitive San Francisco market will be “a new adventure for us, and we’re not taking it lightly.” He expects that the family will learn a lot about the differences between the two coasts, but that there is “enough overlap” to make the pairing synergistic. Nearly all the major vendors are the same, he said, although Wilkes’ mix is even more upscale. “Zegna is their opening price point,” Mitchell said, “and Brioni and Kiton are their two most dominant brands.”

If the Mitchells are successful in gaining control of the store, Mitchell said there are no plans for any major merchandising changes right away. “The key suppliers will still be the key suppliers,” he said. However, he sees women’s wear, now one-third of Wilkes’ sales, along with jewelry, to be opportunities for growth.

Bashford himself said he was “excited” about having the Mitchells come on board. “I feel it’s as good a match as it gets. This merger would have been exciting even if we didn’t need the capital injection.”

Market observers also gave the deal a thumbs-up.

Robert Ackerman, president and chief executive officer of Zegna North America, said, “The Mitchells are great retailers and do a great job taking care of their customers. They will be very successful. Wilkes is going to be there and he understands the market and has a great eye. So it’s a win-win for the customers on the West Coast.”

According to Michael Appel, managing director of Quest Turnaround Advisors and interim ceo of Wilkes, the filing of the bankruptcy petition was needed to effect the sale since the Mitchell family didn’t want to buy all of the assets. The two stores they didn’t want have already been shuttered and neither one had met planned sales and profit expectations, he said.

Luxury sales have been tough for all luxury firms, and in the case of Wilkes, “it has been tougher for us because of our inability to fund inventory levels,” Appel said. “The company knew in the beginning of last year that it would need an infusion of capital to sustain the operation. It was able to get a lot of cost savings over the course of the year, but was unable to get the required outside capital.”

According to Appel’s affidavit filed with the bankruptcy court, Wilkes’ principal liabilities are its unsecured obligations to vendors and secured debt held by its lender, Comerica Bank, at $3.1 million. Wilkes is seeking court approval of a $650,000 debtor-in-possession financing facility so it can buy new inventory for the holiday season.

Listed as number one among the top 20 unsecured creditors is Brioni USA Corp., New York, owed $2.2 million. Kiton is second at $1.4 million. Bogner of America is third at $409,958. Ermenegildo Zegna is owed $290,234; Loro Piana USA LLC, $184,229, and Roberto Cavalli, $126,128.

In the Chapter 11 petition filed, assets were listed as between $10 million and $50 million, with liabilities estimated in the same range.

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