Two years after being ousted from the company he founded, Men’s Wearhouse Inc., George Zimmer has raised the curtain on the second act of his career, launching a tuxedo rental and tailoring service.
While men’s fashion is familiar territory for Zimmer, the two new businesses are taking the 66-year-old into a whole new world: The Internet.
“My customers are millennials,” said Zimmer. “They don’t watch TV anymore. Our promotional vehicles are going to be things like social media, YouTube, [and] public relations.”
ZTailors is a service that sends a tailor from its nationwide network to a client’s home or office with altered clothing returned within a week. Generation Tux is an online tuxedo and suit rental service.
“If you’re fortunate enough to do something you love, retiring is punishment,” Geore Zimmer, founder of Men’s Wearhouse
The two complementary businesses are a good fit for Zimmer, who opened the first Men’s Wearhouse
with his college roommates in 1973, according to the company website. In 1986, Zimmer and his booming bass voice appeared in the first Men’s Wearhouse commercial. By 1997, he had become famous for the company’s tagline, “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”
But by 2013, he was out. At the time, Zimmer said the split was caused by a difference of opinion over the direction of the company. On the day he was fired, Zimmer talked about the dismissal over dinner with his wife and two adolescent children.
“You’ve always seen me as a successful businessman and now you’ve seen me on my butt,” he said. “Now you’re going to see how I get back up.”
Zimmer isn’t alone in seeking out a new career at a time when many people are thinking about retirement. A study by the American Institute for Economic Research found that 82% of those who tried a new career after the age of 45 found success, especially if they use pre-existing skill sets.
“If you’re fortunate enough to do something you love, retiring is punishment,” he said.
U.S. e-commerce retail sales came to $83.9 billion in the second quarter adjusted for seasonal variation, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, a 4.2% increase from the first quarter. E-commerce sales for apparel and accessories are forecast to reach $60 billion in 2015, a 17.2% share of all U.S. e-commerce retail, according to eMarketer, a trends and data resource that covers digital technology. That figure has increased over the past two years, and is expected to continue to rise for the next few years.
Men’s Wearhouse, a major tux rental service provider, reported net sales of $442.9 million in tuxedo rental services for 2014. The company said during the first quarter 2015 earnings call in June that a decline in tuxedo rentals could be attributed to changing tastes.
“There are indicators that the overall wedding business is slowly shrinking due to shifting cultural attitudes towards traditional weddings,” said Chief Executive Douglas Scott Ewert.
There’s also growing competition including from The Black Tux and Menguin, other online rental companies, to keep in mind.
Zimmer said he based his new ventures on what he’s seen happen to the apparel industry: more people are purchasing clothing online and, without the benefit of a fitting room, they don’t learn about fit issues until items arrive.
“Everyone is trying to do online apparel, but no one has that last mile figured out,” said Zimmer.
While a tailor is on a visit, they’re encouraged to ask clients if there is anything else that needs to be altered. The average ZTailor job costs $150 and includes multiple garments. A tuxedo and suit rental starts at $95, and complete looks, which can include shoes and cuff links, will total $150 or less.
In addition to rentals and tailoring, Zimmer said he’s spoken with major retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, who have expressed an interest in ZTailors services. “I think there is a hell of a business opportunity here,” he said.
To get started, Zimmer invested $6 million of his own money and had 30,000 suits and tuxedos made. ZTailors launched in June 2015 and Generation Tux had its official unveiling at the Salesforce.com Inc.
DreamForce conference in September.
Next, Zimmer is looking forward to New Year’s Eve, when he’ll be marrying a couple in New York’s Times Square at the annual ball-dropping event. Generation Tux will be the “official tuxedo of Times Square New Year’s Eve.”
Being a showman is old hand to Zimmer. But he’s brought on a chief technology officer and a chief marketing officer (both named Matt) to help with the new parts of his businesses.
“I’m excited by combining disruptive technology with my domain experience,” said Zimmer, using some digital-age phrasing.
And how does he feel about tech so far?
“I feel better today than a year ago,” he said.
View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/mens-wearhouse-founder-george-zimmers-second-act-is-taking-him-online-2015-10-15