Since starting the first Men's Wearhouse (MW) clothing outlet in Houston in 1973, George Zimmer has followed a low-cost contrarian formula. He shuns glitzy retail areas and malls, preferring to open stores in outdoor plazas. He even stars in his own TV commercials. "I have more belief in my company than anyone else," Zimmer says. "So why hire an actor?" Why indeed. Since going public 15 years ago, Men's Wearhouse has grown its annual profit from $5.9 million to $149 million.
One more contrarian thing: It is Zimmer's policy that no employee or interviewee will ever undergo a criminal background check. Conventional retail wisdom says this guarantees petty larceny on a grand scale. In fact, the company loses a mere 0.4 percent of revenue to theft, way less than the typical 1.5 percent loss suffered by big retailers
"I don't trust the U.S. justice system to get it right," says Zimmer, who is himself a recovering alcoholic. "I'd rather make my own decisions, and I believe in giving people a second chance."