Has Men's Wearhouse Done Permanent Damage to Its Brand and Shareholders?

When Men’s Wearhouse Inc. (NYSE: MW) last week released preliminary sales results for its fiscal third quarter, along with fourth-quarter estimates, the negative reaction from investors was quick and sharp. The stock price dropped by more than 25%.

The company now expects earnings per share (EPS) to be in the range of $0.46 to $0.51 for the third quarter, down from its previous expectation of $0.87. The consensus estimate for the third quarter was EPS of $0.99. Men’s Wearhouse also forecast EPS for fiscal 2015 between $1.75 and $2.00, versus the previous guidance of $2.70 to $2.90 for EPS. The consensus EPS estimate for the 2015 fiscal year calls for $2.78. These results are not guaranteed, but it’s probably safe to say that by the scheduled December 9 earnings release date the results will not have changed much.

The acquisition of Jos. A. Bank after it first tried to acquire Men’s Wearhouse in October of 2014 is likely the trigger for the woes that were revealed last week. The Jos. A. Bank acquisition was completed in March, and Men’s Wearhouse stock hit a year-to-date peak in late June. Since then the stock has steadily declined, with weaker summer and fall sales.

Much of the agony is due to a significant sales weakness at the Jos. A. Bank segment; comparable sales decreased by 14.6%, far below earlier expectations. The decrease was driven primarily by a decline in traffic as the company began the transition away from the “Buy-One-Get-Three Free” promotional events.

While these promotions generated traffic, they did not generate revenue. Then it got worse. Men’s Wearhouse said the October promotion was the last of its kind, and once it ended, so did store traffic.

The four-for-one promotions were a staple of Jos. A. Bank’s strategy and it is certainly possible, even likely, that Men’s Wearhouse will make a splashy announcement in December telling its customers that the deal is back.

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While Men’s Wearhouse believed that it could juice up the Jos. A. Bank brand, it did not count on the loyalty that customers had to these promotional events and, it seems, only to these events. So, either Men’s Wearhouse CEO Doug Ewert can continue to try re-branding and updating the Jos. A. Bank without the promotions or it can try to come up with something that is as appealing to customers as low prices.

Maybe a conversation with former J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson would help focus his attention.