Jerry Seinfeld On Jos. A. Bank And Men's Warehouse

The Jos. A. Bank and Mens Warehouse pacman like dance fascinates me. These are companies I don't quite get selling products I don't want. But the companies have surprisingly high valuations and in Jos. A. Bank's (JOSB's) case the business appears remarkably consistent and remarkably profitable.

I asked my readers to do some due-diligence for me, taking photos of JOSB stores over the Black Friday sales. I got back a small, biased sample. Most my readers (with a value-manager exception noted below) are not the sort of people who shop there. A typical response I got was this:

This [with attached photos] is the Jos Bank store at the Galleria Mall in Ft Lauderdale, FL. I started taking pictures and they asked why I was doing it. Tried to take the front from both sides and from the escalator so you get an idea, took pics of shelves and prices, hope it helps. This was Black Friday 7:30 pm, I was the only person in the store.

Several other people said that they were the "only person in the store". And yet JOSB reported in their conference call that their sales over the Black Friday period were great. Here is a direct quote from their last conference call:

We're particularly happy with our strong sales in week 4 of November which includes Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and also the first week of December so far which includes Cyber Monday. Customers really responded to our combination of fresh and timely product offerings, strong door-buster pricing and compelling values throughout the store. And we achieved these strong sales without deterioration in the efficiency of our advertising spending and without a deterioration of our gross profit margin rate.

Even by the standards of retail advertising there is double-talk here. The company does have "door-buster pricing" but it also has nine months of inventory, something they justify on the basis that a wide offering is a competitive advantage and that men's fashion changes slowly. "Fresh and timely product offerings" is not something I associate with JOSB. Nor is "fresh and timely" consistent with JOSB's accounts. And the sales aren't "door busters" if the seeming absence of customers is anything to go by.

Whatever: JOSB seems to work. For years they have had great sales from lightly trafficked stores. Indeed Vitaly Katsenelson (someone I make a point of reading) has commented on it in the past. This is from 2008 (at the height of the crisis). Vitaly made a pile of money on the stock:

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