“You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”
George Zimmer, 64—Men’s Wearhouse’s founder and spokesman, remembered for the signature line above that he said in commercials for the company—was fired last week, according to Time.
Zimmer worked hard to build Men’s Wearhouse into a billion-dollar company. Its first store opened in Houston in 1973, according to CNN.
“He started in 1973 with a cigar box for a cash register, and today Men’s Wearhouse has 1,143 stores and a $1.8 billion market capitalization,” writes Al Lewis in the Wall Street Journal.
However, in recent years, Zimmer’s position at the company has slowly declined. He was replaced as CEO in 2011—he had served in that capacity since 1991, and as president from 1974 to 1997—and he lost the title of executive chairman last week for no stated reason, Lewis further reports.
Zimmer told CNBC that he had disagreements with the company’s direction and that it opted to “silence [his] concerns through termination,” according to the New York Daily News.
“The board expects to discuss with Mr. Zimmer the extent, if any, and terms of his ongoing relationship with the company,” Men’s Wearhouse said concerning the dismissal, according to Reuters.
In the absence of a stated reason for Zimmer’s departure, there has been speculation as to what motivated it. Some say the company was looking to appeal to younger consumers.
“[W]hile a number of the store’s shoppers expressed outrage at Zimmer’s ouster on social media sites, the move may turn out to be a smart one for a company trying to target a much different audience: millennials who are disinclined to don a suit each morning,” explained Josh Sanburn in Time. (In the immediate aftermath of the executive decision, social media flared with statuses and tweets of anger from experienced shoppers of the Wearhouse. “You’re going to miss the way I shopped. I guarantee it,” was one clever rephrasing of one of Zimmer’s famous taglines while appearing in the company’s commercials that was used, according to Sanburn.)
Sanburn cited Bloomberg, which quoted Jan Slate, dean of College of Media at the University of Illinois.
“All suit manufacturers have had the same issue. Casual Fridays and wearing anything you want to work really has harmed the suit industry,” Slate explained. Today, those in their 20s and 30s are far less interested in wearing suits to work than earlier generations, some say. Zimmer seemingly was not in tune with this change.
But some say that the decision to fire Zimmer, while well intended, may have come too late. After thirty years marketing the product and serving as the face of the company, Zimmer has come to embody Men’s Wearhouse and serve as a fixture of the American cultural landscape.
“You have to ask yourself how many campaigns in this country last for 25 years,” Ellis Verdi of DeVito/Verdi advertising told The New York Times about Zimmer’s advertising history with Men’s Wearhouse. “It’s part of our culture — you have comedians riffing on it, you have the tagline that people talk about all the time. So you have what on judgment what would probably be one of the most successful campaigns, in my opinion, in retailing history.”
“He’s very closely associated with Men’s Wearhouse and the brand, and as a result I think there’s some downside to a company eliminating his persona too quickly,” Verdi added, according to the report.
Despite the cultural shift in preferred work attire, Sanburn explains, Men’s Wearhouse has posted some impressive numbers as of late. Its revenue went up 5.1% in the first quarter of 2013 compared to 2012 and profits rose 23% during the same time frame.