Looking Good For Lots Less
The Business Of Clothing: Part IV
By James F. Brown
May 9, 2009 - 5:21:23 PM


— Dress Like A Fortune 500 CEO On A Mailroom Budget!




Although some clothing manufacturers and wholesalers are open to the public, retailers are where customers usually purchase clothes and accessories. These retailers are divided into several categories, and can vary widely in selection, quality and price.

Department stores are where most people shop for clothes. Major department stores have sections devoted to shoes and clothing. These sections are always gender-specific and physically separated from each other. The sections are divided into smaller areas such as casual attire, outerwear, shoes, accessories and tailored clothing. Department stores generally have a wide selection of clothes of good quality and a range of prices. Their house brands are at several different price points and can be very good bargains. Often, these house brands are relabeled designer labels that are priced lower than the equivalent designer clothes.

Department stores have a number of sales throughout the year. These sales vary in terms and prices, with special deals, additional discount coupons, and other incentives offered. It pays to be patient and wait for the big-discount department store sales to come along, and then make purchases.

Specialty clothing stores are another category. They can be big, nationwide chains such as Brooks Brothers, Men’s Wearhouse, and 3-Day Suit Brokers. Or they can be smaller, one-of-a-kind stores offering merchandise at a specific price point and quality level — either low-cost schlock or high-end upscale goods.

Other stores are specialists that cater to a niche market. These include Jimmy Au’s (for small and short men) in Beverly Hills and a chain, Rochester Big & Tall (for larger men). There are also the designer label stores such as Tommy Hilfiger’s, Geoffrey Beene, Hermes, Fa
çonnable, Burberry, Armani and Ralph Lauren. Label shoe stores include Florsheim, Bostonian, Allen Edmonds, Johnston & Murphy and Cole-Haan.

Another shopping option is factory outlet stores such as Sak’s Off Fifth and Nordstrom Rack. Many other retailers also have factory outlets, often located in special factory outlet malls. In Southern California, factory outlet malls are located in Camarillo, Cabazon, Barstow and Carlsbad. In Northern California, Gilroy, Vacaville, Petaluma and Napa have factory outlet malls.

Keep in mind that factory outlets are not necessarily good bargains. Their discount from the companion “regular” stores is typically about 30 percent. The big sales at the regular stores will often beat that by a considerable margin. But factory outlets can be great deals when they are also having big sales.

The last category of retailers is resellers and discounters. These include Marshall’s, TJ Maxx and Ross. Here is where you can really save big bucks on purchases. They buy remainder goods from designer labels and department stores and offer them to the public at incredible markdowns.

Knowledge is power. This series on the business of clothing has, I hope, provided some insight into how clothes are made, distributed and sold, and given you some ideas for shopping smart.


James F. Brown is a business consultant and expert on professional attire. 


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