George’s Apparel won’t budge. The booming little business on Elm Street in Manchester is a landmark that has occupied the same busy street corner for as long as most Queen City residents’ memory will serve. It’s as if 87 year old George Angelopoulos has always owned it because he’s there every day and “has been there forever!”
This author, who grew up in Manchester in the ‘60s & ‘70s still calls it home. I didn’t even remember that the store wasn’t always called George’s Apparel. While I did buy my first suits from “George’s Clothing Mart” I now remember that this store was formerly “The Clothing Mart” long before Mr. Angelopoulos purchased it in 1978. My teenage memory of “The Clothing Mart” name was jogged from a recent conversation with a store employee.
George’s Apparel has remained unchanged for several decades despite pressures to upgrade facilities, move, expand, add stores or otherwise change to meet an evolving demographic. Big box retailers and specialty men’s chain stores are prevalent in the malls and shopping districts surrounding George’s Apparel. These stores are decked out with merchandise arrayed according to the latest consumer research. Naturally this draws some potential customers away from the little store on the busy street corner. People wonder why George’s Apparel stays put and remains much the same as it’s always been.
George Angelopoulos has chosen to stick faithfully to a few principles rather than bow to conventional pressures as he frankly points out, “Focusing on the customer at the service level will beat glitz every time!” Who can argue with that? George’s salespeople are not on commission. There is never pressure to make a sale, only eagerness to help with the hope that customers leave the store happy.
Customers will tell you that both floors, the main showroom and basement tailoring/inventory section, are always busting at the seams, yet tidy and uncluttered. There’s a fined tuned system of purchasing, inventory, merchandising, apparel sales and alterations that can move hundreds of suits and accessories efficiently through the operation every week. The customer experience is one of individualized service from dedicated salespeople eager to help, not necessarily sell. And guess what, that attitude really sells
Georges Apparel strives to give new and loyal customers the same kind of retail experience every time they walk in. “It’s consistency and predictability that matters…” according to Bernie Marchowsky, general manager and marketing director. “When customers get a positive experience multiple times, they reward you with more business. They tell other people and those new customers expect great treatment. When they come in we better give it to them!” Judging from strong sales and solid profitability year after year, George Angelopoulos’ strategy has worked. At a healthy 87, he currently has no plans to either retire or change his store much.
Downtown Manchester has gone through notable changes over the last 15 – 20 years. The retail scene looks completely different today than it did in the 1990s… except for the corner of Elm and Central Streets. Until most of the revitalization of Downtown Manchester came to fruition, retailers on Elm Street generally had a rough time. Many store fronts blossomed and withered. The financial and professional districts were at one time the only thriving sectors in the downtown area. But George’s Apparel remained on that same corner with a revolving door of customers going in and coming out happy. People from Manchester and many neighboring communities continued to pass on the mall experience and instead get suited by either George himself or one of his cheerful, loyal staff.
Dedication to sound ethics and business principles centered in service – that is something all parents would want to teach their children. There are plenty of younger business leaders and store owners out there today who could learn from their fathers and grandfathers. George Angelopoulos sets the example. Yes, the local shop who knows all its customers can still compete in our fast paced, electronic media driven world and win! Every guy buying a new suit wants to be treated like a prince.
We appreciate the Union Leader for recently publishing a story about George. Read the Union Leader Article here.