By  on June 17, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — Customers soon can download their own personal messages from pitchman George Zimmer.

The addition of mobile-phone shopping applications that store customer sizes, preferences and offer a phone answering message from the Men’s Wearhouse founder and chairman is part of a plan to increase the e-commerce business. Currently, e-commerce accounts for less than 5 percent of the company’s $1.9 billion in annual sales.

“That’s our main focus now in all our divisions — to make e-commerce an integral part of our business,” Zimmer said, describing a strategy in which Internet and sales among the company’s 1,142 U.S. and 117 Canadian stores work in tandem to bolster business. “We’re going to start to have fun,” said Zimmer of the interactive mobile-phone apps.

Zimmer made the comments following the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting Wednesday at its offices in Fremont, Calif., during which the only business was to elect the board.

The Internet focus also comes as Men’s Wearhouse is rolling out new television ads that are intended to be less focused on merchandise and promotions. The story lines in three new ads, produced by the Mullen agency in Winston-Salem, N.C., involve a lost shopper who stumbles either into a World War I foxhole, a hockey locker room or a police stakeout, where he gets redirected to the Men’s Wearhouse with praise for the retailer. In the last sequence, the shopper is in a store wearing Men’s Wearhouse duds and greeted by Zimmer, who says, “There’s a place men belong. That place is Men’s Wearhouse. I guarantee it.”

After the shareholders’ meeting, Zimmer said, “We thought we’d give them a little entertainment.”

The focus on marketing and the Internet comes as Men’s Wearhouse in the first quarter posted a turnaround from the same period last year. Net sales for the three months ended May 1 increased 2 percent to $473.5 million, ahead of analyst forecasts. Net income for the quarter was $13.6 million, or 26 cents a diluted share.

“Like everybody in the retail business, the challenge is to drive the top line with promotional prices,” Zimmer said, describing suit, slack and sport coat sales as continuing to be “the single strongest aspect of our business,” or 60 percent of sales.

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