Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sizing up the Competition and Playing Daffy's Buyer

This has been a post I've been dying to write since I started the blog last November. Please bear with me, as it's going to be a long one. Basically, I was extremely frustrated all of last Fall and Winter when the men's sections at Daffy's were filled w/complete junk for the entire season, aside from a bit of decent shirting. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case again now that the three main staples (Jey Cole Man, Gazzarrini and Patrizia Pepe) have been picked over. So this post is about brands I would love to see in the store instead of some of the lower-end items they get in, and also a sort of expose about what Daffy's competition is right now in the market. 

A) Sizing up the Competition - I'm going to start with a laundry list of competitors that are impeding on the territory which Daffy's has occupied exclusively for a long time - i.e., selling Italian and high-end closeouts.

1. -- This is clearly Daffy's biggest threat. Yoox maintains a warehouse in Italy where they essentially buy up closeouts from every manufacturer they can find, and they overnight the merchandise to other countries once the items sell. They carry just about every brand Daffy's has, the good ones at least, and hundreds more. In fact, their US warehouse -- where they process shipments overnighted from Italy and accept returns, is based not too far from the Daffy's HQ -- Clifton, NJ. The only leg-up Daffy's has, aside from being an actual store where one can see and try on the actual merchandise, is that Daffy's prices are generally 2-3X's less expensive than the same exact items on Yoox. The problem for Daffy's is simply the fact that Yoox is centralized in Italy and has the buying power to empty out sources which might otherwise have been available for Daffy's buyers.

2. Century 21 -- Those not local to the NY/NJ area may not know about the company, but it advertises itself as 'New York's Best Kept Secret'. Century 21 and Daffy's have a lot of the same suppliers in Italy, one of which I've mentioned several times, ZeroSettanta. Century 21's prices are also usually well above what Daffy's would charge on its items, though certain things like ties are price relatively the same, or less at Century. Where Century 21 excels above Daffy's, however, is not its formal-wear -- though the European suits are good (small selection, mostly your basic closeouts from Macy's), you can't find better dress shirts at better prices anywhere other than Daffy's; but Century has the trendiest casual and sportswear you will ever find. Just about every label that is in style right now for men will be at Century 21. The prices may not be terrific, but the merchandise is there. Daffy's casual-wear and sportswear is awful -- basically it's relegated to the 'young men's' section and is shoved to the back or corner of every store. The merchandise is basically the same as you'd find at Burlington Coat Factory which is to say it's low-end garbage compared to everything else which is why I never mention it on this blog.

3. TJMaxx/Marshalls -- I honestly never thought TJX Stores would be a main competitor to Daffy's, but a recent visit this weekend proved me wrong. I stopped in at the 18th St. location, a few steps away from Daffy's 18th St. store, and was stunned to find the volume of high-end suiting I found at TJ and Marshalls (both in the same building). TJMaxx had suits from CNC Costume National, Dolce & Gabbana, Pal Zileri and Valentino - all of which I believe came from Ittiere SPA. The Marshalls downstairs had suits from Valentino, Ferre, Versace, and a new brand I'd never seen until that point, Imperatrice Sartoriale. While these stores are the exception to the usual fare you'd find at a local TJ's or Marshalls, as they're in an NYC hotspot, Daffy's should be very concerned -- TJX Stores is the world's largest discounter; they could buy up every bit of merchandise in Italy if they really wanted to. In fact I've seen them carry shoes from Boemos and shirts from Alea Fashion Industries over the years.

4. Loehmann's - Even with some financial troubles of late, Loehmann's is still a pretty substantial competitor in menswear. I was blown away when I went to the 'Loehmann's Mens Store' out in San Francisco a few months ago. Filled with high-end goods from Luciano Barbera, Belvest, Pal Zileri, Ferre, Dolce & Gabbana, Costume National -- you name it, they had it. However, I believe most of that was closeouts from a store in California called 'Wilkes Bashford', owned by Mitchell's out of Greenwich, CT. Still, that kind of merchandise would draw crowds at Daffy's -- in the meantime, Daffy's only gets trickles of it from Tyrone.

5. Filene's Basement -- Filene's used to be a much bigger competitor for Daffy's, that was until they were sold to Syms (I believe only the ones in the northern part of the US had that fate). Filene's always had some great high-end stuff including a few racks of suits from Calvin Klein Collection and Oxxford (out of London). They also had a relationship w/Barneys, getting leftovers from the Warehouse sale, and more recently had shipments of closeouts from Fred Segal. However, the previous buyer that had these relationships appears to have been fired and the stores are being stocked with the same garbage that appears in Syms. It's only saving grace when I last visited was a tiny amount of items which were leftovers from (hint, hint Daffy's).

6. Online 'Flash Shopping' Websites -- Gilt, Rue La La, Hautelook and more recent incarnations -- Envite, Prive and Jackthreads -- All these websites, especially Gilt, are getting in some phenomenal merchandise and are getting in things which have never before been seen at discounters. Daffy's prices are still better, but all these little flash shopping sites are eating away at the ever-decreasing pie of high-end closeouts available for purchase. What Daffy's needs to do is start buying leftovers from these companies -- will be discussed below.

7. eBay -- Believe it or not, there are dozens if not hundreds of small-time sellers on eBay that are selling a lot of the same merchandise Daffy's would sell. One of my favorites happens to be a user called beverlyhillsbazaar. I don't know where the sources for some of these things come from, but I've seen items from Messagerie, Gazzarrini, Paolo Pecora, Cycle, Andrea Palombini and dozens of other well-known and obscure Italian brands.

B) Brands I'd Like to See at Daffy's/Where They Should Buy From -- Given this vast array of ever-growing competition in the closeout market, especially the high-end and Italian closeout market, I've amassed below some brands and purchasing strategies that I think would be great additions to Daffy's and help avoid many of the low-end items that just sit on shelves the entire season -- quick examples -- a Geoffrey Beene shirt in Soho marked at $.50; racks of tuxedo shirts from 'Fumagalli' in just about every store - I could go on forever, but below is the more important info.

1. Casualwear/Sportswear/'Young Mens' -- In this area in particular, Daffy's needs to really branch out. The stuff they get in - i.e., Company 81, Counter Intelligence, Modern Culture, US Expedition, etc... can be found in just about every discounter -- Burlington Coat Factory, TJMaxx, Syms, and, dare I say, Pay Half -- often for less than what Daffy's is charging. Daffy's needs to distinguish itself in this area, and I would suggest focusing on lesser known American designers, as well as a number of British companies.

- American Labels -- Life After Denim (carried sparsely at TJMaxx and, Modern Amusement (carried sparsely at TJMaxx and Burlington), Cohesive & Co. (carried at Neiman Marcus Last Call), G-Star Raw

- British Labels -- Full Circle (carried at Yoox and lots of it on eBay), Firetrap (carried at Yoox and lots of it on eBay), All Saints -- they just opened a number of retail stores in the US and are now being carried at Bloomingdales

I would also point out that retail closeouts here would be particularly useful - for example, some cheap merchandise should be easily attainable from the likes of Urban Outfitters -- I know that a store in San Francisco called 'Jeremy's' has a relationship w/them.

2. Italian Closeouts - It's time to drop the low-end merchandise such as Sottotono, Eugenio Sorrentino, Kemitch and FB. There's a reason a company like isn't carrying much from these labels, if at all, and I don't believe it's because Daffy's is buying all the merchandise. Here's a short list of labels/companies I've gotten to like over the past number of months, many of which are sold on, some of which are not, at least not yet.

- Sportswear and Formalwear: Paolo Pecora; Mario Matteo (often sold at Century 21); DNL/Discrminationless; Carlo Pignatelli Outside (NOT the other lines under that label); Les Hommes; Imperatrice Sartoriale (Marshalls was selling some suits from them for $199; beautifully made -- best I could find is a company called 'Imperatrice Sartoria' in Napoli); Danielle Alessandrini -- Can't say enough good things about this label; Brian Dales -- very similar to Messagerie and Bryan Husky; Piombo; Paoloni; Master Coat -- again some great things, I believe this was sold in Daffy's circa 2007, don't know why it disappeared; Orlando; Mauro Grifoni (exclusive to from what I've seen); Ermanno Scervino; Manuel Ritz Pipo; Cycle -- awesome sportswear, picked up a few pieces on eBay;; Sand (small amount of it at Century 21); Suits from Ittiere SpA (this is where TJMaxx got its suits from); Krizia Uomo (Filene's has a very small amount of this stuff); Pal Zileri (incl. the LAB line, but not the Cerimonia line); Pino Lerario (some great suits/sportcoats carried by Bloomingdales at the moment)

- Shoes: Doucal's; Maldini; Pia Mia (Daffy's had these circa 2009, don't know what happened); Fabi; Bait; Brumas; Carlo Ventura; Dino Bigioni; Due Elle; Franco Ballin; Igi & Co; Mac Dugan; Manas Design; Vittorio Virgili
+ the dozens of other brands not mentioned here that are all over yet somehow never make their ways into Daffy's stores.

3. Closeouts from Flash-Sale sites -- both Century 21 and Filene's have so far gotten in on this action. Century 21 got a huge amount of Brunello Cuccinelli items from earlier this season, and Filene's had a small amount of items from There's no reason Daffy's shouldn't be able to get a piece of this action. has some awesome things, but other sites may be more accessible -- Rue La La, Hautelook, Envite, Prive and Jackthreads (for streetwear items), and possibly even which is a more traditional closeout retailer. I'd stay away from sites like Beyond the Rack which peddle in lower-end items, at least for men anyway.

4. Retail closeouts -- As far as I know, the only retail closeout Daffy's gets is once a season from Tyrone. That should change. I can't imagine how many boutiques there are across this country and all over Europe and Canada that have merchandise they can't move. The other discounters mentioned above have gotten stuff for a long time from Mitchells and Wilkes-Bashford, and Century 21 is moving into even smaller retailers - I've seen suits marked with labels from stores all over the US at C21. And online retailers for sure should be another target -- say for example,, based out of the UK - there are already several eBay sellers in the UK selling their closeouts, I can't imagine Daffy's couldn't get in there

5. Last but certainly not least -- Italian Leather Bags!!! -- The 'man bag', as it were, is not going anywhere -- there is a desperate need for good quality leather bags for men -- messenger bags, duffle bags, etc... at decent prices. No discounter that I know of sells anything of this sort aside from, and Daffy's should be the first to break stride in this area. I know there were a few random items from Patrizia Pepe this season, and in past seasons from Gazzarrini, but this needs to be ramped up to an entirely new addition in each store. Get rid of the bikini bottom underwear section, and replace it with loads of leather bags. I promise you these will sell like hot cakes if the right merchandise comes in. The only Italian manufacturer I know of with which Daffy's has a relationship is Alex & Co., as in I know they make leather bags, but I'm sure there are plenty of others out there to choose from -- take a look at and go from there - Doucal's would be another great one. 

IN SUMMARY: This is really just a short list of the things I'd like to see at Daffy's; the sky's the limit. The major problem right now is that there needs to be a taste level when purchases are made, not just getting something to fill up the racks. I've provided some suggestions which I hope can steer my favorite store towards the right direction and hopefully come out better for it in the end.

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