Last week the New York Times ran a major feature on the men who now own Brooks Brothers, and are bent on “reshaping the American retail landscape.”
“Last year, we said within five years, we want to be at $20 billion,” he added, referring to the overall revenue generated from brands owned or jointly owned by Authentic Brands. “Another two to three deals could get us there.”
The purchase of Brooks Brothers, where layoff notices have already started going out, has put a spotlight on this arrangement — and invited new scrutiny. Supporters say SPARC is saving the businesses it’s buying. Critics say it’s simply exploiting their traumas for fast profits in ways that cheapen the brands’ legacies. They say the SPARC strategy treats brands and stores less like hothouses of creativity that need careful tending, and more like chess pieces to be moved around for maximum, if momentary, gain.
Well at least the screen capture at the top of the post, from Brooks’ website, has a pleasantly evocative “Talented Mr. Ripley” vibe.
The gradual decline of Brooks Brothers mirrors the United States as a whole as it spins out its lifespan from a rugged Protestant culture to a post-everything civilization driven entirely by commerce. I always forget who said it — Oscar Wilde? Bertrand Russell — that America was the only civilization in the history of the world to go from barbarism to decadence without an intermediary period of cultural greatness.
As for tradlier times, frequent commenter and contributor “BC” sent over the following quote from a book by Thomas Watson Jr., son of the founder of IBM. Writing about friend Al Williams, Watson writes:
Al seemed like a graduate from Yale. I asked him how he got so smooth and he was very open with me. He said, “I found out people I admired bought their clothes at Brooks Brothers, so that’s where I started buying mine.”
Enjoy your Sunday. Tomorrow we’ll have an exclusive from a legendary Ivy retailer that’s stuck to its roots. — CC