With Custom-Made Suits, Men's Wearhouse Enters The Era Of New Rules

Custom-made suits aren't just for CEOs and mobsters anymore. Men's Wearhouse introduced the Michael Strahan Custom Made to Measure Suiting Program with a national team of tailors who can personalize every element of a suit. It's the latest in its partnership with Strahan since signing the football legend in 2020 and its next step in navigating a world with rapidly changing expectations about what men should wear. Carolyn Pollock, chief marketing officer of Tailored Brands, which owns Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A. Banks, tells Retail Insider how the menswear world is changing.

Retail Insider: Tell us about the new custom-suiting offer with Michael Strahan.

Carolyn Pollock: We started working with him in 2020 and have been expanding our partnership. This enables customers to come into any of our stores and work with an expert tailor. We've got 19 different fabric styles and 14 specific linings and offer another 40 digitally printed. Most importantly, these are all performance fabrics, so they have some stretch–which is super important for comfort.

Retail Insider: What makes a man decide he needs a bespoke suit?

Pollock: Many of them come for their wedding–they want something special for that important moment. They want something that will last. We offer ways to customize it–people often put their wedding date and bride's name on the inside label. This new program feels extra special, yet at a very affordable price.

Retail Insider: The pandemic was terrible for workwear. Men's Wearhouse went into bankruptcy in the summer of 2020 and emerged a few months later. What has the recovery looked like?

Pollock: The suit market was evolving as the workplace became more casual. But the need for special occasions has not gone away. Last year was the Year of the Wedding. That drove incredible demand for tailored clothing and suits in particular. So we were ready.

Other changes include a move away from nested suits, a jacket and pants that come as a set. As people prioritize comfort, they'll buy a jacket and a separate pair of pants, regardless of the size. And while we keep a good core of black, grey and Navy, we've also got a good range of fashion colors. People want something that makes a little bit more of a statement.

Retail Insider: More of us are returning to the office sometimes. What are men wearing?

Pollock: We see a move back to clothes that are a little more dressy. Guys are tired of wearing sweatpants all the time. And when they have an interview or presentation, they tell us they want to show up in a sport coat with jeans and a nice shirt. So they may not return to a suit, but they're not showing up in a sweatshirt and sweatpants.

Retail Insider: How old is your core audience?

Pollock: It ranges because we serve so many for their prom. So while the average is in their 40s, wedding customers are more likely in their mid-20s to 30s.

Retail Insider: Younger people express themselves in many ways–they dye their hair bright colors and show off tattoos and piercings. They're less bound by rules. Does that make it harder to dress them?

Pollock: They're finding ways to express themselves. That can include the range of linings we have–something fun and flashy inside. It could be socks or a tie -- if they're wearing a tie.

Retail Insider: Are they confused about the rules?

Pollock: Yes, and that's a great example of how we help. In 2019, Goldman Sachs issued an edict that it was moving to business casual. It left these poor guys to figure it out for themselves, saying something like, 'Use your judgment as to what's appropriate.' People were like, 'I don't know what that means!' We can help them figure it out by dialing it up for more polish. And as offices shift back to a little more dressiness, there's an increasing need for our expertise.

Retail Insider: How has your marketing strategy shifted in the last few years?

Pollock: When I started, we had a very traditional retail playbook. We relied heavily on TV advertising and had significant direct mail programs. We had digital marketing, but it wasn't a core focus.

In the last three years, we've made significant shifts to optimize the mix overall. And we've moved to a more balanced approach, where we still achieve great reach through TV, but we're showing up throughout the funnel, right down to personalized advertising. We have significantly ramped up search and social media. We've moved a lot toward performance-based marketing. And we've shifted from messaging about price points to tapping the emotion of these important moments.

Retail Insider: How are you marketing the new custom-suiting program?

Pollock: Through digital, search and social. And we're leveraging Strahan's platform to drive awareness, too. And we've got a strong email program with people who have an affinity for our brand.

Retail Insider: What will change in the next six to 12 months?

Pollock: Focusing on weddings -- both grooms and groomsmen. People will be attending more weddings. And we anticipate more people returning to the office, creating a need for wardrobe refreshes. So we will continue to ensure that we deliver the most relevant communication and product recommendations.

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