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Men's Wearhouse CEO George Zimmer feeds Benghazi, a giraffe at the Oakland Zoo, where he is a baord member, earlier this month.
In the late '60s, George Zimmer was just as likely to be found hanging out with the politically and socially conscious students at Washington University in St. Thirty-five years after opening his first Men's Wearhouse, (MW) Zimmer is still running the company, now one of North America's largest specialty retailers, with $2.1 billion in annual sales. In fact, Men's Wearhouse's rise is in part due to selling conventional clothing unconventionally. Since the first store opened in 1973 in Houston, Men's Wearhouse has emphasized lower pricing than competitors. A financial crisis in the mid-1980s, when a bank called a loan his company used to finance inventories, persuaded Zimmer to refocus his business model on everyday low prices.
Still, Zimmer recognized that good advertising and low prices would only get men to buy a suit once.
Sales staff were trained to think of themselves as businessmen's clothing consultants, and to work together as teammates in assisting clients.


Zimmer also began linking some of the philosophies he had picked up in college to managing and selling. Terry Bacon, president of Lore International Institute, a talent and leadership consulting firm in Durango, Colo., featured Men's Wearhouse in a book he co-authored called Winning Behavior. That corporate culture, which includes an emphasis on managers being involved in their communities, regularly lands Men's Wearhouse on various lists of best places to work. Twenty-five years ago, after seeing a picture of a large male African elephant bending down to get into its cement night house, Zimmer was disturbed to learn the photo was from his local zoo.
There also have been times when Zimmer's '60s-mindset has raised conventionalists' eyebrows.
For instance, Zimmer's a board member at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, a group that studies paranormal phenomena and was founded by Apollo astronaut and moon walker Edgar Mitchell. Guidelines: You share in the USA TODAY community, so please keep your comments smart and civil. The company claims that its clothes are of the same quality, and often designed and made by the same people who produce those found in tony department stores.


Happy employees who believe their work is appreciated and has meaning beyond their paychecks keep customers satisfied and loyal, which pleases investors, he says.
It also has led Zimmer to board seats with a variety of organizations, including the Oakland Zoo, near his home.
Practicing what he preaches, Zimmer called the then-new zoo director to volunteer his time and money.
Today the average Men's Wearhouse suits sell for $200 to $600 and each item is priced 20% to 50% lower than in department stores, the company says.



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