By  on December 14, 2010

Around 6:30 pm last Thursday, ESPN radio’s Michael Kay was interviewing New York Giants Defensive End Osi Umenyiora in a room full of suits. Literally. Racks of them — Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Boss Black. Kay’s broadcast took place on the 10th floor of Lord & Taylor’s Fifth Avenue Store, which was overrun with what one might call dudes.

Anyone who’s recently taken a New York City taxi and managed to suppress the impulse to silence Taxi TV probably saw Lord & Taylor’s Guys’ Night Out promotion, which commanded potential male customers to “man up” and shop. The annual men’s wear event, five years running, attempts to lure men into the store with things like free beer, food and cheerleaders. “We have the women’s customer — Lord & Taylor is known as a dress store,” said Jonathan Greller, L&T’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager for men’s, children and intimate apparel. “Now, we need the men.”

Incentives are required, and discounts — 25 percent off most men’s merchandise, a free iPad with purchase of $1,000 or more, and $100 gift card to Smith & Wollensky with a $75 purchase of Nautica sportswear — aren’t enough. So Lord & Taylor booked a live broadcast of “The Michael Kay Show.” Umenyiora and Jets linebacker Bart Scott were there to play Wii and sign footballs for those who made a Perry Ellis purchase. Also on hand to assist-entertain shoppers were the 2010 Jets Flight Crew Cheerleaders, who were definitely a hit, if not as popular as the putting green, where a hole-in-one yielded two tickets to the Super Bowl.

If the idea of grown, straight men, however stylish, spending three hours of a Thursday night at department store, even during the holidays, even in the presence of professional athletes, seems improbable, a spokesman for Lord & Taylor said attendance was up 30 percent from last year. And it wasn’t a “my wife made me” situation, though there were plenty of women, children and couples present. Rather, most of the men were there entirely of their own volition.

When asked what brought him into the store, Ryan West, 26, simply pointed to the bottle of Sam Adams he was drinking. “To be honest, I didn’t plan on shopping, he said. “But then I saw this Kenneth Cole coat that was stolen from me a month ago, so I bought it.”

Christopher Griffiths, 27, a broker from Manhattan, came in for a pair of shoes to wear to a rehearsal dinner the following night, unaware of any fanfare, even though he’s a regular Lord & Taylor customer who carries a store credit card. “I bought the shoes at 5:15 p.m. and I’m still here, walking around in circles,” he said at 7 o’clock. “I guess I’ll stay ’til I get bored.”

An hour later, he was still there, collecting autographs from the cheerleaders for himself and coworkers. “I’m only missing two girls [signatures],” he said.

Matthew Walters and Jon Harlan, both 23, of the Web site BroBible.com, which bears the tagline “Every Bro Has a Story” and features posts like “10 Gift Ideas Guaranteed To Get You Laid,” were ostensibly there to research an upcoming event of their own that will also be geared toward beer-, sports- and women-loving men, but Harlan ended up spending $200 on sweaters and shirts for himself.

Greller said the store took a multiplatform approach to promote the event this year. In addition to Taxi TV, Guys’ Night Out was advertised in the New York Post and on “The Michael Kay Show,” so it’s interesting that many of the attendees, particularly the under-35 set, said they found out about it through a friend, acquaintance or girlfriend who was affiliated with Lord & Taylor. For example, Carlton Warren, 24, and Darold Hayes, 28, of New Jersey, knew a sales associate on the floor — not that they were there to see him. “If Osi wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be here,” said Hayes, a self-described “shopper.” “I shop in New Jersey so I skip the sales tax.”

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