In the past, Jos. A. Bank was known as a suit store. Today the clothier is moving toward business casual & weekend wear.

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, menswear specialists for nearly a century, is going casual — business casual. But not to worry. The Hampstead, Md.-based retailer will still carry its distinctive lines of suits and dress clothing, but will add a corporate casual component to the mix.

Studies have revealed business casual attire in the workplace is having a dramatic effect on men's wardrobes. With dress-down Fridays and the re-emergence of the sport coat, Jos. A. Bank realized it would need to change its strategy. The 96-year-old merchant intends to strengthen its presence in the market by opening between 70 and 100 newly inspired stores by the end of fiscal 2003. “We plan to double our size in four years,” explains Robert Hensley, executive vice president of operations.

Jos. A. Bank currently has 117 stores (10 are franchised, with no plans to expand franchising) from coast to coast. Plans developed with Chicago-based Arthur Andersen and Columbus, Ohio-based design firm Retail Planning Associates (RPA) will come to fruition in March with the opening of the retailer's prototype store in Charlottesville, Va.

The concept of corporate casual clothing is a major influence on the design of the next-generation stores. “RPA quizzed us thoroughly and the design group determined a more visual presence was needed,” says Hensley.

The new Jos. A. Bank look features glass storefronts and trademark glass doors. Inside, the customer finds 12-ft. hardwood ceilings and hardwood floors that set the stage for upscale business casual wear. The fine, tailored suits on which the retailer built its reputation are displayed at the back in a quieter setting. Ten foot dropped ceilings with crown molding and multi-shade moss green carpeting compliment this area. The curved design on the ceiling and floor gently segues the customer from informal to traditional business attire.

“The prototype store is 5,000 sq. ft. — that's slightly larger than the current average store size,” Hensley says. The clothier will be adding luggage, casual shoes and weekend wear to its new stores in addition to business wear, formal wear and underwear.

“I want our new sites to have a signature look to them,” says Jos. A.Bank CEO Robert Wildrick. And they will. Pickled oak fixtures, a large logo wall at the rear of the store and a distinctive center will surprise longtime customers. Lighting throughout the new stores will be 30% brighter than in existing facilities, which offer darker, cherrywood fixtures and islands of clothing throughout. “Our goal is a clean, simple, bright environment that focuses solely on the merchandise,” says Hensley.

New stores can be found in three settings: lifestyle centers, “A” malls and vibrant streetfront centers, says Hensley. The clothier likes to share centers with co-tenants such as Talbots, Williams-Sonoma, AnnTaylor, Pottery Barn, Chico's and Restoration Hardware. “They create the right shopping environment, usually attracting couples,” says Hensley. “While the wife goes in one store, the husband can stop in a Jos. A. Bank and purchase what he needs.”

Contact: Robert Hensley, executive vice president of operations, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, 410.239.5712.
Jenny King is a Detroit-based writer.