Jack Fraser is bowing out of men's wear retailing in a corporate redesign that will see sister chain Tip Top Tailors become more dominant, signalling the comeback of suits and dressier men's clothing.
Parent Grafton-Fraser Inc. will close about 20 stores among both its Jack Fraser and Tip Top chains, but drop the Jack Fraser name entirely by August as it focuses more on Tip Top's dressier apparel, president Glenn Stonehouse said.
The consolidation will also help Tip Top compete better with archrival Moores Clothing For Men, which is known for its suits.
"The market has been swinging back to suits," Mr. Stonehouse said in an interview yesterday. "This helps us focus."
The revamping comes as the roughly $4.5-billion-a-year men's clothing market has seen virtually no growth over the past few years, even while more competitors, such as Banana Republic and American Eagle, arrived in Canada, said David Howell, a consultant with market researcher NPD Group Canada.
Privately owned Grafton-Fraser, which runs more than 200 stores under various names, is responding to that tight market by shrinking the number of outlets it operates and focusing more on business wear, Mr. Howell said.
Tip Top and Jack Fraser essentially cater to the same demographic: men ages 30 to 60 looking for moderately priced clothing. Suits at the chains range from $150 to $400. Tip Top's strength is dressier wear, while Jack Fraser had concentrated more on casual clothing.
It's expensive to operate different banners, each requiring a different set of marketing, real estate and other specialists, Mr. Howell said. "It's just a sign of the times."
Another sign of the times is the resurgence of dressier men's apparel, including "business casual," he said. Human resources officials have found that productivity dips when a dress code is too lax, he said.
Mr. Stonehouse said his company this summer will close 20 stores in malls where there is both a Tip Top and Jack Fraser, leaving the stronger of the two open. By August, all the remaining outlets will be converted to the Tip Top banner.
The changes will leave Toronto-based Grafton-Fraser with about 110 Tip Top stores. There are now 85 under that name and 45 under the Jack Fraser banner, he said. As well, a few stores will be converted under the Grafton & Co. banner.
The move will combine the best practices of the two chains, and eliminate the need for overlapping functions, Mr. Stonehouse said. Tip Top will expand such lines as Ralph Lauren Chaps. It carries suits under that label and will add sport coats, blazers, dress pants, shirts and ties.
Jack Fraser and Tip Top have each gone through rough years at different times, having operated under different parent firms that had gone into bankruptcy protection.
Jack Fraser was launched in 1926 as one store in Toronto and, at its peak in the early 1980s, operated about 150 outlets.
Mr. Stonehouse said both Tip Top and Jack Fraser are profitable. Grafton-Fraser, or its predecessor, acquired Tip Top in 2000 and Jack Fraser 1967.