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CEO Larry Rosen Discusses the Future of Harry Rosen Retail Chain [Interview]

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High-profile businessman Larry Rosen has been selected as a member of the Order of Canada joining his father who received the honour in 2004.

Larry Rosen, current Chairman and CEO of leading Toronto-based menswear retailer Harry Rosen, was chosen to join the Order “for leading and expanding the family’s high-end fashion company, which became one of Canada’s most valuable retail brands.”

“I was surprised and delighted to be acknowledged because we are a Canadian story. My father got the Order of Canada as well. He’s been honoured by the Retail Council of Canada for a lifetime achievement in retail. I’ve received the distinguished retailer of the year from Retail Council of Canada. So we are highly engrained in Canadian retail,” said Rosen.

“My father started the company in 1954 in Cabbagetown in Toronto and he built it and then I continued to build it as a cross-country, leading quality menswear retailer.

“A number of retailers have been acknowledged over the years. It’s great to be in that company and it’s great to be acknowledged by a country that I have so much love for. To be a Canadian retailer, you have to be very close and understand the Canadian retail landscape and how it differs from the rest of the world. It will be 66 years this February 4th for our company to be a leader in Canadian retail. We were the first quality retailer to do online in Canada.”

There are 18 Harry Rosen stores in Canada with about 330,000 square feet of retail. After working in a clothing factory and in a quality menswear store, Harry Rosen and his brother Lou opened a small made-to-measure store on Toronto’s Parliament Street on February 4, 1954, with a $500 down payment.

Today, it is a Canadian source for the world’s leading menswear designers including Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford, Canali, Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, Burberry, Polo Ralph Lauren, Canada Goose, Brunello Cucinelli, Dolce and Gabbana, Loro Piana, Moncler, Parajumpers, John Varvatos, and many more. It also carries footwear from Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod’s, John Varvatos, Giuseppe Zanotti, Lanvin, Maison Margiela, and more.

Harry Rosen also offers Made to Measure tailoring from a number of designer collections as well as the ultimate expression of the tailor’s art – its own Bespoke tailoring. From formal wear to jeans, sportswear to suits and sports jackets, rugged outerwear parkas to superbly hand-crafted dress shoes, the retailer says it strives to dress each of its customers appropriately for the occasion.

Larry Rosen said it’s a very interesting, exciting, scary time to be a retailer in Canada. There have been many changes in the retail industry. Change is simply part of retail.

“That’s why I love retail so much. It’s a great study of human psychology in trying to understand how to satisfy customers’ needs and how to satisfy Canadian needs and we’ve been doing that for a long time,” said Rosen.

“There’s no doubt we’re in a period of profound change. The Boomer generation is in the throes of retiring. In two years over half the Boomers will be retired or be of retirement age, if you think of 65 as retirement age. There’s no doubt that power has shifted down. We see it every day in our stores. The new generation of men between 20 and 40 have very different expectations of a retailer.”

Like all retailers, Harry Rosen is adapting and has been working hard to make its online experiences meaningful, relevant and exciting.

Larry Rosen said the online portion of the business has been growing and growing.

“We recognize that the customer of today wants the convenience of choice. He wants to be able to buy it online, have it shipped to him. He wants to be able to go to a store and try it on. Think about it. Either go home and buy it online or buy it there. He wants to be able to return it hassle free either to a store or online. He wants to be able to pick up in store. And today’s customer is way more oriented to those types of activities than ever before.”

Currently, Harry Rosen does about 10 per cent of its business online. Five years from now, Larry Rosen said the company will continue to have a strong retail footprint but the online portion of the business will grow to about 30 per cent.

“It will be a more concise footprint. A store has to be meaningful. I predict we will still have large stores with dominant inventories. But it will be more concise. I don’t know if we’ll have 330,000 square feet of retail. We may have the same amount of stores. They may be more focused. And I think 30 per cent of our business at that time will probably be online,” he said.

HARRY ROSEN, SQUARE ONE LOCATION. PHOTO: HARRY ROSEN
PHOTO: CANADIAN BUSINESS

“The pure online growth is good business and we’re working hard at that and getting a lot of growth. But I think there’s this huge middle ground of assisted online growth. We’re working really hard to get our associates to learn how to sell online to our customers. We’re introducing this spring a customer facing app. We have this behind the scenes tool for associates to allow them to send more and more ideas to their clients and advise their clients online. And that’s where I see the market really evolving to.

“We’re known as a relationship-based seller. We have very highly-trained associates that understand their customers. But the transition is going to be not just serving customers in store but serving customers digitally. We may have an associate today that sells $1.5 million. I would see that he could sell more but he might be doing half of his business remotely through an app, through digital communications. We recognize our associates for those digital outreaches and we think it’s very important that they do that. So we see a huge shift in our business with people working with our associates but working digitally as well as in store. That’s a landscape change that we think is very interesting and very exciting. And I think we’re very well positioned to be a leader in that area.”

Rosen said the company also has hired a new chief marketing officer who is spearheading the retailer’s messaging towards a new younger client to make sure it is relevant in today’s world.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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