Tailored for Business

By: Valery López
Mark Brashear
Mark Brashear CEO, Hugo Boss USA

Metrosexuals may be passé, but that does not mean that modern
male retail consumers don’t know how to shop. They want style and value, something Hugo Boss’ Chairman and CEO for the Americas
Mark Brashear knows how to deliver. A 30- year veteran of the retail industry, Brashear’s mission is to communicate Hugo Boss’ global brand vision to the markets throughout the Americas, including Puerto Rico, and keep the label viable for modern consumers.

“My key responsibility is to listen and understand our global brand vision and interpret it in a way that is relevant and feasible in the local markets that I support, which include all the Americas,” explains Brashear. “What that means is that you’ve got to really have an international, multi-cultural understanding because, when you are running a business that really operates in most countries of the world, communications and language play a key role in being successful.”

Founded in 1924 in Metzingen, Germany, Hugo Boss AG is one of the world’s largest high-end clothing brands, with 6,100 points of sale in 110 countries. Its retail network is comprised of 330 company-owned retail stores and over 1,000 stores owned by franchisees. Although it is mostly identified as a men’s label, Hugo Boss also offers womenswear, which makes 20 percent of the brand’s business. After a tough 2009, Hugo Boss rebounded in the first half of 2010, registering a 14 percent increase in revenue in the Americas. Overall, Hugo Boss recorded a 7 percent sales increase in the second quarter
of 2010 and a 25 percent increase in retail sales for the first half of the year.


Brashear notes one of the company’s most important objectives is catering to modern customers, keeping an eye on the way they are consuming products. That includes their frequency of shopping and
the amount of money they spend for specific wardrobe articles.

“Consumers are so much better informed today, more educated. They are not just looking for the lower price, they truly understand the price/value ratio,” Brashear notes. “I think that’s a change from three or five or 10 years ago. The consumer was a bit more trusting with the brand. Now the consumer is in the driver’s seat and he uses that
knowledge as he invests his money.”

The Island’s male retail market is no different, showing plenty of style and value savvy, says Brashear. And though Puerto Rico’s Hugo Boss point-of-sale business does not make it one of the label’s big sellers, Brashear acknowledges that local consumers of the brand are very fashion forward.

“In terms of productivity, in terms of fashion component, it’s a very forward market and store for us,” he says. “By that I mean, if I were to take the average Hugo Boss store in the United States and look at the mix and the performance, relative to the performance of Hugo Boss in Puerto Rico, the fact is we sell our more forward fashion
component in Puerto Rico than we do in the United States. The fact is that our productivity, our sales per square feet, are very competitive in Puerto Rico with the United States. It’s a very successful presence.”

Hugo Boss has two core brands—Boss and Hugo—which create lines for a diverse group of clothing tastes. Boss offers four different collections: Boss Black, Boss Orange, Boss Green and Boss Selection. Black includes elegant business ensembles, leisure and evening wear, while Orange offers casual wear fabricated with unusual materials and colors. Green focuses on sports wear, particularly for golfers. Selection is the premium label, focusing more on luxurious design and tailoring. Hugo embraces more avant-garde styles, with a rendsetting
approach to classic shapes.

When it comes to marketing strategies, Brashear notes Hugo Boss is paying more attention to technology and social media to have a larger reach of their core customer base. The label is incorporating lots of interactive activities, such as choosing a Hugo Boss model and recruiting participants through Facebook, and streaming fashion shows. Hugo Boss launched its iPhone app and Facebook page last year. It also introduced its first e-commerce site in March.

“We are really engaging with a lot more of our Hugo Boss male consumers digitally today,” notes Brashear. “That’s also where our targeted customer is, that 25 to 35 year-old guy who likes technology. We are reaching out to that base of customers through technology.”


A native of California, Brashear studied finance and retail at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif. It was there that he got his
initial taste for the clothing industry.

“[What attracted me to the retail sector] was my college roommate. His father was a senior vice president of a retail company. I got to meet him over the summer, saw where he worked, and it seemed very dynamic. [I] just picked up the energy and it seemed like an industry in which I could be successful,” Brashear recalls. “Honestly, until that moment, I had no idea what retail looked or felt like, but from those initial exposures, it piqued my curiosity. Then I pursued an internship and started to work in the industry and I’ve been in it for 30 years. I still enjoy it and don’t consider it really work.”

Brashear spent the first three years of his career at Macy’s West but switched to Nordstrom after receiving an outstanding service experience there. At Nordstrom, Brashear worked his way up from salesperson to merchandise manager. He then became vice president of strategic planning and head of Façonnable, which took him to France and showed him the wholesale aspect of the business. After Nordstrom sold Façonnable in 2008, Brashear joined Hugo Boss in January 2009.

Away from the office, Brashear is an avid sportsman who enjoys running and exercising. He also travels extensively and loves to shop. Brashear also describes himself as a very curious person who has cultivated a myriad of interests, ranging from architecture to food.


The Hugo Boss executive has seen lots of changes in retail through his career. One standout change is industry consolidation, which he calls “pretty traumatic and significant.”

“Within the United States in particular, we used to have a lot of regional department stores, a lot more players. Now it’s really a handful of large groups,” Brashear comments. “That affects how many choices a consumer has in terms of what brands are available where, what prices and different strategies these few dominant
players offer.”

From a wholesale perspective, the most interesting change, he says, is that brands no longer tell consumers who they are and what product they will offer them. Now, consumers possess much more influence and define what is a brand.

Changing with the times, at the speed changes are happening, is crucial for a retail brand’s very survival in today’s market, the exec notes. “[There are] brands that say ‘I have been around for 100 years and we only do X.’ Well, if X today is no longer desired by the consumer, you have a choice to continue to do X until you are out of business or you figure out a way to be more relevant to what that customer wants today,” Brashear reflects. “And it’s so fast and fragile today because there’s so much competition. There used to be businesses that continued for five, 10 and 20 years just because of history or heritage, but the consumer and the retail partners today don’t have the patience for this kind of brand or businesses any longer.”■

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