Jos. A. Bank to drop women's line

May 20, 1995|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,Sun Staff Writer

In a move that will add to short-term profit pressure but could pay off later, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. will stop selling women's clothing next year and concentrate on menswear.

Women's apparel makes up about 18 percent or 20 percent of Bank's revenue. Dropping women's clothing will give Bank added management resources and store space to do a good job on its new lines of so-called "casual careerwear" for men, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Timothy F. Finley said yesterday.

Bank, based in Hampstead, has sold women's suits and skirts for years, along with its men's suits, sport coats, shirts and other office garb.

Lately, however, the women's category had been de-emphasized. Last year the company said it would eliminate women's wear from nearly half its 70 full-size stores.

"Now we've decided to roll out menswear entirely," Mr. Finley said.

Bank was losing money on women's clothes, said Kenneth M. Gassman Jr., a financial analyst who follows the retailer and manufacturer for Davenport & Co. in Richmond, Va.

"It is a small portion of their total revenues but a significant drag on profits," Mr. Gassman said. "With the company's overall sales trends as weak as they are, the company needs to shed all of its poorly performing operations."

Bank already has ordered women's clothes for next fall and winter. Discounting the goods to purge them from Bank's inventory "will have a negative impact on the bottom line," Mr. Finley said. Nevertheless, he said, dropping the category is "the right thing to do."

Bank has clothing factories in Hampstead and Baltimore, but the facilities make menswear. Women's clothes came from outside vendors.

The company, whose Baltimore roots go back to 1905, is reacting to the increasingly dressed-down workplace. Its formal poplins and tweeds are giving way to denims and twills as employers hold "casual Fridays" and suits lose popularity.

Bank isn't abandoning its trademark suits. But this fall, it will offer more casual office attire: khakis, denim and twill shirts, loosely woven, baggier sport coats, and the like.

Profits will remain under pressure as the new category is rolled out, the company has said. Bank earned $1.3 million on revenue of $176.1 million for the fiscal year ended Jan. 28. Profit for the first quarter hasn't been announced yet.

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