By Paul Pannone
In a Press Release, Syms CEO Marcy Syms said: “This has been a challenging time for Syms and Filene’s Basement. We have been faced with increased competition from large department stores that now offer the same brands as our stores at similar discounts; a proliferation of private label discount chains; a decline in buying opportunities as brand name labels have reduced overruns by improving their supply chain management – all combined with the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes.”
In less than two years of his death the slogan that Sy Syms created ultimately turned on the company he built.
The Syms slogan of An educated consumer is our best customer enlightened value-minded consumers that wanted designer apparel but not the cost may finally be proven untrue, now that sharp shoppers are no longer kept in the dark or fed filtered information from manufacturers and retailers.
According to Matzav.com, “The off-price clothing that Mr. Syms sold on unadorned racks in large, no-frills stores, mesmerized customers who recognized prestige designer labels in the lining. Although not all of the attire was actually the same Pierre Cardin jacket or Brioni suit you’d find it Italy, it was good enough to satisfy bargain-hunting customers who needed a decent suit for a job interview, and it made Mr. Syms a multimillionaire.
In the Press release Marcy Syms cites the decreasing opportunity to buy up overruns and enable the company to undercut the competition, as manufacturers today better leverage technology to improve their systems and grow efficiencies. eWedNewz is following several stories of how old-run apparel companies plan to update their business and create products that consumers actually want instead of gambling on what they think consumers want.
One of the stories involves the renaissance of the tuxedo rental business. Accepted practices of recycling garments were always suspect to consumers wondering where the component items of the tuxedo rentals had been– and how often. The concerns were often dismissed by tuxedo operators citing bowling shoes, hotel beds, public bathrooms, etc., that are cleaned, recycled and reused or “turned over”. But can anyone tell how many people actually sleep in a bed, or how many times a toilet seat is used, unless told? Even then, who does one ask for this information or the even greater question of does anyone really want to know?
In the case of outdated garments bearing branded labels like Christian Dior, reports by eWedNewz is sending shock waves through the tuxedo business that fought to keep such information from the public. What the narrow-minded of the business fail to realize is today’s consumer will find out the truth and simply abandon renting tuxedos, mailing letters or buying products from discounters like Syms and Filene’s basement because they can get better value elsewhere. Before you know it there is no longer a business.
What Syms did wrong was stay too long and not adjust to the changing market. They relied on overruns and seconds to sell, rather than change their model while there was still time. The words used as a slogan; an educated consumer– soon became their own worst enemy.
According to the Press Release, the Syms Corp was founded by Sy Syms in 1959. Filene’s Basement traces its roots back to 1909 and founder William Filene. Syms acquired assets of Filene’s Basement, Inc., which had filed for bankruptcy, in a bankruptcy auction in 2009. Syms Corp and Filene’s Basement, LLC collectively own and operate 46 “off-price” apparel stores located predominantly on the east coast of the United States under the “Syms” name (which, together with co-branded Syms/Filene’s Basement stores, are owned and operated by Syms Corp) and the “Filene’s Basement” name (which are owned and operated by Filene’s Basement, LLC).
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