Giordano Chairman Peter Lau is the first to admit that he pales in comparison with his predecessor, the flamboyant entrepreneur and publisher Jimmy Lai. An accountant by training and by disposition, Lau, 48, describes himself as a man "of limited talents."
Fortunately for Giordano, customers disagree. Thanks to Lau's efforts to upgrade quality, simplify colors, keep up with new styles, and relentlessly cut costs, sales at the casual-wear retailer jumped 20% last year, to $400 million, while profits quadrupled, to $46 million. "We are religious about reducing waste," he says.
Now, the modest manager is pushing into Calvin Klein territory, with a racy ads featuring buff models. But Lau won't go too far. "You have to stand out," he says, "but you don't want to antagonize your customers."