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American retail disappoints - Atlanta example

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I'm a proud American living in Europe, but on a recent visit to family in Atlanta, I was reminded of how poorly American high-end retail performs relative to European.

In Atlanta, I visited Guffey's and Neiman-Marcus. First, some praise. Neimans has substantially raised its brand quality relative to when I last lived here in the 1990s. It stocks a great suit selection including Brioni, Kiton, Isaia, and Zegna. Pants featured Incotex. And shoes include great brands like Mantellassi, Kiton, and John Lobb. Guffey's has mostly traditional American cuts like Robert Talbott and Hickey-Freeman, but they also stock some Santoni shoes. My understanding is that these are the two best menswear retailers in Atlanta, an affluent city of 3.5M+ citizens.

Here are the disappointments:

  • The shoes on display could not have been a less inspired selection of the respective brands. Neiman's one Mantellassi was the lamest that I've seen. The Lobbs and Kitons looked like they had been beaten with a Johnson & Murphy stick. Guffey's Santonis were worst of breed. Dull dull dull. Buyers can do much better than this. I contrast this to most European capitals, which have one or more shoe stores with selections that melt even the strongest of men. In Luxembourg, a city of 80,000, there's a store with a dream collection of 4-10 well-chosen models of each of the following brands: Lobb, EG, Santoni, JM Weston, StefanoBi, Heschung, Fratelli Rosetti, Loake, and Alden. I have never seen an American shoe department/store come close to the assortment of the great, dedicated shoe stores in Europe.

  • Sizing, as usual in the US, didn't serve anyone 5'8" or shorter. Neimans didn't have a single item in stock to fit a <32" waist or <38 jacket. Granted, this is the tail end of the menswear bell curve, but European stores do stock these sizes. To buy quality items in my size, I need to custom order or hope that Neimans has that single item in some other store somewhere in their system. I contrast this with Italy or France. On a recent visit to a store that carried Incotex, I was able to buy 6 pair of 30" waist Incotex pants, in-stock and on sale.

  • Fit, also as usual in the US, did not come in slim. Admittedly Americans do tend to prefer the box shape, but stocking exclusively this in a Kiton or Brioni seems criminal. These suits shine best when sculpted. I asked the salesman about stocking a more Italian cut for their Italian suits, and he basically said that that's what alterations and made-to-measure are for.

One might justify the differences between the US and Europe by differences in taste (for fit, style, quality) and size. But I would argue that anyone in the market for the brands of suits and shoes that I've mentioned would appreciate the original, non-Americanized aesthetics. I simply don't understand why American high-end retail buyers make the decisions they do. In general, American retail blows away that of any other country in terms of selection, efficiency, and value. But when it comes to high-end, Europe has our number in a big way.

At some point, I'll return to the States, hopefully stocked with a decade's supply of great items bought in Europe. Until then, I hope that the progress that stores like Neimans are making continues to its full potential. Folks paying this kind of money for high-end clothes deserve better than what American retail buyers are presenting them.
post #2 of 22
It is actually true ..Mass markets products are well retailed in the USA but theluxury items are over-priced and badly selected...

I'm an avid shopper and Paris,London,Madrid,Barcelona,Milan are kicking arse compared to major US citites...
Is it a cultural thing?

Presentation and window display are awful and the collectionsselection is on equal path...
post #3 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Montesquieu View Post
Americans do tend to prefer the box shape

How polite of you to attribute the fit issue to preference. (I am an American, too.)
post #4 of 22
Don't even get me started on the horrid selection of proper socks in most American stores. Even at the high end we see lots of mezza calza.
post #5 of 22
Generalizations are always a bit dubious but there is a cultural divide in the way shoes are seen and designed...

The square toe is quintessially Anglo-Saxon even now in our worldwide market ,it doesn't sound much of a statement...

They used to be extremely popular in England even if they're boxy...

The Latin do like more chiseled shapes and colours but many cross-overs styles are appearingto the point of seeing a Gaziano being more adventorous and less conservative than a Gomez...
post #6 of 22
In defense of Guffey's, it's primarily a custom house where one chooses fabrics and orders custom or mtm clothing. The stuff on the shelf is only there to tempt the occasional wandering European and those too impatient to wait for properly fitted clothing.
post #7 of 22
The only place in US that has everything is NYC. And at lower prices than EU.
post #8 of 22
When I was in Rome during the summer, the amount of amazingly good looking and well cut clothes I saw retailed at clothing stores astonished me. The US disappoints me, with the exception of NYC, and even then...

Jon.
post #9 of 22
Quote:
In defense of Guffey's, it's primarily a custom house where one chooses fabrics and orders custom or mtm clothing.

+1.

As for Neimans here, the selection will improve once the renovation is done and they move to the lower level. They usually have more than what has been on display lately. Things are best around the holidays.

Quote:
Fit, also as usual in the US, did not come in slim. Admittedly Americans do tend to prefer the box shape

This is a problem in store selection as slim clothes in Atlanta are easy to find. Neimans here caters to a wealthy professional clientele and they tend in Georgia to be waist size 34" or higher and want a more traditional cut. I can't blame Neimans for wanting to focus on this segment as that is where the money is.

You should have PMed me and I could have met up with you and pointed you in the right direction.
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by dkzzzz View Post
The only place in US that has everything is NYC. And at lower prices than EU.

Maybe on sale, but for many shoes/clothing at retail, the price in NY is definitely higher than the EU. Of course, NYC has items you will not find in other US cities (don't even get me started about Canada).
post #11 of 22
Saks-Jandel was a fun store. Probably still is, but we don't buy now. Their European selection was extensive. I always wished they'd had a men's department.
post #12 of 22
2 out of 3 Americans are overweight so the stock makes sense.
post #13 of 22
It all depends on the city. Believe it or not, stores are pretty good about stocking things that people in that city want. For example, the Neiman Marcus in SF is pretty impressive, they stock Testoni high line, Kiton 5-6 models, Lobb 10 models, Barker Black full line, Tramezza 8-10 models, Paul Smith mainline, etc. Whereas Neiman Marcus in Palo Alto is much lesser, since Palo Alto is definitely a shorts and loafers kind of town. I'm guessing the problem with Atlanta is the city. However, i do agree with having 38 as the bottom size of jacket range is too large. I usually fit a 38, but not always.
post #14 of 22
These stores are simply buying for the rather pedestrian taste levels of the average prosperous American. They are not the one to wear fitted suits or experiment with interesting patterns. If these people had less money, they would be shopping at JoS A.Banks. It seems to me that Japan also has a very high level of selection, from the most avant-garde designer wares to vintage luxury goods.
post #15 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarmac View Post
It all depends on the city. Believe it or not, stores are pretty good about stocking things that people in that city want. For example, the Neiman Marcus in SF is pretty impressive, they stock Testoni high line, Kiton 5-6 models, Lobb 10 models, Barker Black full line, Tramezza 8-10 models, Paul Smith mainline, etc.

I'm guessing the problem with Atlanta is the city.

I'm not as informed about the SF NM, but as for the one at Stanford Shopping Mall in Palo Alto, their shoe collection has historically been thin. Two years ago when I lived nearby, they did have several Mantellassis, but otherwise one had to choose between Tod's, Ferragamo, Prada, and other similarly overpriced brands.

More disappointing to me was the fact that they also stocked very few, if any, small sizes, despite a local population that includes more short and thin people - like me - than does Atlanta. I've purchased many times from that Palo Alto NM, and most of what I bought involved alterations of a size too big.

Wilkes Bashford next door does stock some phenomenal shoes. They have the best shoe department that I've seen in the States. (I haven't shopped NYC in 10 years, so can't comment on it.) Wilkes's shoe department, if expanded to an entire dedicated store, would my dream for each large American city.
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