As Haspel celebrates its 110th anniversary, the Baton Rouge-based menswear brand—best known for inventing the seersucker suit more than a century ago—is launching a marketing campaign tailored for the way the family-owned business is now doing business: all online.
In early 2018, Haspel decided to shift its merchandise out of the mostly high-end retail stores that had been carrying it and put it all online, says company president and CEO Laurie Aronson, who also runs the other family business, national firearms wholesaler, Lipsey’s.
“No matter how good your retailers are they’re never going to carry your full line and I’ve always wanted to have a full e-commerce sight,” Aronson says. “But we didn’t want to compete with our retailers so we had to decide to do one or the other and with the ever-changing landscape of the retail arena we needed to try this.”
The move hasn’t saved on operating expenses but it has increased sales, according to Aronson, who estimates company revenues are growing a little more than 16% per year.
“It’s been a big learning curve but it’s really been fun,” she says.
The shift exclusively to online retail—actually, there’s one exception, Rubenstein Bros. in New Orleans, which still carries the complete Haspel line in its Canal Street store—is the latest development in the long and complicated history of Haspel, founded by Aronson’s grandfather, Joseph Haspel, Jr. in New Orleans in 1909 with his invention of the seersucker suit.
Over the decades, Haspel, Jr. built his company into a venerable brand, known for its quality, and crisp, tailored, conservative looks. But after his death in 1977, the family sold the company.
It bought it back in the 1990s and Aronson became president and CEO in 2002. But the design and manufacturing was done by other clothiers under a licensing agreement.
That all changed in 2012, when Aronson and her father, Richard Lipsey, decided there was considerable potential in the market to bring the brand back in house, give it an updated look and take it to the next level. They invested heavily in hiring the hottest designers on New York’s fashion stage and have been featured in magazines like GQ and Esquire.
Aronson declines to give company revenues but says the business is doing well; and the focus for this year will be to increase brand awareness
“We’re working with the tourism and visitors bureaus to make sure we bring brand awareness to this brand,” she says. “And we’re spending all our marketing dollars online.”