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Jaymar-Ruby "belts" the competition; the Michigan City-based maker of Sansabelt is the leader in tailored dress slacks.


When your firm has a virtual stranglehold on the competition, dominating the nearest competitor by more than 12 percentage points for the past decade, you deserve to give yourself and your employees a bit of slack time, right?

Wrong, according to Stephen C. McGue, president and chief executive officer of Jaymar-Ruby, Inc., the Michigan City-based manufacturer of men's better-quality tailored dress slacks.

The word is out at Jaymar-Ruby to attack. McGue issued it in mid-December at the firm's national sales meeting. He told his headquarters staff and the company's 65-member sales force that he wants to broaden its reach by winning new customers while maintaining its ultraloyal customer base.

Jaymar-Ruby was founded in Chicago in 1915 by Jack M. Ruby as a family business that manufactured men's overalls and children's playsuits. In 1922, the company moved to Michigan City and incorporated as the Hoosier Factories. In 1931, Ruby bought out his partner and began producing men's separate slacks. It was the beginning of a boom. By 1939, the company had expanded to more than 800 employees and boasted a manufacturing facility of some 175,000 square feet of space.

Today, a Ruby is still on the job. While McGue is the chief executive, the chairman of the board is Burton "Bud" Ruby, son of the company's founder.

"Here I am at the the age of 69, still enjoying a business that I got involved in through my father when I was just a kid, "Ruby says." Dad had me sweeping the floors and doing every menial task a kid could do, but I loved it from the beginning."

A man of great compassion, the senior Ruby was the child of Russian immigrants. "I think a lot of Dad's business policies, especially in regard to his treatment of his employees, were based on his background of growing up in Michigan City," says Ruby. "He had great pride in this community and felt he was really part of the people who made up our company."

When the firm became part of Chicago-based Hartmarx Corp. in 1967, there were no changes in Jaymar-Ruby's policies or practices. "Hartmarx wisely knew we had to continue to do just what we do, "Ruby says. "They were not about to try to change our operations in any way. Essentially, in spite of some new faces around here, we're still the same old family company. We're proud of our track record, our products and our community."

The firm had introduced the now-famous brand of Jaymar slacks in 1950. Business took off in 1959, when the company began to advertise its Sansabelt slacks, introduced in 1957, on network television.

Sansabelt's success forebode ill for the future, however. The line was oriented to the older generation of male buyers and to those who had waistline problems. It was the mainstay of "big and tall" men's stores. Sansabelt became identified with the older generation. And the slacks were relatively expensive.

Additionally, the firm found out that, in spite of dominating the market, there were loopholes in its marketing strategy. That's when McGue decided to attack.

"Sansabelt slacks is and continues to be our major product," says Jerry McCann, vice president of marketing. McCann is a veteran of the apparel business, having served an apprenticeship at Sears, Roebuck & Co. prior to joining Jaymar-Ruby four years ago. "But we found that many men, like myself, preferred to wear a belt on thier trousers. That's why we decided to introduce a belt-loop Sansabelt trouser a few years ago."

McGue ordered a numbers study to obtain an accurate record of who was buying his firm's slacks and just what direction his company should pursue in the future. The research revealed that among those men who bought better slacks, most ranged between the ages of 18 and 40 years of age. Seventy-seven percent preferred belt-loop trousers and had a waist measurement between 28 and 38 inches. They also spent a lot of money on their slacks.

"The biggest complaint about our slacks was that they didn't feature belt loops," says McCann. "That's why we have developed a belt-loop, pleated, more than 30 percent wool slack to appeal to the younger generation. But the trouser will still incorporate the Sansabelt no-roll waistband. That's a must for all our consumer."

Along with new products, the company is adopting some new selling ideas for this year's fall season. "While one in three men in the country buy our better slacks between the waist sizes of 39 and 60, at a price of about $40, we want to educate our retailers and their employees to encourage to sell our products to the 18-to-40 age bracket," McCann says.

"That means we must reposition our products, identify the new markets, place our products in the right places and advertise like mad," he adds. "The main market for better men's slacks is in the southeast, southwest and middle sections of the country where we really dominate, but we want even more of the market."

That advertising campaign will exceed more than $5 million this year, and will include most of the bigger TV sporting events and talk shows such as "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night With David Letterman." Another $3.6 million will be spent in 1990, $2.2 million in 1991 and $2.4 million in 1992.

The new advertising campaign is low-key and is designed for television as well as magazines such as GQ, Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. The spots feature attractive women in scenic locations, saying: "My mother always told me to rate a man by his brains....I look at a man by the pants he wears."

The campaign will mark a new era for Jaymar-Ruby, a company that has piled up an impressive list of industry "firsts" in its eight-decade history. Jaymar-Ruby was the first: . To introduce the zipper closure in men's slacks; . To offer change pockets on the inside front pocket; . To use the hook-and-eye closure on men's slacks; . To pioneer the Sansabelt slack concept; . To incorporate a no-roll waistband in its product lines; . To offer many of the man-made fibers in its slacks; . To air coast-to-coast local retailer cut-in commercials on television; and . To operate a fully computerized spreading, marking, sizing and cutting system in the industry.

"There will be more firsts to follow," says McCann. "For now, nobody can even come close to us in technology or employee relations. While 33 percent of the men in this country buy Sansabelt slacks, better than 75 percent of them buy another pair within the year. We'd like to better that statistic, and we will."

The company has introduced a bar-coding system to enable both the factory and retailers to identify the sales of its products daily by color, size, material and consumer. "We are one of the first manufacturers of better men's slacks to introduce this system," McCann says.

Jaymar-Ruby has been working on the bar-coding process for three years. "We are at that point where we use a common language and can supply our retailers with our products almost instantly when they are in need," McCann says. "It has been a monstrous task."

The apparel line has grown through the years. No longer restricted to men's slacks, Jaymar-Ruby has extended its operations to include golf outfits, men's suits, women's dress and casual wear and its exclusive Racquet Club sportswear items.

The firm is equipped to exceed most men's quality slacks manufacturers through its own resources and a work force that numbers more than 2,500 persons, many of whom have been affiliated with the company for better than 20 years.

Jaymar-Ruby boasts a manufacturing facility of 650,000 square feet. An average of 100,000 pairs of slacks are cut and sent to the firm's five regional sewing plants each day. The sales staff services the more than 3,000 men's specialty stores and prestigious department stores that sell Jaymar-Ruby products to 2 million consumers a year across the country,

Though headquartered in Michigan City, the firm operates production facilities in Elizabethtown, Ky., East Chicago, Rector, Ark., and Anniston and Gadsden, Ala.

Abroad, the firm has had an international impact in the industry from Mexico City to Tokyo. Jaymar-Ruby products are offered by licensees, who both manufacture and market them under guidelines established by McGue, in Mexico, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, New Zealand and Canada.

PHOTO : Advertising on David Letterman's show: Jaymar-Ruby will spend millions in advertising this year to pursue a younger generation.

PHOTO : Formerly with the parent company, Hartmarx Corporation, CEO Stephen McGue looks to enlarge Jaymar-Ruby's 17% market share.
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Title Annotation:Profile; Indiana
Author:Loranger, Phil
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:company profile
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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