Jos. A. Bank Sees Upswing in Online Sales

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Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., one of the few major apparel retailers to report healthy annual results in the sluggish economy, said Internet sales were up 188 percent in 2000.


The rise is attributed to the general lift that e-commerce received last year coupled with an August relaunch of the retailer's site, www.josbank.com. Web sales also were propelled by an online sweepstakes in the holiday season, traffic from affiliates and multiple e-mail drops.


The gain, however, came at the expense of catalog sales. For the fiscal year that ended Feb. 3, catalog sales were down 11.7 percent, "primarily from cannibalization from the Internet," the retailer said.


"I wouldn't say we're trying to force [catalog buyers] onto the Internet, but we're promoting the Internet channel through the catalog so that customers are aware that [the online option] is available," said Dave Ullman, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Jos. A. Bank, Hampstead, MD.


The 96-year-old company sells men's classic tailored and casual clothing, accessories and footwear. Total sales last year were $206.3 million, up 6.6 percent from 1999's $193.5 million. The dollar volumes for Internet and catalog sales totaled $25 million.


Ullman said Jos. A. Bank would hold the same regard for the catalog regardless of steady encroachment by its online store. The company mails 8 million catalogs a year over 15 to 16 drops, he said.


"Currently it's planned for a similar circulation as last year, because we view our catalog not only as a profit center but also as a vehicle to promote our image," Ullman said. "It does drive customers to both our stores and to the Internet, so it's this whole multichannel concept that we believe in."


But he said the focus, more than ever, was on pushing online sales.


"I think it's a vehicle where we can offer [a] greater amount of product and try new products ... on the Internet," Ullman said. Long term, he said, some items could be sold solely through the Internet, or the site could be used as a testing ground for the stores.


Ullman would not disclose the number of SKUs offered on josbank.com and in the catalog, but he said the site offers 5 percent more items than the catalog. For instance, the company introduced briefcases and leather bags last holiday and expanded its cufflink assortment online.


The retailer also caters to a slightly different clientele online compared with the catalog.


"Catalog is more traditional, slightly older, not a tremendous [amount], but there is a difference in that on the Internet you're selling to lower than our average age than [for the] catalog, and you can show more fashion-related items," Ullman said. "The store [customer] is pretty much between the two."


To further boost e-commerce this year, Jos. A. Bank will proceed with separate sweepstakes timed with key events. E-mail marketing also will continue.


"We will have an e-mail promotion geared towards Father's Day," Ullman said. "[Also] I think the almost weekly e-mail promotions were extremely successful, so we'll be going full steam with that."


He also said the affiliate program is "something that we see this year taking off at an even greater rate because last year was focused principally on getting the site operational, and now that it's running smoothly, we really want to focus on marketing."


The retailer has more than 500 affiliate relationships with sites that link to josbank.com.


"We're open to anything as far as an affiliate relationship with [the sites of] stockbrokers and financial services -- that's our customer, that buys stock, has good net worth, has high income, and so we're open for anything that the customer is looking for."


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