A new player is poised to enter the men’s wear scene.
Steve Marshall, the former divisional vice president of merchandising for Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., has teamed with some of his co-workers at the Hampshire, Md.-based chain to create Wilkes & Riley.
The business, which will launch in November as an online play, will offer a full collection of men’s wear, from tailored clothing and furnishings to sportswear.
“Retail has been in my blood since I was a kid,” Marshall told WWD. He started his career at Bugle Boy and moved on to Merry Go Round before joining Jos. A. Bank in 1999.
Marshall said he was offered the opportunity to remain with Bank by its new owners, Men’s Wearhouse, which purchased the business for $1.8 billion last year, but didn’t want to relocate to California, where the corporation is headquartered. So he opted instead to remain in Maryland and use the skills he had acquired over the years in sourcing and merchandising to open a new company.
Wilkes & Riley will be self-financed and Marshall said he has some other investors as well.
“I always wanted to run my own company and be the head of the ship,” he said. “Jos. A. Bank was a very entrepreneurial place so I believe in my ability to manage and run a business. And I’ll have a team of experts from Bank helping me out.”
He declined to name the others who are involved, saying they prefer to remain anonymous at this point. “We don’t look at it as a start-up, but as a continuation of what we’ve done,” he said.
He said there will be two levels of suits, a full-canvas model produced in Italy with a retail price “south of $895,” and a half-canvas made in North America that will be less expensive. Shirts will most likely be made in Italy, he said, noting that the production process has not yet been completed.
“We launch on Nov. 10, so we’re working round the clock,” he said.
Marshall said the decision to launch online came as a result of the growth of the men’s business on the Web and the cost of opening a brick-and-mortar location.
“We had reservations initially but the Internet business is exploding, especially in men’s, and a build-out cost for a store is a few hundred thousand dollars. We’ll do that eventually, but not in the first year.”
He cited the success of Bonobos and J. Hilburn as examples. “But those guys didn’t have retail experience, which we do,” Marshall said.
Wilkes & Riley has a teaser holding page on its site encouraging consumers to sign up. It reads: “We’re working on something special.”