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Is there a market for a high-end menswear shop in Washington, DC? - Page 3

post #31 of 69
Thread Starter 

It seems like the two biggest pieces of feedback have been:

i) identifying exactly the right market

ii) distinguishing from the competition

 

My current job is actually in strategic planning for one of the major ad agencies, so I've got some experience with both these things. Obviously I wouldn't be trying to go to market without having done significant thinking on both these issues. One of the reasons I started this thread was to get a conversation going to help me think through these sorts of things. In other words, I don't have the answers yet, so I thank you guys for pushing me and helping me toward finding them.

 

My current thoughts on target audience are men, 25-45, working professional jobs that require them to wear suit/jackets/shirts/ties on a regular basis, if not daily. He enjoys wearing the uniform, but has just enough of a dandy streak to want distinguish himself in some small way. He appreciates classics, but doesn't want feel like an old guy. Does this represent some gaping hole in the existing market? No. But I think that's okay. Distinguishing oneself too much from an existing market leaves one with a very small target.

 

I think the bigger way to distinguish from the competition is through user-experience. One of the major trends in men's clothing retail over the past few years has been an increase in customer-service/user-experience aspects. Fields may be a great tailor, but it is inaccessibly expensive for most people. On the other hand, walking into a mass retailer looking to buy a suit is a pretty horrible experience. I think that Cuttingboard's mention of The Armoury is a helpful comparison. One of the things they've done really well is make a very good user-experience. 

 

The other thing The Armoury has done very well is what LAGuy talks about as 2013 Marketing Strategies. A strong social media presence allows you to build a reputation well outside your immediate customer base. The idea of having shallow, constantly rotating inventory gives you material to constantly be posting on social media, engaging with the community, and getting people in the store more often. Fox&Co. may have a great selection of classic menswear, but they are selling/marketing in an outdated way. The niche may be in applying contemporary marketing and retail techniques to selling classic menswear. This is what the Armoury has done well, that very few other brick & mortar stores have.

post #32 of 69
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by prozach1576 View Post

I would appreciate having such a store in the area. I especially like the idea of having lots of quality private label items. Kent Wang is exactly the right reference point for what DC needs for men to be better dressed here - well curated and relatively affordable classic accessories. I don't know where I could go to get a staple $20-30 pocket square in this city.

I would point out that English-American Tailoring in relatively nearby Westminster, MD is very large factory that churns out high-quality fully-canvassed MTM suits. IMO they are badly in need of modernization and a way of tapping into the yuppie DC market, whether they know it or not. I have no idea if they would be interested in such a thing, but they would be an ideal partner for something like this because they are competent and local.

 

Thanks for this recommendation. I'd reached out to a couple of other American manufacturers, but hadn't found these guys. I've just sent a note their way so we'll see if they are interested. Having a partner that close would be really great.

post #33 of 69
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by comrade View Post


I lived in the DC Area decades ago, when suits were worn by a much larger segment
of the population. At the time there were several well-established independent men's shops
as well as BB and the luxury dept store Garfinckels. I wore a suit every day and sportcoats
on weekends. I was never tempted to shop locally. The selection was limited and frankly
provincial. New York was nearby where I shopped at Chipp, Paul Stuart, J. Press. and
later Dunhill Tailors. There were no real equivalents in DC. My guess is that the proximity
to New York limits the prospects of sophisticated high end men's stores.

 

Your points are well taken, but it's worth noting that DC has changed a lot in the last few decades. You don't think that if there were a sophisticated men's store in DC, some of those people who go to NY to shop would give it a try?

post #34 of 69
There are tons of young professionals in DC who make good money, have very few ties to New York, and are paying sticker or near-sticker for suits from J. Crew and Brooks Brothers. I think if branded correctly a store selling much nicer goods at only a bit higher of a price point would find a nice market.
post #35 of 69
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by prozach1576 View Post

There are tons of young professionals in DC who make good money, have very few ties to New York, and are paying sticker or near-sticker for suits from J. Crew and Brooks Brothers. I think if branded correctly a store selling much nicer goods at only a bit higher of a price point would find a nice market.

 

That's exactly my hope. I'm glad you agree.

post #36 of 69
Am living in DC now and I would love to see an Armoury-type store here in DC. It's been so long since I've shopped in a brick and mortar store here . . . most of my shopping is done online nowadays.
post #37 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by joshuadowen View Post

Your points are well taken, but it's worth noting that DC has changed a lot in the last few decades. You don't think that if there were a sophisticated men's store in DC, some of those people who go to NY to shop would give it a try?

I've been back many times over the years on business and as a tourist. Yes, it has changed.
It is much more cosmopolitan and has many more good restaurants
But it is still relatively bland in terms of style, again compared to New York or even Chicago and Boston.
I hope you make a go of it. The San Francisco Bay Area where I live has lost a number of high-end
men's shops in the last decade. San Francisco is a tourist Mecca and the Bay Area in general, especially
Silicon Valley, was hardly affected by the Recession. Yet high-end mens retailers can't make it.
Part of the local problem is "Business Casual" and the anti-style cult of the Tech indusry, which is
less pervasive in the DC area.
post #38 of 69
One last thought, don't be over ambitious. Don't be afraid to have small, highly edited location. I think the editing part might be key. Location to of course. Gtown may be weird since it's basically an outdoor mall. I'd think Farragut, even Metro Center/Penn Quarter areas might be better. Anyway, good luck, whatever you do make sure you have an online shopping function so you can generate sales from outside town.
post #39 of 69

Just out of curiosity, which labels are you thinking of carrying? If I have a recommendation, it would be to not forget about casual clothing. Get some USA-made oxfords (Gitman Vintage are great and a fair price point) and some selvage denim (APC is a good starting point). Younger (collegiate aged) guys can get their feet wet buying this stuff, and if the experience is good enough, they'll come back when it's time to suit up.  

post #40 of 69
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by comrade View Post

The San Francisco Bay Area where I live has lost a number of high-end
men's shops in the last decade. San Francisco is a tourist Mecca and the Bay Area in general, especially
Silicon Valley, was hardly affected by the Recession. Yet high-end mens retailers can't make it.
Part of the local problem is "Business Casual" and the anti-style cult of the Tech indusry, which is
less pervasive in the DC area.

 

I agree. I'm originally from the Bay Area, and would love to live there again, but think that this sort of business would have no hope out there. No one in SF wears suits anymore.

post #41 of 69
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadesofbeige View Post

Just out of curiosity, which labels are you thinking of carrying? If I have a recommendation, it would be to not forget about casual clothing. Get some USA-made oxfords (Gitman Vintage are great and a fair price point) and some selvage denim (APC is a good starting point). Younger (collegiate aged) guys can get their feet wet buying this stuff, and if the experience is good enough, they'll come back when it's time to suit up.  

 

The idea would be to offer things like suits/jackets/trousers under a house label. I might also offer shirts under a house label, but am not sure yet. I'd be looking to bring in established American brands for things like sweaters, ties, socks, bags, grooming, etc. No specific brands in mind yet, but the focus would definitely be on quality American brands.

 

I wouldn't be looking to sell much in the way of casual wear (see Joffrey's point about editing), as I think there are enough places in town to buy this sort of stuff already.

post #42 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by joshuadowen View Post

 

The idea would be to offer things like suits/jackets/trousers under a house label. I might also offer shirts under a house label, but am not sure yet. I'd be looking to bring in established American brands for things like sweaters, ties, socks, bags, grooming, etc. No specific brands in mind yet, but the focus would definitely be on quality American brands.

 

I wouldn't be looking to sell much in the way of casual wear (see Joffrey's point about editing), as I think there are enough places in town to buy this sort of stuff already.

Oh gotcha, must've misread your original post. Probably the more specific the better. Good luck!

post #43 of 69
I used to live at Rhode Island Avenue, NW, 3 minutes away from the Brooks Brothers at Dupont Circle, and having been in DC for a bit, I think Georgetown seems like an ideal location for a shop. Fair mix of yuppies and with the good restaurants (lobbying firms) nearby, you can probably expect older gentlemen. Sterling & Burke, for instance, was also there.
post #44 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by asnexprss View Post

Am living in DC now and I would love to see an Armoury-type store here in DC. It's been so long since I've shopped in a brick and mortar store here . . . most of my shopping is done online nowadays.

Same here...the internet will be your biggest competitor. I realize I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know but you need to find a reason for people to visit your store. Some people still prefer building relationship and enjoy the customer service experience. Sales Associates at many B&Ms are rude and nasty and have turned many customers away. It happened to me many times at Brooks Brothers in Tyson's Corner.

I know all of my sizes in certain brands and always shop online, especially during clearance sales. I don't have to wear a suit to work each day, only when I have meetings outside the office. Otherwise, I'm business casual (slacks, dress shirt and sport coat). Therefore, I have 4 fall/winter suits and 3 spring/summer suits and 6 sport coats. Even though I do not have to wear a tie to work each day, I'm constantly buying ties, most Drakes, Sam Hober, Panta or Vanda.
post #45 of 69
I guess this is a matter of your values, but I think focusing too much on American-made goods and allowing it to drive up prices would be an unnecessary risk. I just don't see domestic manufacturing as something affluent young men in DC care about. Places like Styleforum and the #menswear blog scene dramatically overstate the importance of country of origin. Hell, it's almost unusual to spot an American car in this area. High-end menswear is a niche interest as it is; American-made menswear is a niche within a niche.
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