Monte Wolfson, a retail executive who had a key role in engineering some of the most important innovations of the modern apparel industry, died at Calvary Hospital Hospice in the Bronx on July 2 after a brief illness. He was 91.
He was an East Hampton summer resident for over 40 years, building one of the first houses on East Hollow Road in Georgica in 1974, said his daughter, Suzanne Wolfson. “My father loved Georgica Beach and would head over there with his beach chair at around 5 p.m. every day that he could,” Ms. Wolfson wrote. He also lived in Manhattan.
As a senior apparel buyer at Macy’s in the late 1950s, Mr. Wolfson was a member of the first team of retailers that traveled to Asia to successfully import apparel to the United States. In the 1970s, while president of the Netco apparel division of Zayre, he devised breakthrough models of distribution-center efficiency well before the advent of automated warehouse equipment.
As the increase of apparel import programs created inventories too large for conventional retailers to handle, he then conceived the model for T.J. Maxx, the first retail chain to specialize in closeout apparel. Mr. Wolfson was a U.S. government adviser on the retail textile industry since 1982, and in 1990 he formed Monte Wolfson Associates, a retail consulting firm.
Mr. Wolfson was born and raised in the Bronx, the son of Irving and Helen Wolfson. He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1941. In the fall of 1941 he attended the University of Illinois and participated in the R.O.T.C. program there. In 1942 he was called into active service in the Army and was stationed at Fort Sills in Oklahoma. He was honorably discharged and returned to the University of Illinois in 1944, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He later earned an M.B.A. from New York University.
He was married to Doris Elaine Hertz on July 3, 1954. She died in 2000. The couple had a love of skiing that they shared with their children. “We would load up into his huge station wagon and the whole family would go to Vermont in the ’60s,” Ms. Wolfson said.
In addition to his passion for business, he loved sports, theater, and history, citing Willie Mays, William Shakespeare, and Barbara Tuchman as three of the people he most admired. He was a skilled tennis player known for his wicked cross-court forehand, his family wrote, and was a longtime member of the East Hampton Tennis Club, playing well into his 80s.
Mr. Wolfson enjoyed traveling and had been all over the world for both business and pleasure. He was on one of the first trans-Atlantic flights of the Concorde in 1969, his daughter said. “There were few places he had yet to see,” she wrote, and “only regretted not having the chance to get at least to base camp at Mount Everest.”
When in East Hampton, he attended performances at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor and Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater and saw many documentary films at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
In 1981, he was honored by the City of Hope Medical Center in Southern California. He received its Spirit of Life Award for his professional and humanitarian accomplishments, and a research fellowship was established there in his name.
In addition to his daughter, who lives in East Hampton, he is survived by his sons, Jon Wolfson of Marina del Rey, Calif., and Rob Wolfson of Manhattan. He also leaves four grandchildren and an older sister, Muriel Oppenheimer of Manhattan.