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Gratuitous story, if short of time skip first section:

It's not often nowadays that I go out to buy a suit. I have a number of them and rarely wear them (and then only one at a time). Well, to be honest, the food was so good during our vacation that I put on more weight than I would have liked. While I am working that off, it turns out I have a charity affair to go to and it became a necessity to pick up a new set of threads.

So I went off to Sym's, a place that I've used for decades to supply all my suits, tux's, sports jackets, shoes and so on for decades. To my chagrin it was closed. So I trekked across town, along the way noticing that Daffy's (where the middle class can buy clothes to dress like millionaires) is now shuttered. I hit T.J. Max and Century 21 (neither of which had much in my size that I liked). I hit the Men's Discount Warehouse who had a buy one, get one free on mediocre suits at $600 each (can't buy just the one I needed for less, so I moved on). Then I hit Macy's (a store I have not bought at in years as, compared to my usual sawdust joints, it had few redeeming characteristics). Well, they had a two for one sale, but (for $29 bucks more a suit) were willing to let me buy one at a bit more than half price and then let me use a 20% discount coupon.

Gist of post:

There have been a number of stores - Sym's, Daffy's, Lohmans, the small stores along NYC's Orchard Street come to mind but maybe T.J. Max and Marshals also fill the bill - that started out as single or two store enterprises depending on job lots, end of contract run overstock from garment district contractors, end of season left over stock at chain stores and so on for inventory. In their heyday, you could buy first quality, new designer label stuff at 25 cents on the dollar. Well three things happened. First, these stores became so popular that the second generation owners expanded to multiple larger locations requiring more inventory. Second, manufacturing moved to Asia and any contractor overstock never reached our shores. Thirdly, after the 2001 recession, our chain stores became skittish about ordering too much product and during the 2008/9 depression they became downright miserly to prevent the problems of the previous recession. This meant that the source of low cost supply dried up (Old Mrs. Lohman used to buy inventory for cash by the pound in the garment center at the end of a season).

So these stores were forced to buy from the same sources as outfits like Federated without the quantity clout and then sell to customers who were only shopping at their establishments because of low price point. Sym's and Daffy's (and a few years ago an independent outfit called Fortunoff's) have recently bit the dust. Lohman's is probably not far behind and T.J. Max/Marshal's is also losing its efficacy.

The modern alternative seems to be the ubiquitous outlet mall. Originally these were company run stores at factory locations but now form a pretty standard retail environment where low prices are generally justified by a quality of goods a notch lower in quality than found in more "traditional" retail stores.

While there is no free lunch, there has in the past been ways to obtain the same platter for a lower cost. This alternative to the big box store is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as the ability to maintain that business model rapidly disappears.

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