Bye Sy. You had it right all along.

This is a fascinating guest post from Tim Davis, director of corporate communications for Daymon Worldwide, Private Brands have a lot to learn and Sy Syms is a great role model for those lessons

Bye Sy. You had it right all along.

Sy SymsUnless you’re an ardent New Yorker who loves great deals on clothes, you probably missed the obituary circulating through many of the dailies and business papers this week (November 19, 2009) about Sy Syms, a self-promoting but nonetheless savvy retailer of discounted designer apparel who started out in the ‘50s catering to the Wall Street crowd before spreading into the suburbs. Maybe you saw it and you didn’t care.

For those of us who remember Mr. Syms, or least shopped in the stores that bore his surname, we recall that he coined the phrase “educated consumer,” which he used in his store’s tag line: An educated consumer is our best customer.”

He wasn’t selling his own labels, but I can’t help draw the parallel between the educated consumer of his day and today’s “smart shopper” – the best consumer of Private Brand. Syms offered designer label clothes for 30% to 50% less than what the department stores were asking – same clothes but lower prices. “Educated consumers” ate it up. Today, we say Private Brands offer the same or better quality than their national brand counterparts in many categories. Same quality but lower places. “Smart shoppers” are eating it up. Look at the share growth in PB versus national brands.

Mr. Syms was a pretty smart marketer. In the Wall Street Journal obit it said he started his own ad agency so he could get the 15% agency discount on all his radio and TV ads, in which he served as his own pitchman, long before the late Victor Kiam liked Remington razors so much that he bought the company. But I think one of the smartest things he did was something every retailer can learn from. He gave is salespeople the title of “Educators,” and according to the WSJ they are still called that. “He loved to explain the clothes,” said Marcy Syms, his daughter and now CEO of the company.

Think about the salespeople you’ve ever come in contact with, whether they are selling you a car or a can or Private Brand peas. They probably loved to explain their products. And they were probably pretty good at it

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.