Going Down: Brooks, Escalators, and Marks & Spencer

When Marks & Spencer installed elevators in Brooks Brothers’ Madison Avenue flagship, they only went down.

Widely acknowledged for monumental mismanaging Brooks, hastening a decline in quality and the isolation of lifelong customers, the UK apparel firm Marks & Spencer eventually sold Brooks Brothers in 2001 after 13 years and hundreds of millions in losses. This article, from the July 9, 1990 issue of Forbes, is an interesting view of the beginning of the decline. — CC & CS

12 Comments on "Going Down: Brooks, Escalators, and Marks & Spencer"

  1. The horror, the horror…

  2. Cuff Shooter | April 13, 2019 at 4:27 pm |

    “This is not a retail store, it’s an American institution, and anything remotely revolutionary will destroy it.”

    That line made me do a double take.

  3. elder prep | April 13, 2019 at 4:58 pm |

    Simply put, don’t mess with success, even if it is only 4 or 5% growth.

  4. NaturalShoulder | April 13, 2019 at 5:03 pm |

    “[a]nd can go anywhere respectably without attracting attention.” Great line and likely sums up much of the appeal of BB to its loyal customers.

  5. A former VAN emp | April 13, 2019 at 10:42 pm |

    Thank you for an interesting article story. I have some old Brooks Brothers catalogs.One of them is the year of 1975. I miss BB style of those days. I still remember BB advertising in the ” New Yorker” magazine of those days.

  6. Old School Tie | April 14, 2019 at 3:23 pm |

    Well, I just bought something really good in BB this month, and very cheap (full price) compared to the equivalent in RL. Sufficiently good design, sufficiently good quality, sufficiently cheap to make me smirk when I put it on. The last time something along those lines made smirk in this manner was in the late 1980s and was coincidentally purchased in M&S.

  7. Old School Tie | April 14, 2019 at 3:41 pm |

    I might just add that BB have some pretty cheap and unsavory business practices though – the item I bought was available for purchase and shipping to the EU at full price (and I went ahead and pulled the trigger), but as soon as they introduced offers of free shipping and discount to mark their anniversary, that item suddenly became unavailable in the EU. Frankly, that is the kind of low-rent, seedy tactic employed by the likes of the Gap, and in my humble opinion does not augur well for any business whose margins are obviously so tight they have to stoop to petty practices of this sort.

  8. Why, after all this time, is the idea (mystique?) of Brooks Bros. still a single store in an upscale area of NYC, selling conservative suits etc. to a well-heeled clientele of business and professional men only? That ship sailed quite some time ago.

  9. A Trad Confused | April 15, 2019 at 2:06 pm |

    @oldschool –

    You could use a freight forwarder like shipmonk.com or someone to ship your items too state side and they will repackage and ship to you for a fee.

  10. Went up and down that escalator today. Looking for some unlined oxfords, and the small selection was hidden in a corner. Nothing to indicate they invented this shirt. Pretty good discounts. Otherwise, nothing worth looking at, and not too many people in the store. Bright spot was a very helpful saleslady and her manager.

  11. The article quotes Brooks customer and architect Peter Moore, then 31, who looked down his nose at the Brooks sack suit, describing it as without sass and “for the 50-year-old insurance executive who commutes from Westport.” I find some satisfaction in calculating Peter Moore’s current age to be 60. I would guess that 50-year-old insurance executives don’t seem so old to Mr. Moore now.

  12. In the 20’s there was a painting of my uncle in Brooks Brother’s window wearing one of their suits. I’ve seen it. He modeled for Arrow shirts too. I remember in the 70’s it was a real tailor shop. You could pick the fabric and they’d measure you for the suit. Over the last twenty years, Hart S M and Hickey Freeman have made better suits. Paul Stuart too including shirts. Jackson and Moyer in Philadelphia has been gone for years but they were better. I remember you could buy stiff collars there into the sixties, wing or down turned. No one would wear awing collar in black tie.

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