When a magazine like MR — a major publication in the men’s fashion industry — announces its Retailing Hall of Fame honorees, you expect the focus to be on the bottom line: sales figures, market share, store growth.
The story on Bill and Jack Mitchell does just the opposite.
It emphasizes first the philanthropy that the co-owners of Mitchells of Westport inherited from their parents, Ed and Norma. The Mitchells’ 3 stores (they also own Richards of Greenwich and Marshs of Huntington) “sell millions of dollars worth of Armani suits, Loro Piana knitwear and Hermès ties,” the magazine says, “so they can give away millions more to help many causes (AIDS awareness, breast cancer research, inner-city education programs, poverty prevention and more).”
The story notes the importance of relationships: with customers, sales associates, suppliers, and of course within the Mitchell family (between them, Bill and Jack have 7 sons — whose own 12 children wait in the 4th-generation wings).
Although Jack and Bill continue to serve as chief executive and vice chairman respectively, last year they followed their father’s footsteps and gifted the equity in the entire business to their sons. “One of the biggest legacies of my life is that we were able to do that,” Jack told MR with emotion.
The Retailing Hall of Fame piece eventually gets around to business. It’s hard not to, given the magazine’s charge and the current state of the economy. But even then, there’s the family business twist (and everyone in the business is treated as family): Every month, all the associates receive a sales report.
“No secrets,” Jack says. “We don’t tell them the cash flow and bottom line but we’re pretty open with every other number and tell them to keep it confidential. We tell them that when things get better we’re all going to celebrate.”
It’s fashionable to joke about Mitchells prices. But — and here’s the real bottom line — the store truly is less about prestige suits, shoes and jewelry than it is about the people who work, shop and, yes, socialize there. And the ones who benefit from the generosity of all who do.
Along with thousands of Westporters, I count the Mitchell family as good friends. I’m proud not only that MR Magazine has recognized them with a Menswear Retailing Hall of Fame award — but that it did so for all the right reasons.