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“I’ve Got My Own Little Recession Plan”

Alex Wilcox, owner of custom clothier Lord Willy’s, on why a downturn doesn’t have to be dull.

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Can you tell me about your store?
We sell men’s high-end English-style clothing down on Mott Street in Nolita. Shirts are about $200, and custom shirts at $270 apiece. Blazers are $1,500. Regular suits at $2,500. Bespoke starting at $3,600.

How are you guys doing?
We’ve been hit a little bit. We had two stores, but I closed down the Christopher Street store as a precautionary measure.

Have you cut prices?
We’ve done 20 and 30 percent off, which is very unusual for us. But with the rest of the city pretty much going on sale by November, we had to join the herd. We hope that won’t be a regular trend. The department stores ordered too much; that’s what happened, really. And I’m sure they’ve all trimmed their orders back to normalcy for spring. I don’t think you’ll see the same kind of sale happening in the spring, because otherwise we just can’t survive.

How do you deal with people’s lack of disposable income?
I’ve got my own little recession plan—everyone needs to make an evaluation of the three little shops that they like, and they need to spend in them. That’s something I’m personally doing. I go to the little restaurants I like, the place I get my glasses. Even though the spirit of the city is shot, if there are things in your neighborhood that you don’t want to see go away, then you have to support them. Otherwise, the big brands will just come sweeping in, and there’ll be nothing left.

It’s interesting that you view the downturn as a challenge.
It’s part of business. If customers see fear in your eyes, they don’t want to shop there either. They come to you as an escape. You can watch the news if you want to be depressed. When you have your own business, you just have to get out there and fight to stay alive. And it’s quite thrilling. New York is a tough little town, and it’s always a good weeding-out process as well.


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