Men’s Wearhouse founder, CEO and longtime spokesman George Zimmer was fired by the board last week. The reverberations can still be felt. I had not realized that Mr. Zimmer had been the spokesman for almost thirty years. In fact if you see photos of Mr. Zimmer from when he began acting as brand spokesperson he was a young and fully bearded guy. Today he is an old fully bearded guy. I don’t understand all the hoopla on removing Mr. Zimmer as the ‘face’ of Men’s Wearhouse when it comes to promoting the brand. The iconic tag line that Men’s Wearhouse has used for YEARS, ‘You’re gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it’, was and still is good.
Why the board decided to fire him entirely is puzzling to me. A week after announcing a 23% jump in first quarter profits the Men’s Wearhouse board made the decision to boot Mr. Zimmer? TheStreet.com had a similar take -from thestreet.com article ‘They don’t even thank the guy that grew Men’s Wearhouse from one tiny Texas store into one of the country’s largest specialty men’s retailers with 1,143 locations and $2.48 billion in sales last year.’ It’s a good thing the company did not lose money in the first quarter as had that happened, stringing Mr. Zimmer up in a public flogging would seemingly be the board’s approach to protecting shareholder value.
Company founders do not always make good long-term business managers. However Mr. Zimmer has/had done an admirable job of keeping Men’s Wearhouse a relevant brand even if his continuing on as spokesman was no longer relevant. While the guarantee is cool and should be kept, someone like Ryan Seacrest who does wear a suit quite nicely, would much better connect with the men’s suit buying universe. Let’s face it, the over 50 crowd is no longer in their prime suit-buying years and the target audience has to get younger or Men’s Wearhouse will indeed become an irrelevant brand.
The market for men’s suits is ever-changing but it’s not beyond comprehension that since everything old gets new again, resurgence in suit-buying should not be all that far off. Mr. Zimmer and Men’s Wearhouse did many things exactly right. Removing the founder as spokesman is fine. Kicking his butt out the door is not. The end of this story has yet to be told. I guarantee it.