No Wear Man
Men’s Wearhouse announced Wednesday that it has dismissed its founder and executive chairman, George Zimmer, who launched the company in 1973. Zimmer was also the face of the company in TV commercials, closing out each spot with the familiar tagline, “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”
Those ads may have been part of the problem, as the Houston-based retailer has been trying to reach out to Millennials and “evaluating whether Mr. Zimmer’s appearance in the advertisements resonates with younger shoppers,” the New York Times reports. As one analyst told the newspaper, “An old guy with a gray beard may not provide credibility to the product in the eyes of a 22- or 24-year-old.”
But many Men’s Wearhouse customers begged to differ, taking to social media to vent their frustration. CNN Money counted more than 200 pro-Zimmer comments on the company’s Facebook page Thursday, including one user who posted: “Oust George and lose my business. I guarantee it.”
The Bottom Line: Zimmer’s firing came as a surprise to many analysts considering Men’s Wearhouse’s strong financial performance. Sales increased 5.1 percent last quarter and 4.4 percent for all of 2012, according to the Times.
To add insult to injury, the retailer still owns the rights to Zimmer’s likeness and has more than 500 hours of video footage featuring him, Buzzfeed reports. So if a new, younger pitchman doesn’t work out, the company can always fall back on ads featuring Zimmer’s famous guarantee.
Houston Turns Over Renew Leaf
The City of Houston announced this week that it has agreed to buy half of its electricity from renewable sources for the next two years starting this summer, making it the “largest municipal purchaser of renewable energy in the nation,” reports the Houston Chronicle’s Fuel Fix blog. Under the terms of the $2 million deal with Reliant Energy, the city will purchase 140 megawatts of electricity (in the form of renewable energy credits) between July 1 and the end of June 2015.
The Bottom Line: According to Fuel Fix, Houston’s move is part of a growing trend toward green energy in Texas. A 2011 study by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center estimated that “improvements in energy efficiency and expanded solar power in the Houston metro area could reduce demand for electricity from fossil fuels by enough to power 627,000 homes” by 2030. In that same period, more than 104 million gallons of gas could be saved as electric cars become more widely adopted, the report found.
Amid a review of state and federal safety regulations following the West fertilizer plant explosion, Texas officials testified this week that they aren’t sure whether other plants in the state are situated near schools or other vulnerable locations. Sixteen fertilizer production sites similar to the West facility are now operating in Texas, and there are 129 others that store “at least five tons of ammonium nitrate and other potentially explosive materials,” Businessweek reports.
The West blast killed fifteen people and damaged a school, a nursing home, and an apartment complex. But the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the state fire marshal told the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee on Monday that they aren’t sure whether the state has even evaluated each site’s proximity to community buildings.
The Bottom Line: At the hearing, committee chairman Representative Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, asked the fire marshal’s office to create a new website offering maps of each plant’s location and other information for the public. Imposing stricter state regulations, however, may be more of an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature, according to Businessweek. “You can paperwork a company to death,” said Representative Dan Flynn, R-Van, at the meeting. “I just want to be sure we don’t give everybody a lot of disruptions.”
Winner of the Week: GameStop
Grapevine-based video game retailer GameStop got a huge boost this week after Microsoft scrapped plans to restrict the reselling of used games on its upcoming Xbox One system, which is due out this fall, Businessweek reports. The intent of the original policy was to force gamers to buy new titles rather than swapping them with friends or buying from second-hand retailers like GameStop—a tactic that was poorly received by most of the gaming community.
Investors reacted positively to the news, sending GameStop shares soaring by more than six percent, up to their highest value since fall 2008, according to Businessweek. The company’s stock has risen 63 percent so far this year.
Loser of the Week: Whole Foods
In response to an outpouring of backlash and threats of boycotts in recent weeks, Austin-based Whole Foods has revised a policy that directed employees to speak only in English when on the clock, NBC News reports. The controversy arose after two employees at a Whole Foods store in Albuquerque claimed they were suspended for speaking in Spanish (managers say the punishment was for inappropriate behavior).
The old rule, printed in the company handbook, stipulated that employees should use English “if you speak English and are in the presence of customers” or communicating with other workers “and discussing work-related tasks or subjects.” The updated policy advises employees to be “sensitive to others who may want to join your conversation” and “if needed, switch to a common language to be inclusive and respectful.”