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Office wear: 'There's no going back to’ dry cleaned clothes, Mizzen + Main founder says

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Mizzen + Main Founder Kevin Lavelle joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how consumer trends and office wardrobes are changing amid the prevalence of remote work.

Video Transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: OK, will the talk of a recession and a concession by Fed Chair Jerome Powell that he is willing to let unemployment increase force Americans back to the office? And how might that return impact the retail sector? Kevin Lavelle is the founder of men's work leisure brand, Mizzen & Main. He joins us now. Great to see you, my friend. So what does your research tell you about work from home and how our clothing patterns are shifting?

KEVIN LAVELLE: Yeah, thanks so much for having us. We've seen an explosion of research in men looking to figure out how to go back to the workplace. Over the course of the last year, Google Trends show search for dress shirts is up 40%. Our own customers and our own on-site search is up several hundred percent in terms of dress shirts over those more casual options.

And at the end of the day, guys have gotten used to working at home and feeling a lot more comfortable. And this is why I created Mizzen & Main a decade ago, to bring the best of stretch performance fabrics to traditional menswear. So our offering is saying, if you like those stretchy athleisure clothes when you were working at home, but you need to go back into the office or perhaps look a little nicer on Zoom, we're here for you.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And it's interesting. I couldn't believe that in the past 12 months, 60% of the respondents that you surveyed shopped for work clothing at an athletic retailer. Is that going to be the new norm? People want that sort of blend of comfort, as well as sort of business smart.

KEVIN LAVELLE: Yeah, absolutely. There's no going back to the clothes that require ironing and dry cleaning all the time, that don't stretch, that just make you feel stiff and uncomfortable. People have just changed their expectations. Mizzen & Main started about a decade ago, as I said earlier. And there are a number of other brands that are now crossing, really, the chasm between pure athleisure and that traditional performance and pure athletic. It's a hard blend to find at this point in time.

One of the things that surprised us is the significant increase in number of searches for polo shirts. It's the kind of perfect blend of business casual, but totally casual, sneak out to the course, sometimes. Guys are doing that, play a few holes in between meetings. And but ultimately, the expectation is, I want to be as comfortable as I was over the last few years, sitting at home on my couch, even if I have to be dressed up on Zoom or going back into the office.

SEANA SMITH: Kevin, we've been talking a lot about inflation and how that's impacting consumer behavior. Are you seeing a result of that? Are you seeing consumer trends change because of higher prices?

KEVIN LAVELLE: We haven't yet seen a slowdown. January through May this year over last year, we're up over 80%. So we're seeing continued strong demand. That said, we are seeing significant pressures on our supply chains. We're seeing a lot of pressure on the raw material and labor and certainly, freight. Our freight is up many hundreds of percent of over the last year.

And so one of the things that we are working through is just trying to work through that timing and better manage freight and better manage getting those products to our customers in the time that they expected, while acknowledging that there are so many fluctuations. Ultimately, the question that a lot of customers are asking is, how far will my dollar get me? And we're trying to make sure that we can hold the line as best as possible to deliver that value for our customers.

DAVE BRIGGS: Kevin, TikTok in this world has become an advertising juggernaut for brands in particular like your own. One particular video you have has been viewed 3.7 million times. It shows somebody working from home at the office, but it turns out to be he's out on the golf course. How big is this for the bottom line for companies like yours?

KEVIN LAVELLE: You know, I can't stress enough that organic marketing. The sense of love of the brand is more paramount than ever. With the privacy changes that Apple has been instituting and Facebook as well, advertising is just getting all the more complex and all the more difficult. And so, it's just that much harder to connect with customers, especially in an ever busier and noisier world. And so putting out exceptional content that resonates with our customers, that gives them a smile, and really resonates with who they are as a person and how they want to show up.

This video that you're showing was at some of the peak of the work from home times. And our creative director and team came up with this hysterical skit. We just want to keep creating content that our customers are going to resonate with. And really, that organic nature of brand building, again, more important than ever before because the ad market is just more complex, more difficult, and more expensive than anything I've seen in the last decade of building a business.

SEANA SMITH: Kevin, there certainly is a lot of demand in your space. But you're up against pretty fierce competition. How have you seen that play out? And I guess, what are you doing to distinguish your brand from some of the other bigger, well-known brands that are in this space?

KEVIN LAVELLE: Yeah, it's been an amazing thing to see the changes in our industry. When we started, no one was using performance fabrics in traditional menswear. And now, almost every brand is doing something similar. So for us, it's ultimately about continued innovation with great new products at that high quality and just making sure that we deliver for our customers, being where they are. So we have a number of our own retail stores. We're in several hundred retail stores across the country that carry our product. And of course, online-- make it easy for everyone.

But then, as I mentioned earlier with the brand and branded content and organic content, we want to be the brand that represents who these guys are. Competition will always be fierce and seems to be getting fiercer. But people aren't just looking for a product. They're looking for a brand that is an extension of who they are. When you put something on, it says a lot about who you are as a person.

And so we just work to stay connected to our customers, give them that fun content and escape and respite. And then with the celebrity endorsements that we've had over the years with JJ Watt and Phil Mickelson, just continue to raise the profile and introduce ourselves in new and exciting ways.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: So, Kevin, obviously, with a lot of post-COVID consumer trends and changes there, where do you see the company expanding beyond where it is now?

KEVIN LAVELLE: We still have so much runway, just with our normal product lines. The biggest explosion over the last year-- excuse me, two years-- has been in golf. There's no surprise to anyone paying attention to golf stats. The interest in golf seems to be at an all-time high. And while we always had kind of a toehold in the golf world and that increased with our partnership with Phil Mickelson, we ultimately have seen just an enormous expansion of interest in clothes that can blend from the workplace into golf.

So we are going to continue to expand great new product offerings there. We've done performance hoodies and water resistant jackets. So if guys are playing in colder weather. Right now, temperatures are hot all across the country. So we've certainly got guys covered there, too.

DAVE BRIGGS: You mentioned Phil. And that was the first time a lot of people discovered your brand, that viral ad where he's doing a little dad dancing, which is spectacular. There he is. He's got this big kick. He has become a pariah out there. I'm curious your take on-- are you surprised at the demonization of this guy, who's one of the more beloved athletes on the planet? I'll put myself in the camp of, I think it's way too much for a guy that got paid $200 million to go play some golf. What's your reaction to it and how advertisers have [INAUDIBLE] as well?

KEVIN LAVELLE: Yeah, so our-- we had a three-year endorsement deal with Phil. And it was an amazing partnership. We were thrilled to work with him. And at the end of last year, that deal came to a close. And we were in talks with him when all of this stuff kind of unfolded over the last few months. I know Phil to be a great guy. He's a family guy. He loves his wife. He's been a great ambassador for the game of golf. He's been a great business partner and a friend to us as well.

I do think there's been an overreaction. And ultimately, some people end up being lightning rods for an issue that gets a lot of attention. I think you saw some of that frustration boil over in the game of golf from the golfers over the course of the last few days, sort of saying, let's get back to being able to play golf. And those were from some of the guys who are staying on the PGA TOUR. I think an expanding pie is good for everybody. So I'm excited to see the direction of golf for everyone involved.

DAVE BRIGGS: And the fans still love him. And just before we go, you're not on the golf course right now, right? Because I know that viral ad you put out, it looked like the same backdrop. Is that a golf cart or your office?

KEVIN LAVELLE: So it's important to say that Zoom's virtual backgrounds are exceptional, and I'll just leave it at that.

[LAUGHTER]

DAVE BRIGGS: He's on the golf course.

KEVIN LAVELLE: Yes, indeed. Thank you very much.

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