Bugle Boy Industries, Inc.
Bugle Boy Industries, Inc.
2900 Madera Road
Simi Valley, California 93065
Fax: (805) 582-5236
Web site: http://www.bugleboy.com
Incorporated: 1977 as Buckaroo International
Sales: $481 million (1995)
SICs: 2321 Men’s & Boys’ Shirts; 2325 Men’s & Boys’ Trousers & Slacks; 2331 Women’s & Misses Blouses & Shirts; 2369 Girls’ & Children’s Outerwear, Not Elsewhere Classified
Bugle Boy Industries, Inc. is one of the United States’ largest privately held apparel manufacturers. In the late 1980s, Bugle Boy became well known for its television advertising campaign featuring the catch phrase, “Excuse me, are those Bugle Boy jeans that you’re wearing?” Specializing in moderately-priced casual clothing for young men and women, Bugle Boy markets its products through department stores and specialty retail chains. The company also operates its own factory outlet stores throughout the United States.
The Early Years
The beginnings of Bugle Boy International, Inc. can be traced to the mid-1970s, at which time Dr. William Mow was the head of Macrodata, a computer technology company that he had founded in 1969. Hoping to gain management support, Mow sold control of his company to a conglomerate based in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, he was taken advantage of, and his new owners filed suit against him in court for charges that were later settled in Mow’s favor. At that time, however, he needed money to fund a defense for himself, and he decided to begin searching for a new business venture.
In 1976, a friend in the clothing business tipped Mow off that Asian clothing manufacturers and U.S. retailers were always in need of importers who could handle the transactions from both ends. Mow felt that he was well equipped to handle the position, because of his Chinese background and his ties to family in Taiwan. Therefore, he started an import company called Dragon International, which handled the admittance of apparel and other foreign merchandise into the United States.
A year later, Mow’s desire to create things was unsatisfied by his importing business, and he was also uneasy with the instability and financial risk involved. He abandoned Dragon International and decided to join a friend in manufacturing clothing for a new company: Buckaroo International. The newly-formed company began marketing casual clothing for men under the Bugle Boy label.
The 1980s and the Birth of Bugle Boy Industries
Sales were slow for the first few years, partly because Buckaroo International’s clothing line was too broad and somewhat overpriced. In early 1981, Mow’s partner called it quits. Fortunately, Mow had kept in contact with many foreign suppliers from his time as an importer and, therefore, had an extensive international clothing industry network at his disposal. He also had the services of Vincent Nesi, who had joined Buckaroo International as a merchandiser when the company was formed. Nesi was well versed in sales and merchandising, whereas Mow’s strengths lay in the manufacturing and financial aspects of the business.
In 1981, Mow changed Buckaroo’s name to Bugle Boy Industries and asked Nesi to act as the company’s president. The first thing the two men did was reevaluate the company’s focus and address the problems that existed. Realizing that their casual men’s clothing was overpriced for the consumer base it was targeting, they decided to focus instead on producing and marketing moderately-priced casual pants for men. This shift toward casual clothing, with a primary focus on men’s slacks, helped increase sales dramatically, and soon annual sales had reached almost $10 million.
Beginning in 1983, Bugle Boy attempted to take advantage of growing trends in clothing for the younger generation when it introduced the wildly popular parachute pant to the public. As the name would suggest, the garment was a loose-fitting nylon pant that ballooned out in the top portion, thus creating the illusion of a parachute. Sales of this new item skyrocketed for a period of time, but ultimately the pants proved to be a passing fad. Nevertheless, Mow and Nesi were pleased. Bugle Boy had gained visibility during the parachute pant’s run, and stores were more eager to stock its products thereafter.
The following year, sensing the potential gain of tapping into the market for younger buyers, the company unveiled a new division specializing in clothing for boys. This move was followed in 1985 by the introduction of the cargo pant, which was a khaki-like casual pant made of a washed-twill material and featuring oversized side pockets and buttons, snaps, or zippers. The cargo pant, much like the parachute pant, was greeted by tremendous positive reactions from retailers and consumers. It soon became a best-seller as well and solidified Bugle Boy’s standing in the industry.
In 1986, Bugle Boy signed its first licensee agreement with another manufacturer, giving it rights to produce young men’s and boys’ shirts with the Bugle Boy label. A year later, realizing the potential profits to be gained by expanding its product offerings, Bugle Boy introduced its men’s division, which included a full line of pants and shirts. These measures helped Bugle Boy’s annual sales in 1987 increase to almost $190 million.
It was not until 1988, however, that Bugle Boy introduced what would come to be one of its most well-known and popular items. Jeans were added to Bugle Boy’s product list at the same time that the company launched its first television advertising campaign. The ads featured a sexy female model who would stop her sports car to ask a man, “Excuse me, are those Bugle Boy jeans you’re wearing?” The spots were an immediate hit with consumers. Also in 1988, Bugle Boy expanded its offerings to include a division of clothing for young women.
Because of Bugle Boy’s subsequent sales increase, Mow relocated the company’s corporate headquarters to Simi Valley, California, where he constructed a state-of-the-art automated distribution center. Three more foreign licensee agreements were signed, and Bugle Boy opened a retail store in Japan. The company seemed to possess unlimited potential for growth, and in 1990 it posted record sales of more than $500 million.
The 1990s and Beyond
In the early 1990s, Bugle Boy focused on providing the best possible service to its retailers and their customers. In 1991, the company provided Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) service to its retail clients, and the following year it made its Stock Replenishment Program (SRP) available as well. Both EDI and SRP worked to connect each retailer electronically to Bugle Boy’s new distribution center, which facilitated faster and more efficient service and made it possible for stores to keep Bugle Boy’s products in stock. In 1993, a continued increase in demand dictated that Bugle Boy expand even further its distribution space in Simi Valley.
The company then introduced a new series of commercials to accompany the roll-out of its latest product line, colored denim. Once again, the ads featured sexy female models and catchy phrases, such as, “We know what guys like.” Interestingly, Bugle Boy chose to stick with the “sex sells” approach, even in the face of controversy that had been surrounding other companies in relation to their use of women and sex to sell product. Many of Bugle Boy’s new advertisements hardly featured the product itself, but instead focused on the women and captions such as, “This is a commercial for Bugle Boy’s new color denims. They wanted to show a bunch of male models, but we said showing nothing but beautiful women would work better.” Despite the supposed controversy, once again the commercials and the new line were both a huge success.
In the next few years, after experiencing a slight decrease in sales since the high in 1990, Bugle Boy continued to expand both its product line and its capability to provide excellent service to its retailers. Its “Bugle Boy for Her” offerings had grown to include twill and denim bottoms, and cotton pique and yarn-dyed tops, jackets, and shorts. Furthermore, the company continued to license other manufacturers to produce products with the Bugle Boy tag. Van Mar, Inc. was licensed in early 1996 to create a line of Bugle Boy undergarments for women, which would be sold through the same retail channels as the rest of Bugle Boy’s products. That same year, Bugle Boy expanded into footwear when it authorized Dynasty Footwear, Ltd. to produce a line of Bugle Boy shoes for men, women, and children.
Approaching the end of the century, Bugle Boy Industries, Inc. was well positioned for continued future growth. Primarily a marketer of men’s and boys’ casual clothing, Bugle Boy was beginning to enjoy strong recognition among female shoppers as well, as was indicated when the company received a high recognition rating from women in a 1996 jeans survey. Furthermore, late that year, the company expanded its scope once again when it licensed Tiger Accessories to manufacture and market Bugle Boy items for infants and toddlers. With a seemingly unlimited range of licensee options, and with many market areas still untouched, Bugle Boy Industries was poised for success.
Behind Bugle Boy’s success is a simple philosophy: offer real value and quality to the consumer while maximizing retail profits. It is a philosophy that requires Bugle Boy to provide stylish and comfortable clothing at a moderate price. In a crowded marketplace, it also requires Bugle Boy to create an extremely savvy marketing strategy and to maintain bulletproof manufacturing and distribution operation systems.
Barrier, Michael, “From Riches to ‘Rags’—And Riches,” Nation’s Business, January 1991, p. 34.
“Boy Gets Girls,” Advertising Age, January 13, 1992, p. 6C.
Bugle Boy Corporate Website, http://www.bugleboy.com. Magiera, Marcy, “Bugle Boy May Go In-House,” Advertising Age, November 27, 1989, p. 112.
—Laura E. Whiteley