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For Macy’s and Men’s Wearhouse, No Millennial Tux and Tails Tailwind

Classics never go out of style.  Until they do.  What’s a retailer or two to do when the Millennials eschew the tailored look for the untucked look and ditch the tuxes?  If you’re Macy’s and Men’s Wearhouse, you zip it on up.  

What would Cary Grant say?

What would Sinatra say?

It’s been chronicled in these virtual pages that millennials are the driving force behind change – change in how payments are done, how banking is banked, how social media influences commerce (or doesn’t) and how shopping may become a hybrid of high touch across the digital and physical realms.

In short, millennials are the harbingers of disruption.  Now that seems to be true even in fashion.

Not just casual fashion, but fashion tied to rites of passage.  Think proms and weddings and fancy dinners for, say, awards dinners or nights on the town.

They say the classics never go out of style, but the person who coined that saying never met a millennial, for whom the saying might be “style never stays in style.”

News came earlier this week that the department store operator Macy’s – itself no spring chicken or healthy fowl – and Tailored Brands had struck a pact to wind down the operations of a tuxedo retailing agreement.

The mechanics of the wind-down state that reservations at the Tuxedo Shops, which are housed in Macy’s will continue through the month and until June 1, but the whole of the operations – such as rentals, returns, alterations and the like, will cease by July 14th.   The agreement, rather short lived, will have spanned slightly less than two years.  As might be expected, the pact had not given rise to the sale that the companies had wanted.

As noted by Tailored Brands CEO Officer Doug Ewert in a statement announcing the dissolution, “Innovating new business models is an important catalyst for long-term growth and we saw the partnership with Macy’s as an opportune way to expand our leadership in the tuxedo rental market.  Unfortunately, the initiative did not generate the revenue that both companies had envisioned. We believe it is in the best interest of our company and our shareholders to wind down the partnership.”

The writing may have been on the wall, as Tailored Brands, which had been, previously, Men’s Wearhouse, and now operates as a holding company with Jos. A. Bank and other names under its umbrella, stated that there are going to be charges on the books to the tune of $17 million.  That is not a huge sum in the age of corporate spending, even as a bulk of it will be wrapped up in cash charges.

The operating loss on the business, said Tailored Brands, is expected to range from $7 million to $9 million for fiscal year 2017.  And of course, an operating loss helps prove the claim that the top line was not enough to cover the expense of keeping the business open.  With scant other commentary in place to guide just what happened, we will hazard some guesses.

This closure, curiously, comes in the midst of prom and wedding season.  And by shuttering now, the acknowledgement is there that demand is not going to get better.  The millennials, who have been defined as owning birth dates from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, and Generation Z, younger than that, encompass the populations of those getting married and suiting up for other occasions.  As a matter of fact, the same executive Ewert told ChainStoreAge two years ago that his firm has looked to “target millennials with our tuxedo rental business, which attracts both wedding-age customers — 27 is average — and prom-age customers — 17 is average.”

The traditional wedding may be waning, which means the traditional garb may be gone, and keep in mind that the Millennial generation has supplanted the Baby Boomer generation as the largest population in the United States, the impact is as outsized as a David Byrne jacket circa 1984 (OK, we’re dating ourselves here, but millennials, please, get thee to Spotify and listen to some Talking Heads among the Beyonce).

Even back in 2015, the impact was, well, impactful, with a 2.8 percent decline in tux sales noted by Men’s Wearhouse – and that is when the partnership began, so assume that pace accelerated.  Younger generations are choosing to get married later, if at all.  In 1963, said Pew Research, men married at 23.  By 2014, said the same organization, that age was 29 for men.  That may skew ever longer as marriage might not be a priority for time and debt burdened young’uns struggling to make a go of it in the post college years.

And in further caution for the retailers:  When the millennials do take the plunge, the looks skews classic, but decidedly less formal. Think blazers.  Think, even, khakis, but nice ones.  Think boat shoes, but worn without irony, even if a boat or water are nowhere near the groom and his bride. One site, Business Insider, leaning into and predicting fashion trends for this year, said blazers and navy (and white jackets) would hold sway, amid tuxedos as a bit “nostalgic.”

Looking for a return to the tux and tails and tailors of days past?

Best not set a date.

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