A Philosophy of Dress (A)
Introduction On the largest shopping day of 2001, Claudio Del Vecchio, CEO of Retail Brand Alliance, read the headlines of major newspapers from the U.S. and his native Europe which stated that his company had just acquired Brooks Brothers from the struggling discount retailer Marks & Spencer. As a long-time customer who grew up wearing Brooks Brothers suits, Del Vecchio knew that the company had lost its identity during a series of takeovers in the 1980s. For over a century and a half, Brooks Brothers was the most profitable menswear retailer in the U.S., and many industry experts now questioned whether the firm would survive. As Del Vecchio reviewed the morning papers, he pondered how he could recapture the trust of customers by restoring the core Brooks values of quality, great value, and exceptional customer service and position the company for strong future growth. The Making of a Dynasty In 1977 the Washington Post wrote, “The Brooks look is a moral trust maintained from one decade to the next, because generation after generation has trusted the company with an unquestioning faith that they give to virtually no other institution in modern life.”1 Since its inception in 1818, Brooks Brothers has conducted business built on a philosophy of dress that captures the American ideals of upward mobility, accomplishment, and class. The company captured this idea in a 1980s advertisement that stated Brooks Brothers is not for the rich but for the successful.2
This case was prepared by Research Assistants Jared M. Johnson and Christopher C. Stevenson under the direction of James S. O’Rourke, Concurrent Professor of Management, as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Information was gathered from corporate as well as public sources. Copyright ©2006. Eugene D. Fanning Center for Business Communication. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without permission. 16
Brand Image and Identity
Brooks Brothers’ monumental success is attributed to its foundational attributes of quality, value and customer service. As a vertically integrated company, management held the view that by controlling all aspects of the production process, Brooks was able to provide value to the customer by producing a superior quality product at a price others would charge for an inferior good. In a sense, the retailer’s commitment to the customer is legendary. Historically, Brooks never had a design team. Management made merchandising decisions based on the input of the sales associates because they knew the customers best. The friendship, as Brooks would describe it, between the customer and the sales associate was the key reason that customers made Brooks Brothers their store and made Brooks a staple at every major event (or daily activity) including weddings, job interviews, and Presidential Inaugurations. Sworn Symbol of Style Brooks Brothers adopted the symbol of the Golden Fleece in 1850. The symbol has endured and continues to signify Brooks' quality and heritage. The birth of the Golden Fleece symbol came on January 10, 1430 when Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, established an order of Knighthood in honor of his bride, Isabella of Portugal. The Knighthood was named The Order of the Golden Fleece. In homage to Isabella, 31 Knights of the Order took an oath to guard the Church and the glory of the saints. “The Lamb of God, suspended at each Knight’s heart, symbolized at once both gentle humility and the woolen fabrics to which so much of Burgundian wealth was owed. Since the days of chivalry, a ram or lamb, suspended...