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Published: April 1, 2001

 
 

Recent Studies

On technological obsolescence, Russian business, banking rules, and other topics of interest.

The Curse of the Detachable Collar
Carole Turbin, “Collars and Consumers: Changing Images of American Manliness and Business,” Enterprise & Society, Oxford University Press, September 2000. www3.oup.co.uk/entsoc/

One lesson marketers should never forget is that they must abandon a popular product when it has been rendered obsolete by technological change. Professor Turbin, a sociologist at the State University of New York (Empire State College), shows why in her case history of Cluett Peabody and Company’s detachable shirt collar.

Detachable collars were invented in 1827 by Hannah Lord Montague, who realized that laundering a collar was far easier than washing an entire shirt. But these collars didn’t become widespread until 1889, when Frederick Peabody, a sales manager at Cluett and Company, realized that detachable collars were a product that could be mass-marketed and branded. He began to market Cluett’s collars as Arrow Collars, which quickly became the leading national brand. Mr. Peabody was rewarded by becoming a partner in what became Cluett Peabody, the Troy, New York, clothing manufacturer that grew to be the largest among Troy’s collar and cuff producers. Cluett Peabody maintained its operations there until 1990.

In 1900, Arrow brand collars came in dozens of styles, many with pseudo-British names (the “Moreland,” the “Coleston”). But they didn’t become fashionable until 1907, when Cluett Peabody hired commerical artist Joseph Christian Leyendecker to create the Arrow Collar Man. For the next 24 years, Mr. Leyendecker’s illustrations (the sartorial male counterpart to the Gibson Girl, the “Victorian glamour girl” created by artist Charles Dana Gibson) ensured Cluett Peabody’s success. The ads were so popular that women wrote marriage proposals to the Arrow Collar Man; some even sent Christmas and Valentine’s Day presents. Men believed that wearing a crisp Arrow collar meant they would be seen as rising white-collar executives, not as low-class collarless workers.

But in the 1920s, detachable collars began to lose their elite cachet. The advent of electric washing machines and improved detergents meant the masses could wash shirts regularly. New competitors to Cluett Peabody, such as Phillips-Jones’s Van Heusen line, created shirts with attached collars that were looser and less cumbersome than the constricting detached collar, and more practical.

Despite falling sales in the 1920s, Cluett Peabody executives continued to make detached collars, thinking the new all-in-one shirts a passing fad. Its sales force collected articles on snooty clubs that banned shirts with attached collars. In 1935, however, Cluett Peabody finally abandoned the Arrow Collar, transferring the brand to an attached-collar shirt line.

Although the Arrow brand survives to this day (you can find it on the Internet at www.arrowshirt.com), by resisting change, Cluett Peabody ensured that it would take several decades to restore the dominance it once had, if, in fact, it could recover at all.

First Strike Franchising in Russia
Ilan Alon and Moshe Banai, “Franchising Opportunities and Threats in Russia,” Journal of International Marketing, American Marketing Association, Fall 2000.

Despite continuing economic turmoil, Russia remains a rich target for American investment. U.S.-based firms have invested more in Russia than in any other country, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow is the fastest-growing U.S. chamber overseas.

In the fall issue of American Marketing Association’s Journal of International Marketing, Ilan Alon, an international business professor at the State University of New York (Oneonta), and Moshe Banai, a management professor at Baruch College in New York City, suggest practices direct investors should heed if they hope to succeed in the Russian marketplace. Franchising is the primary focus in this article, but these principles are broadly applicable. And although the authors’ suggestions may seem basic, more than one experienced company has stumbled because it ignored common sense in this turbulent marketplace.

 
 
 
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