From marketing to merchandising, Tony Finocchiaro ties it all together for Men’s Wearhouse.
Building the sportswear business at a store known for tailored clothing is a tough job, but Tony Finocchiaro was up for the challenge. He was hired in 1995 from Kutler Bros., a West Coast specialty chain, just as business casual was beginning to take off. “We were buying items to dress down a suit or a sportcoat (like mock-neck silk/cottons) and the business grew dramatically. When the direction changed to washed wovens and denim, we resisted because that wasn’t our niche. But once we took the first step, our sportswear business exploded again.”
About a year ago, Finocchiaro’s job description changed after he took on the role of VP of merchandising. Now he works with the merchandise, development, visual and marketing teams to coordinate merchandise plans. He explains, “Basically I work with the merchandisers to make sure the product being advertised is actually relevant to what’s selling.”
Sportswear business is almost 95 percent private brand at Men’s Wearhouse. “I try to have product that you can find at better stores, but we price it lower because it’s mostly our own labels,” Finocchiaro says. “We’ve tried various brands in the past and it just hasn’t been as successful. There’s a big risk when you’re doing the amount of units that we are. If you’re buying 7,000 units of a shirt, you have to be confident that they’ll deliver not only 7,000 units, but 7,000 units of a quality item. We’ve upgraded our private brand assortment over the last few years. We elevated the Men’s Wearhouse brand by stepping up the product assortment, our store aesthetics, marketing—this is a very exciting time for us.”
When asked about any negative parts of the job, Finocchiaro admits, “Getting on an airplane isn’t fun anymore, so travel can be a hassle. (I travel to our New York office almost every month.) And it’s always frustrating when you think you nailed a buy and the customer just doesn’t respond. The worst buy I ever made was a lambswool sweater program. I wasn’t behind it 100 percent, but lambswool was trending at the moment, so we did it anyway. It hit the floor and didn’t move, which is probably because it didn’t fit into our merchandise mix. I sold plenty of silk/cotton knits and merino, but our sales people couldn’t style lambswool with anything. So we marked it way down just to get it out.”
In terms of current fashion direction, Finocchiaro says it’s all about color. And while he’s seen a lot of great-looking knits, tops business is still driven by wovens. He also sees an opportunity with brown shoes. He uses his own attire as an example: “I’m wearing a medium blue suit, it’s not a true navy, and it’s a hot color right now. Medium gray is another best-selling suit color, and so we’re working with our sales people to show them how to sell brown shoes with medium gray and blue suits. Slim is also in for us. We’re having success with younger fits, and Calvin Klein has been a big piece of that action.”
Are they worried about alienating traditional customers by putting such a heavy emphasis on slim? Finocchiaro says while it is a concern for them, they still have plenty to offer that customer. “When slim fit first came on we taught our sales people that there are different degrees of slim. If you have a customer who’s been wearing 3-button clothing (and there are plenty of guys like that still out there), and you put him in a new modern fit, he’ll like it. At the other end of the spectrum, we have a private brand, Alta Moda, which is very directional, young and shorter. And we’re very surprised at the success we’ve had with it. It’s something that my 23-year-old son would buy.”
Finocchiaro’s son Domenic just graduated college and is training to be a firefighter. He also has a 19-year-old daughter Angela who’s a sophomore at the University of Oregon. “She’s not sure what she wants to do yet, but she loves to cook. We lost my mom a year ago and she was your stereotypical Italian mom from Sicily. My mom and my daughter really bonded over cooking. Angela’s got her tomato sauce down!”