EP275 – Mickey Drexler on DTC
Mickey Drexler is the former CEO of Ann Taylor, The Gap, J. Crew, and is a former board member of Apple and Warby Parker. He is currently the CEO of Alex Mill, a digitally native vertical brand, founded by his son Alex Drexler.
He has been dubbed the “Merchant Prince” for his successful turn around of Ann Taylor, and his dramatic transformation of The Gap.
In this broad ranging interview, we cover his distinguished career, his opinion about the recent direct to consumer trends, and much more. The interview is full of juicy tidbits including:
- Getting kicked out of a Levi’s meeting after turning The Gap into a vertical integrated brand with its’ own label.
- His efforts to sell J. Crew to Amazon.
- He turned down Steve Jobs first request to serve on the Apple Board of Directors, and how he later helped Steve and Ron design the Apple retail store.
- Steve Jobs desire to be a direct to consumer brand.
- The pros and cons of intuition versus data to select merchandise.
- His cameo on Breaking Bad.
- How Old Navy was partially inspired by Targets early private label efforts.
- And much more
Episode 275 of the Jason & Scot show was recorded on Wednesday September 8th, 2021.
Join your hosts Jason “Retailgeek” Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis, and Scot Wingo, CEO of GetSpiffy and Co-Founder of ChannelAdvisor as they discuss the latest news and trends in the world of e-commerce and digital shopper marketing.
[0:24] Welcome to the Jason and Scot show this is episode 275 being recorded on Wednesday September 8th 2021 I’m your host Jason retailgeek Goldberg and as usual I’m here with your co-host Scot Wingo.
[0:39] Hey Jason and welcome back Jason and Scot show listeners.
Jason last week we did a deep dive into the Warby Parker and all boobs s-1 filings which was a lot of fun and we got a lot of really good conversation out there with listeners talking about digitally native vertical Brands and we thought
you know who could we bring on that keep this conversation going who has experience with wholesale Brands retailers
in a vertically integrated d2c brand I’m pretty sure there’s only one person in our industry that checks all those boxes and it is industry luminary Mickey Drexler we are very excited to have Mickey on the show Welcome Mickey.
[1:19] Thank you for having me and I’m excited to be here.
[1:23] Oh my gosh Mickey we are we are thrilled to chat with you
I’m eager to get into all the juicy topics going on in the industry and kind of cover your background but we have to start with the most important thing first and you may not know this Mickey but Scott
as very successful in the e-commerce industry and he’s invested a lot of his earnings from that industry into the car wash industry and.
The reason I bring this up is because you you have famously been on the TV Show Breaking Bad.
And I think that Scott is basically the plot for Breaking Bad is that.
[2:05] Yeah I’m sitting on pallets of cash right now.
[2:08] One of the highlights of my life nine takes but it was really a lot of fun and I love that show.
[2:17] It is a it is a great one.
[2:19] One of the best shows on TV.
Yeah so yeah we could probably do a whole show about breaking bad which I’m going to resist the temptation so,
Mickey normally we start up the show by letting the guest kind of tell us a little bit about their background that could be tricky in your case because a lot of us orders
probably know some of the highlights of your background and your backgrounds amazing but like
when you meet someone that doesn’t know you like how do you describe your career.
[2:50] Well I say I’m a retailer and I leave it at that,
no reason to go further sometimes people after the fact say gee I didn’t know you are who you are and cetera but if they want to know then maybe answer some specific questions,
but I don’t give them my resume.
[3:16] Nice well for the sake of our listeners I am going to break it down a little bit although I appreciate the the humility of it and
you you tell me if I have a ride but like
you grew up in the Northeast and and started your career in the apparel industry so you work for a bunch of storied apparel retailers Abrams and Strauss Macy’s Bloomingdale’s
and if I ever write your first big job that I don’t think that many people remember is you were the CEO at Ann Taylor.
[3:51] Yes by the way the Northeast means the Bronx to move is that was very special in my life so that’s who I grew up.
And my first after the three I had joined say Bloomingdale’s then briefly Macy’s,
Then I then I decided I did not want to work in the department store business anymore and I was fortunate enough to,
become CEO banjo which is a tiny company losing a lot of money owned by a larger company that happened on Brooks Brothers and probably never heard of the other companies who spoke to March around anymore,
and I did that for four years and we were then taken over by big bureaucratic department store,
and I decided I was never more disappointed at that point in my life I was a pretty young guy,
and I wanted to leave because they didn’t appreciate the business we were in it was all about bureaucracy was Alex Stewart.
Who then eventually like to play towards I’m not sure who they bought but so I left I left a mess a mess I left it in Taylor.
And moved to Gap in San Francisco.
[5:14] Yep and then for other young kids listening to the podcast Gap is going to sound like this famous iconic brand but when you joined in the late 80s
um they haven’t may be achieved all of their success yet and so like,
frankly you you are traded in for being that the CEO that led this,
enormous expansion and growth both financially and in terms of popular awareness of the Gap and I want to say you,
you watched a couple of the Gap Brands like Old Navy and Gap Kids and somewhat relevant to the conversations we have on this show a lot I think
you made a pretty significant decision to take Gap from being a wholesaler that sold a fair amount of other people’s Goods
to a vertically integrated brand that primarily focused on making your own goods and selling them direct to Consumers through your stores do I have that right.
[6:09] Yeah yeah correct I joined Gap you don’t mind if I correct details I join Gap,
at the end of 1983,
which is then it started as a hundred percent Levi’s company they only bought from Levi’s and then when I got there was about one-third of their business was Levi’s,
and long story short,
I learned in my retail life than especially having worked alongside Brooks Brothers which was at the beginning of the decline Franklin,
in the mid-80s but they were they own their label and they didn’t sell wholesale them,
and they did not have to worry about competitors etc etc and going on sale.
[7:05] They also with the highest profit company in a relatively small conglomerate of retailers and the reason was their margins were very high.
Because again they weren’t dealing with competitive sales my department store experience was the opposite,
if you’re in buying wholesale someone else will put the goods on sale and of course today you know 30 years later plus it’s the standard.
[7:35] And so I decided when I got to Ann Taylor.
[7:39] To own our own label over time I didn’t want to deal with competitors who have the same Goods as we did and we did,
to consumer or whatever you call it today and that was in 1980 1980,
1970 actually 74 5 trans legally 1980 exactly I joined them in 1980 so when I hear about direct-to-consumer today being the new heart area,
it’s been there has been a number of your few of us who did it,
and through a profit point of view it was the only way I wanted to go not want to buy wholesale we,
leave ours ironically after nearer to kick this out because they said we were copying them I’ll never forget the lunch was a long boring lunch in San Francisco,
and I said after I said they should have told us that right at the beginning so we didn’t have to go through this long boring lunch when they when they then said would not sell you anymore well frankly I didn’t really care and when you have news like that,
you figure it out better than you don’t have these like,
so we stopped being buying wholesale from Levi’s and great brand virus they were no hugely monstrous plan,
and we did it on their own but that was fine and that’s how it began.
[9:08] That’s amazing and I’m totally with you it’s I talked to all these young entrepreneurs that just started a new direct to Consumer brand and many of them are under the misguided impression that it’s a new business model that they just invented.
[9:21] I know well there’s a few of us then and now there are many many of us,
but it is what it was it was not where you could build a business and wake up in the morning and control,
your inventory and your prices when I joined the apple board in,
I think years later in 1999 Steve Jobs basically felt that’s what he wanted to do with apple that was his first year there.
And he wanted to go direct and of course she did continue doing business with Walmart and Target and all that but he became.
probably the greatest retailer ever and but you know it’s a standard today and there’s nothing new about it in fact it’s old and it is what it is.
[10:18] Yeah no I tease people that the very first merchants of all times I you know made their own rugs and sold them direct to Consumer so that’s that was the first Model like wholesale
is the newer the newer model.
And so I do so then the next chapter is going to be J.Crew and we’re going to go back and talk about some of the interesting issues that you confronted in some of these places but I do want to just highlight,
I assume you still follow the Gap the,
I would check out because it seems like you took them predominantly Direct in a lot of their news lately I don’t know you fought it but
they have a partnership with Walmart for their home goods and I just saw something today that they announced that they’re going to distribute Athleta which is there
they’re their work out a pair of brand on this doing really well through REI so it’s almost like they’re it’s interesting that they’re now adding some wholesale back to their mix.
[11:13] Yep well each company is entitled to you know they all have a point of view they have a vision and I think that’s what there is is can argue with it.
[11:24] Yeah no and obviously pros and cons to all of these so then you left the Gap was it around 2000 2002 something like that.
[11:33] Yes I think I left in I think 2001 yeah yeah they say I think I left in 2001,
in fact September 26 to be exact.
2001 and I started at J.Crew who’s counting January I think 25th or something in 2002.
[11:58] Awesome and what was the circumstances that J.Crew when you started.
[12:03] Well it was a mess a complete mess by the way I know you mentioned this but I started Old Navy I do it you probably know that story right.
[12:16] No no tell us.
[12:18] Well it’s an interesting story there’s an article in the New York Times page 4 5.
In terms of some some things I never forgot that like that and I read about Target Corporation then known as they Hudson starting a company to copy the gap.
And what do you do when someone wants to copy you get emotional you get crazy and then you fly to Minneapolis to the Mall of America and say okay I want to see what it looks like.
And I walked in on you say probably four minutes and I said this is way way off so I was relieved,
because to me everyone would sewing machine is your competitor potential,
I walked out and said you know is a big research company you know they I know they do a lot of research very successful and today more than ever,
stopping Chicago on the way back to San Francisco I visited.
Two stores demographics would be a price point below where Gap trailer very few me we were very much.
[13:29] Not expecting,
and I spoke to the store managers which you have to do in this world today you speak to who deals with customers it’s like I’ve always done that it’s my rule in any case they taught me a lot of lessons,
Gap was too expensive for this area things are always on sale and I knew that I pick those tubes that low-margin stores,
long story short got flew to San Francisco thinking about that,
check the jeans Business 80 percent of genes in America than was sold 25 years ago sold below $30 a hundred percent of our genes are above 30 dollars,
so I say this is not this is not a stupid idea,
for them because we are considered a little more expensive I gave 10 of our Associates,
then two hundred dollars each I assign.
Them to shop certain categories: Target Walmart then you came on versions and come back.
[14:39] Let’s discuss it in one week they all came back bottom line is,
they care about product they carry about price they couldn’t care less if it ended 99 Cents 87 cents as Walmart used to do,
etcetera and and right after that meeting I just said we’re going to do it we’re going to open up,
our version of it was called everyday hero,
and a few people from Jenny mean who worked at Marvin’s was running for the gap,
Jeff Eiffel we moved over we started with a small group to do what was then had no name.
[15:23] And Don Fisher was always you know he was always pretty open about entrepreneurial stuff and I said was starting his company we didn’t have a name long story short,
I couldn’t come up with the name I was in Paris going to the airport and I see a bar on Rue Saint Germain called Old Navy.
And I said to Maggie who was with me marketing I think what a great name for a company,
registered the next day in America no one had it and that was the name now of course my board didn’t really like name you know but to me your name your kids you’re not going to have a negotiation over what you name them,
we have a negotiation I hard to naming companies that have with horrible names and later on I’ll tell you how we got the Old Navy from olden days,
and that was the beginning first store open whole Gap Warehouse only had three names and I said,
we do this and we have no gaps in five years so then the next door is called Old Navy and that’s how we started today it’s about probably 80 and 90% of the earnings of the Gap Corporation I’m guessing.
But tremendously successful.
[16:38] Yeah that has been the tide that has lifted all the the Gap boats for a while.
And yeah that that is amazing you raise something that I have to ask though because it comes up a lot
I work with a lot of Brands and these days I spend a lot of time cautioning them
about how good the retailers are becoming it inventing their own Brands and and their first reaction is always the same is your trip to Minneapolis like you know targets not very good at this I’m not very worried right,
and I think that was absolutely true back then and in many categories it still is true but I would argue that in some categories,
and Target more so than most is getting darn good at this and you look today at like
cat and Jack and they’re very successfully competing with with Baby Gap and and you know sort of traditional brands.
[17:30] Hundred hundred percent I totally agree but you know what you’re good at and the products right.
And I think their inspiration I was told was the crew cuts I don’t know if that’s true or not I’m not the kids business anymore and I don’t pay attention,
but absolutely true look if it’s a vision,
and and the product is right and I always say the product has to be right and in their case you know the price is right well the past its product,
quality of product value and that’s by the way we did oh maybe that’s the story in any business right product right value.
Right marketing and emotional connection to it and then we had operated retail.
And the style and taste is all for us it’s very important.
[18:23] So then we mentioned that you you started that that January a J.Crew which was a mess at the time,
and I want to say one of the things you did for J.Crew kind of mirroring the Old Navy story is launched the Madewell brand there.
[18:41] Well I did that before I join J.Crew.
I bought the name Madewell from a fellow named David Mullen who was it really nice company,
hear that David used to work with me in wash it was a wash consult very talented guy showed me the name before I went to J.Crew,
I love the longer it’s very hard to name a company and the name immediately resonated with me,
and I should Wanted You by Sly can’t afford it,
and so I paid $125,000 for the name which you know once you finish with those naming companies which I wouldn’t want to do they’ll charge you a million dollars will come up and bad names no offense the main companies.
But but I thought the name 1937 already it had history it had a feeling it had emotion so I bought the name and tucked it away,
and when we went public when we turn Jake you around,
see I was there to about three or four years to you actually turn around always starts a year and a half later and that’s three years later or whenever I thought it was time to start me.
[20:04] So that’s what we start the username and that was unlike every day unlike the everyday hero.
Target this was a this was more complicated because the Old Navy was price point or two or three below gas.
[20:25] This one and I might say was the first company to get to a billion dollars in sales as fast as they did until Apple get there.
So it took off like a rocket at Old Navy like a rock it was really a very nice toy and maybe well was much more difficult,
we took it we had a number of different people leading it,
and we just couldn’t get it going the right way I made a number of mistakes in opening up.
Bedroom state which knows things it was real estate wasn’t on Vine and that didn’t work,
we just didn’t get our act together for at least four years in five years,
and I was really upset because I said you know this is taking away from the value of our public company so we must 15 and 20 million dollars a year which I think we were maybe 15 million a year,
you know you take the multiple of the stock and all the sudden you know the company’s worth three hundred million dollars less because we’re starting made well,
so that kind of aggravated me couldn’t get rid of that aggravation way things are but then some set.
[21:43] I came back to the corporation he left for you or two and he was putting to be in charge of.
Male and he did an incredible job and so he and I work very closely together.
And I always merchandising Missouri involved.
[22:06] And he did the design and he had a vision for design I had a vision well the storefront,
it was kind of a I was always inspired by I think they’re still around but I’m not sure a bread bread store in the village called the suvi oh maybe,
I don’t know if it’s still there to be the bakery yes I always loved the way the storm was so we designed a store.
I kind of felt like a see it was the studio I’m just actually look at a picture again we fun and we built a really I was really pleased with the store but I was not pleased with how the business was going,
and some sack pinion looking at the storefront now online beautiful store and it’s beautiful store goal,
and then when he came in the rest then this is starting to take off like a rocket plus woman named Mary.
Who was jeans made merry new Mary knew more veggies.
[23:19] And she joined us from Jay Vernon and Mary came in.
Thanks Gary Pierson and she and some set and it takes people to do it we put together we became a major genes,
that was our vision the best kind of jeans that not crazy designer prices and the company took off also at some point like a lock.
And that was the story of Nemo.
And you know all the retail to be all the over companies to Fashion they hit a wall at times and then they come back or they don’t come back,
and hitting a wall is part of what goes on every company I’ve been involved as hit a wall at some point it’s a wall in any me to save it and bring it back or it or it continues to have a hard time.
[24:17] For sure the side note another company hit a wall sadly was Vesuvio which is a hundred year old Bakery in SoHo I have some good news bad news they had a Hiatus and they reopened in like
20/20 so the last
and I was is in SoHo they were they were open I had not heard what has happened since the pandemic and I can imagine it wasn’t a great time for them so I hope they’re doing well.
[24:43] We’ll check it out and we’ll let you know that’s cool.
[24:47] Awesome so then I do want to kind of just wrap up the clear stuff and then we’re going to dive in a little deeper on a few of the things that we’ve already talked about but so today you are Alex Mill and do you want to tell us a little bit about Alex.
[25:01] Yeah sure Alex my son or Alex.
[25:03] We’re both I was waiting for you to tell that yes.
[25:08] Well my son started the business in 2005 13,
and he just started I was very involved and I pretty much had nothing to do with it at all which he reminded me when I started here,
he says you know you don’t even wear our t-shirts which were famous for.
And he was right I just didn’t pay any attention and I probably should have but he didn’t ask me really and he was a wholesale come.
And we do business it was kind of cool we had a little bit of a cult following and and I’m allergic to high prices which really gets translated as too bad value,
you know I don’t mind high prices in certain categories or where you get what you pay for for a you know the prices are ridiculous but you might learn from his luggage or whatever from a mess,
but we designer clothes in general so he went along I went along he.
[26:18] When I left J.Crew I didn’t think anything about his business but when some stack.
Who is he quit he had a non-compete and I was his age.
So we need help I hope to get jobs in the industry part-time jobs freelance because he walked away from a very very big job,
and so the day his non-compete was up,
I that was the day he was a beginning of a new Alex will be in some segments and do each other,
and Alex was very happy that he would find some partner and some seconds considered the founder of the company he’s a major shareholder long of Alex and myself,
and he joined us.
[27:16] And then I was very happy kind of had a job again because I was doing stuff but not doing what I love to do which is be involved in building a company Vision etcetera,
so I joined I think it was about two and a half years ago I’m not even sure the day.
And we had a little tiny office which I’m now we doubled the space instead,
that we start to build a business and we had a vision and a woman’s and Alex and I at the beginning or I would say it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven,
it’s the it’s the come one since when and it took a lot of work and a lot of a lot of help.
And we finally listening I’m going to say that he’s going to listening to his mother my wife about making certain that he and I get along and I did that with him,
it was like another else conversation and it’s been really really nice over the last number of months but it’s hard.
To be with your dad and I was trying to figure out is he.
Someone I work with or is he my son and it’s extremely difficult and he kept dealing with me as whatever I done.
[28:40] And so now he’s you know he’s a partner along with some set and and Hussein.
And we hired a team and it’s very hard to start a company I had the bank of Gap in the Bank of J.Crew in my other two startups now I didn’t have their back.
And so we funded us elves which in a way is really good I also do want to have for the first time in my life.
Too many opinions that weren’t right and that was a blessing even though you know I’m doing this for a million years,
if we’re right we’re right if we’re wrong way wrong but my best board members were always people I knew anyway not necessarily on the board.
But when you have a money partner which I certainly did they think about profits they think which is nothing wrong with it but,
take its long-term to build a profitable company,
and when you have hit a wall you succeed if you’re good at it I always had a kind of ability to.
Knock down and I just get right back up and I don’t stop.
[30:00] But some cases that doesn’t happen but here we are independent Leo and not negotiating colors or Styles or what someone else thinks we should do.
We’re expanding in the business is starting to really kind of take off now so I’m really excited I’ve always been excited.
It’s about the taste quality I look at the landscape out there.
And I think this is not a lot of things going on that I feel or what I would say are incredibly impressive there are those winners,
and you all know who they are so what I’m hearing so I think we’re all excited but small you know.
But that’s small anymore 20 people work there and we all have like multiple jobs which is good I’ve say snorts growing pretty rapidly,
so and you know that’s our mission.
[31:03] My I have a some great empathy for your son Alex I’m a fourth-generation retailer and I think I can imagine poor Alex just wanted his famous dad to wear his t-shirts and he got an activist investor instead.
[31:15] What your fourth generation retailer.
[31:19] Yeah yeah my family sort of started out in the in the grocery and then later jewelry business,
I did want to highlight you’ve referenced it a couple times that you’re also you had a long stint on the board at Apple and I want to say I’ve been,
worked with Ron Johnson the number of times and I’ve seen some interviews with Steve Jobs and in both cases they reference you as the the retail Savvy board member and Apple.
[31:46] I met Steve in I loved Steve idolized ski and I still love him to this day,
he was extraordinary and I give very slowly thinking about the way he died went through,
and to excuse me per.
Steve we met what he wants he gets when he doesn’t stop at anything the most seductive human being I’ve ever met in my life,
we met at a mutual friend’s birthday party in Napa Valley came up to me and we start the shoes and,
you don’t say what’s the job so long Steve you know a niche wasn’t and we’re talking and he.
[32:32] Got in touch with me after that asked if I would join this board,
and I said no I don’t like public companies now I took my schmuck anti schmuck pills after the okay,
because hello is that a bad word to say she’s no and I realized holy shit,
and I just you know I was yeah I was on a board you know bless them family board,
in other words and items on a number of other boards and I get bored very quickly on boards because that’s the way I am and I need to be action busy,
and I’m not a technologist I don’t know much about it but.
So a year later he came to me after becoming come to me and said you join my board I will join Apples by Gap store,
well Steve hate Sports also,
but he and I said deal why because God will he be amazing on the board,
just as a factor of not going along with everything already.
[33:50] And he became a pain in the ass to the number of people who isn’t always on Tiny going and what’s up this kind of but he privately we had a really nice strong relationship.
And she joined the board I would say made a few enemies on the board because he whatever he thinks he says that’s it he says.
And and sometimes he says it doesn’t make people happy so so that’s essentially what happened so in any case I join these board.
And first thing he wanted me to do was to design a store.
[34:31] And we had a really bad looking store and that he designed and then we got a warehouse which we used to do with my old company,
and we got a warehouse you designed a brand new store in the warehouse p.m. for 5,000 square feet and.
The store was really good-looking that’s basically what happens students are today simple it showed off the price.
And it wasn’t a story that was czechia where the product was competing with the design and that was our first Apple Store,
and then after that I just you know he asked me about color of iPods he always want to review the colors Etc.
You know it’s like you’re 16 years and lives through extraordinary success and you know appreciate it I don’t know you and appreciate it well he was alive and well.
But just I just always you know he went to the meetings he started every single meeting for it spent most of his time on the.
[35:46] And you don’t find that many people and many companies they spend most of their time necessary not on product that was steamed on product,
things tough he was titled in an infant in a good way in my mind you know Obama didn’t call him back,
one morning he wanted to President Obama to launch the first iPhone he was Furious Obama didn’t get that I’ll never forget that,
he says how do you not call me back like this light in four hours Al Gore was on the boy houses Steve I’ll get him to call you back whatever.
[36:24] You know Obama told and back when you had a minute came back and says he’s going to launch the iPhone pushing never did but that’s what Steve wanted to believe anyway amazing amazing run,
an amazing person he and Johnny I everyday had lunch and every day was you know what’s the future going to hold.
For apple and he the other thing he did,
is he kind of made me for sure and numbers feel stupid at the end of a board meeting I wasn’t in technology guys sometimes I’d say something that you look the righteousness gee how can I say that,
and then you can bury yourself and say oh I don’t want to disappoint Steve yeah but he was to me was a special unique gift to the world.
And I miss him and I think the world misses in today.
because I’m the entrepreneur on the program Jason has a fancy corporate job and a title that has more words that I can keep track of the so you’ve been a successful entrepreneur for decades what advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur listening to the show like what are,
distill down some of the things you’ve learned through there.
[37:36] I was explaining to him that every single day this we haven’t really nice marketing business we do well but every day I come to work.
And I reach for the sky.
[37:52] And I’m trying to explain that no matter what we’re doing oh he also time says I’m too critical of things or people or whatever and I said you know Alex everyday.
I come to work I said every day you come to work I come to work and I look for what.
Could be better not for what you write and I think a lot of people have a hard time with that vision is,
where you going how you get there with the unknowns is critical,
so people say well how do you do this that and the other thing and I said I had a photograph of what Gap should be I didn’t in Maine.
I didn’t J.Crew and I actually I did yet in J.Crew and I didn’t Old Navy and I didn’t so I had a photograph in my mind we get sale in one Business book.
Because it was actually misses you by I had to do with those.
[38:56] That didn’t work but yet not them to get up into the skill set whose huge toes.
What you need to do and I can’t speak about Instinct in other areas but I think Instinct judgment.
Seeing around corners where they say skate to where the puck is going.
Is extremely important in the fashion business and knowing when to go knowing when to stop when things slow down extremely.
[39:30] Picking the right team is something rules that rules but got to pick the right partners and when you make a mistake in a partnership and so many of us don’t do this for cleanup face up to you but.
[39:46] And do something of that.
You know and the bigger companies are no longer into the smaller company like this.
About your all living together and it doesn’t take long and when you’re writing your own checks,
that’s a big difference when you’re writing your own checks which I know most people probably don’t have the ability to do,
it’s very different than the private Equity the joint venture etc etc but he country each business,
as if you own it it’s your money in and that’s part of it and then you know we will passion,
I say leadership curiosity I think anyone was not curious in my mind can’t do well running a company,
they have to be curious unless it’s look like you speak about technology I just assumed the same rules.
But building a retail company it’s kind of like painting a very beautiful picture as to what we’ll stick together you know I once went twice went to visit Ford motor.
[41:01] Headquarters and the first time I got was because Anna meaning with Jeff Sons yeah.
Surrender they show the new Mustang this is probably seven.
The co-host and I said he says what do you think of the car in front of all these people I said it’s a very cool looking car.
[41:26] The wheels are really big and I would never want to Market or sell a car for have one myself with a wheels are bad,
I know it’s kind of silly ish but it’s not it’s putting together a painting and there’s nothing worse,
there are worse things in wheels that stand out like a sore thumb so he invited me to,
Detroit with designer factors Co didn’t go with me which I thought says.
He’s no one not because of Nations and it was seven people designing the one car.
Now you understand why the cars a lot of cases look like they look.
Steve always wanted to talk he would have done now they were to get when I he was he was fascinated with Tesla very impressed night,
from his point of view it wasn’t I said I know if you remember the to see your test sports car.
[42:28] Register yeah.
[42:29] I said Steve it’s such an ugly looking Paris looks to me like you are pathetic it’s not about the course looks you can always design a beautiful car it’s about what’s inside.
Mechanics engineering but anyway I think.
You know as for me I’m accused of being a micromanager you really better be,
you better care about the wheels better care about this hear about that Medicare by recalling about he just you know we have a few new bad colors in Arabic in Arabic.
The color is of opinion L and if you buy three good colors and then two bad ones you don’t morejon out on the product because you have bad colors which I don’t think people pay enough attention to.
And I could know what I’m trying to think what else to go on.
[43:23] You know I know we’re running up on time but just quickly
quickly so you you kind of were very early on what this kind of direct to Consumer now there’s this whole digitally native vertical brand what what do you think’s driving that Trend and where do you think it goes.
[43:39] Yeah I think it continues to go because if you’re buying wholesale you know the pricing is all off.
And I saw that when I was you know young guy you know like when I was at Bloomingdales I was 23.
Alexander’s department store maybe Fourth Generation member states they I was a swimsuit sweater and t-shirt.
And everything else I wasn’t I didn’t do that for terribly wrong but for the year I was in there you are Alexander’s cut their prices.
In the middle of June and I’ll never forget I had a couple my prices we had a policy to meet price.
Young kid in the business and I was Furious Alexander’s just here and now my my profits and margins.
Then what to help.
Because I hadn’t worked out on my bathing suits that was a stupid rule but it wasn’t a bad I kind of like the idea of Crisis competitors that was the beginning,
what’s happened to the last 30 or 40 years T.J.Maxx the most important department store.
[44:58] And you know the word stimuli,
we have all the discounts that and you go online and you we had a big discussion here yesterday you said well we sell this to Nordstrom Rack and he said well if it was an existing item,
we want think if it isn’t bad covers and they said you can’t miss anything going to go online,
given a look for this island yes my little bit Nordstrom Rack will whoever Valance T.J.Maxx before you see Alex Mill so the pricing.
Is critical so white and a lot of what I did was also because who I always admired Ralph Lauren Bailey – pricing and I know all these things cost and so I said we can put together.
A design team that will hopefully be as good as a design team ourselves if we do that I say I don’t I don’t want to have another problem.
[45:59] So the prophets were always all the retailers are inflated in America in Goods that are wholesale purchases,
because it is plant safety and cost,
and here we might sell 250 you spend fifty yourself Bloomingdale’s 425 and hundred twenty-five goes to 275 or $300 is the difference.
In pricing so TJ Max knows that really long Ross stores.
Everyone knows it and and I think that’s why I don’t think there’s a future to be in that business.
And I sit to the parks to excited family with a lot and probably not have to hear this but.
[46:46] Yeah no department stores listen to our show I promise I’m.
[46:52] So I said I really don’t want to see I said where you going to be in five years or ten years if everything you bought.
Is available at a discount and that’s the truth.
So and I have friends in the business they do hello mrs. with teaching marks they do with most of the partner stories and what does that leave you and Caroline Woods is a great coach.
And really smart nice person but what is forty fifty sixty billion dollars huge profits so,
and really big believer must now this is where I’m standing in the luxury business is not.
We have they probably can do it now via makes does.
They do with brilliantly I guess the other one you know they have they can probably do it who’s those customers probably like it exclusivity they like paying more money and so on and so forth but it works through that I think it does,
so so I know if I knew the answer to that question with that pricing thing is huge.
[48:06] No it’s a it’s a big issue for the industry to figure out and people that don’t are going to.
Have it have a challenging future I think as you’ve highlighted I did want to ask you a question so,
if anyone Google’s Mickey Drexler your you’re gonna find all these business articles with your picture on the cover and some variation of this title that we’ve all given you the merchant Prince
um and that the kind of just I hope you’re okay with it seems like you get that title whether you want it or not.
The gist of all those is that man,
Mickey had a really good run of picking a lot more winners than losers of therefore it having the the products that that consumers wanted and you know they’re there for
achieving a bunch of financial success for your various businesses and I’ve always wanted to ask you,
is in your mind is that success as a merchant is that we’re you better than other people at,
identifying the trends that were emerging in what people wanted or were you better at getting people to want what what you liked.
[49:19] I think it’s a little box I think our industry is lacking.
Merchants today as much as I’ve seen over the last many many decades.
I don’t know what it is but I think you have a sense of seeing around corners you must see around the corners,
I believe except if you’re a seller if you’re a Discounter and you’re good at it you don’t have to see around the corners just have to Source right,
and I have the right price and have a great way to view or but those businesses are out there I don’t really know them well.
But that’s important in most business not enough you know,
worthy I think mostly eyeglasses they sell what’s true of all of us most of what we sell,
are what we would call her oh it items iconic but you have to feel it you have to see it.
You have to have an inch and in the instinct is incredibly.
[50:39] I think I was talking to a friend yesterday and he said in his 15 year old is now color rather than know what need p is.
The expanse was something I said you know it’s interesting I said to Henry I said do,
is there anyone in your family who is musical I always ask someone that question whoever I interview,
and sure enough Henry’s wife plays very good these though and Henry was a musician.
[51:13] Growing up.
And now here’s their son they are very talented musician artist creative there’s always some kind of.
DNA is connection is fine and it always also depends on who works I was very lucky,
I started working for a woman named King Marcin I didn’t work for she’s the best Fortune taste Isle and when I got to Bloomingdale’s like this young.
[51:42] And I was after the first day in the house was checking on what they gave me a department to run,
Stand start that’s it you’re the buyer one department and Katie Mercy was my mentors go off to Europe together factories and I guess I learned from her,
and she the best merchants in the company if she wasn’t a woman she’s Co she was fantastic but there is something you get.
Fun styling taste that you were born with and I think that’s true in stinking with anything in the world.
Tonight and it’s not a scientific illusion but I everyone I interview I kind of want to know what their parents did.
[52:30] For what this family that might have been a grandfather and a lot of especially creative it.
So so I think that’s really important the other part of the question is mostly was what you’re going with and then creating your maker,
well there’s a lot of things under the radar and if you go after it you create demand for the people just don’t expose it so we have recording a items we bring in,
old mr. white we doing that way of doing this and they take off like crazy because someone wanted.
And understanding what someone might want and Steve Jobs has tasks.
[53:17] Is all part of the skill set with meeting.
I’m not too bad Commodities during this price I thought would worry Parker bids was absolutely brilliant at figuring.
What’s out there with the stylish kind of cool pumping where people are going to pay $95 for their eyeglasses the only thing I say that Neil and Davis I think we need to at times.
Balance or if you read Tales they could probably leave me come to my newest company of record I said I think you can have one more fun and I prices and however Orange.
But the most important so then just like friends but no I think you you kind of born I see,
I see him every time you sit down and look at it woman and she gets it it’s in her blood why she has.
And she’s had a chief Merchant and see something and feels it and knows it and you know and then you have to be go to the message you’re not quitting.
[54:23] You have to know numbers you have to get Four Kings you have to figure out how long it’ll be around you know has has everything.
To the end of the numbers of databases we’ve been doing data since with 23 years old,
whatever you always needed you need to know how much to buy anything happens to the forecast and you need to know how many sizes you do but now they have another fancy name for it.
Act like merchandising second you’re not going to succeed in affection.
[54:58] I think you just answered my next question but that’s like so obviously the traditional merchandising you have this science part which is the math and the forecasting and open a by and all that good stuff and you have the intuition which
like to a certain extent seems like a god-given talent the,
what’s interesting to me is lately some of these new companies that have been born and Amazon being a great example like they used to hire a lot of merchants in every category so that have a,
pet food buyer and you know and apparel buyer and a battery by or whatever they’ve kind of gotten rid of the merchant title and they’ve gone all-in on the data so they call it hands off the wheel and they let the computer decide what to buy,
instead of a merchant and I’ve told lesser extent I think Katrina it Stitch fix,
has that model a little where she uses data to inform her product a lot more and then you think of like she in and the Uber fast fashion space is,
is that a future Trend like do you see that mostly working for these discount categories is that.
[56:03] Well I think you can argue Amazon but you know I thought when when I was I thought Amazon should have purchased J.Crew.
I thought it would be really smart purchase they get a culture fashion and style.
I think they’d be dangerous if they could figure that out.
[56:30] And so we had someone approached them and of course it was done yeah not the personally I won’t be there.
I think that.
If you look you can’t even Stitch fix success but you cannot argue with kind of goods they sell if you.
I like what I do I love I love what I do and it’s about taste and style and if you do that for.
Many have a point of view you’ll probably do well so I need you to it is really good at the Bronx Science I couldn’t get arrested enhanced you G I was always really good,
I think you have to be good so I guess I do all the stuff they do I do.
We’re just hiring people do single stitch.
We haven’t been there but then again we are you know my choices to be the style formation with fun and emotion I give credit to any company.
Whatever they do is stand financially successful of your poems but I don’t know enough about Stitch fix lots of opportunities and Stitch fix.
[57:50] Chien have you follow them at all.
[57:52] Like they’re wildly successful I don’t follow them when it’s but you know.
[58:00] It seems like they’re a lot more about like plugging into all the social media you know like picking up the latest trends on on Instagram and Tick-Tock and things like that and then like you know super fast supply chain 2,
didn’t get those Trends in.
[58:16] Yeah and then again I care about quality and I care about all the stuff maybe bit different but if they’re really from Julia.
[58:25] It is it’s a Chinese company they don’t love for people to know that.
[58:29] Yeah well you know I wanted but sourcing their secretary like giveaway Price is Right.
[58:36] Yeah it’s super inexpensive like some people call it disposable fashion which is probably a.
[58:41] Yeah this is not what we want to do it’s a kid’s business on young business.
I don’t know we’ll see how I like you know my company’s that well so we’ll see.
[59:01] But but no I think the maths we really need a good mind and and for me I’m a huge micro.
I’m looking at.
Right now jumpsuit made dead which is brand-new and we’re going to sell a lot of it is you know we just put it it’s kind of comes naturally if you have the big jumps in the cellar.
And and so you know you always create but you’re not creating months Salem I just looked at.
[59:36] I’m just really upset I looked at it I see why did me five men were 87 and it’s $295 I said that’s important just came in yesterday to the bad mark.
And usually they can get away with doing that as a rebuttal so when you got it.
And right now syllables troops crossed because it’s not being self so you kind of get something you kind of knowing side and sort of okay.
It’s just bad news and it’s not us.
And you have to have a sense like covers the same thing most of them look alike so that the finger it comes.
I think it’s an offender brand new bottle and it’s made by making sure it’s a really good looking car and.
I looked at it I said I don’t want to renew pop color something that’s you know not everyone’s driving it’s a very good looking car and you can see it’s going to be a big guy.
Because it’s really designed well you know part talking about it over.
[1:00:48] No I’m trying to switch.
[1:00:50] It’s called The Defender I like your car like this.
Not to me but you work committee should whatever but you could see the second Network,
Tina news needles and I think it is I see a lot of them and cars used to be a lot more interesting design,
then they are too maybe it’s because is definitely people decide on here maybe it’s the vision see it’s hard to find cars and is Towing it.
You know you all have an interest in cars.
No we talked to what good looking car and not a lot of them are right so and I used to collect isn’t nice.
But but I kind of collecting child fantasize you’ve been having some cool cars but they are all kind of well design.
They were uniquely designed and today you know it’s a different world.
[1:01:52] Yeah no for sure and it’s it,
interesting there sort of both out there there’s you know people that you know still go for that unique distinctive looking care about the Aesthetics and there’s people that you know just want to take an Uber for,
for transportation so seems like a parallel is going in the same direction as that there’s you know strong stuff with a strong point of view and that’s that’s quality and unique and then you know there’s some people that you know just want,
affordable inexpensive sweatshirt.
[1:02:23] Sure was were those for sure but you know I like the integrity.
And not expensive I personally don’t like expensive too expensive you know I mean I know maybe this is for sure.
[1:02:43] Yeah well is it Mickey we could go on for hours but it has happened again we have used up all of our allotted time and I actually think.
[1:02:53] I’m having so much fun here guys.
[1:02:55] I know I know why we will record the Extended Cut and you and I can just keep chatting.
[1:03:02] Anytime seriously.
[1:03:04] You’re our new guest host you’re in.
[1:03:08] All right listen thanks a lot I appreciate the time and the questions and the schmoozing you know I do like two shoes so this is a great shoes.
[1:03:26] Never ever I was on that I was on Instagram for about a minute and I came off like I don’t want to forget.
[1:03:36] Okay well you if people want more you exclusively come to the Jason Scott show that’s where you’ll be going.
[1:03:42] We really appreciated the time and enjoyed chatting with you and until next time happy commercing.