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Info on and suggestions for a new MTM shirt store in San Francisco

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
So, I've been a little hesitant about posting this but finally figured that the more information I can get, the better decisions I can make. First, please understand this is not a "come shop with us" post. (Of course, you can if you want ) I am simply asking for opinions from 1) people in our target demographic and 2) people who have launched similar products.

A little about us: We recently opened a men's by-appointment boutique for shirtings in San Francisco, CHALK (sfchalk.com). The genesis of the concept was basically "can we provide a better option for (young) men currently buying Thomas Pink and Cafe Cotton shirts?" Our market advantage was that we were not looking to make a large profit margin (we both have day jobs). This project is purely driven by personal interest and the desire to provide an alternative to over-priced ready to wear shirts. We considered this a significant advantage.

Anyhow, after substantial market and product research, and more than a little help from certain forum members, we decided that our product should be viable in the San Francisco market. To tap into a younger market, we spent time thinking about how to brand our product and got rid of minimum orders. Our price points (~$120 to $210, ~$250 for Thomas Mason and Loro Piana) are as good as we can set them given that everything is done in the U.S. Of course, there's nothing wrong with Hong Kong stuff, we just chose not to go that route. Also, we are not trying to capture the super high-end crowd. If they can afford higher quality shirts, than more power to them.

We began by selling to friends and family to work out any kinks and had very good response and numerous repeat business. However, people only need so many shirts, and word of mouth marketing (our preferred method) is not generating enough interest to meet our operating expenses. We still believe in our product, but belief in our marketing abilities has wavered. haha.

So, that leads me to here. It seems that a lot of people here have started similar ventures targeted at similar demographics (TaT, etc...). Do any of you have any suggestions? What have you done that was effective for marketing? Do you keep a retail store (our biggest money drain)? Also, as a consumer, what would draw you to try a product like ours? Now, this last question may not really be on point as I think the people here generally have access to either 1) better, more expensive shirts or 2) traveling tailors that they are more comfortable with.

I could go on and on about what we have been through and the approaches we have taken, but I think I will end my (lengthy) post here. Any comments are greatly appreciated. It is our hope to make this a community effort, as this really is meant to be for those of you who (we think) want a local alternative. If it's not needed, it's certainly better to find out earlier than latter.

Thanks.
post #2 of 38
Congratulations, and I wish you well! How bout posting some of your creations?
post #3 of 38
if only you were here slightly earlier before uncle sam rob me...
post #4 of 38
Do you have any collar style samples?
post #5 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by acidicboy View Post
Congratulations, and I wish you well! How bout posting some of your creations?

Thanks. We haven't really been taking pictures of our customers but yeah, that's a good idea. We'll find someone who wants to pose and put some pictures up. It may be a while though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rrosals View Post
Do you have any collar style samples?

Yes, we do have collar style samples. We could probably shoot a picture of those too. Or, if you're around, you can come check them out. No pressure to buy of course. However, the samples are pretty straight forward and basic as they're only meant to provide a visual on spreads & lengths. The specifics (band heights, styles, etc) would be on an individual basis.
post #6 of 38
I'm back home in the SF Bay Area this weekend... got any appointments? I'd love to try to get one shirt made-up as a test.
post #7 of 38
um.....you really don't have any pics of your shirts? not even on yourself, for instance?
post #8 of 38
I checked your website and everything looks very half-baked. No emails or telephone info and your business hours are not the most convenient. It'll be nice to be able to talk with someone on the phone.
post #9 of 38
I'm always looking for really nice slacks at a great price... what fabrics and what price range? Thx.
post #10 of 38
maybe a MTM shirt store isn't the best place to ask that
post #11 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kngrimm View Post
I'm always looking for really nice slacks at a great price... what fabrics and what price range? Thx.

Quote:
Originally Posted by datasupa View Post
maybe a MTM shirt store isn't the best place to ask that

Actually, we do mention that we offer MTM trousers on our website. However, we're still contemplating carrying them. The trousers themselves are great (you can check out samples we have if you want) but the company that creates them for us have a very limited selection of fabric that we like. Unlike the shirts, we have not tried them on our friends/families yet and do not want to put an untested product out to the public. We will update the site to remove that paragraph. That said, if you want to try a pair and be our first guinea pig, we can talk about it (of course it would be discounted). For what it's worth, the price range on those were to start at ~$180. I'll PM you kngrimm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coho View Post
I checked your website and everything looks very half-baked.

No emails or telephone info and your business hours are not the most convenient.
It'll be nice to be able to talk with someone on the phone.

Haha. Yeah, the point of the site was originally to be an appointment site only. We were not really trying to promote the product online. Even the "info" link took some convincing for me to okay it. Concerning the telephone and hours, again, that's reflective of our day-jobs. If there is sufficient interest to support costs, we will of course hire someone(s) to be there for more substantial hours. And we'll get a phone line for you too.


Roikens: Sorry I didn't see your post earlier. I would have loved to meet up today. Unfortunately, I'm out of town tomorrow (my girlfriend's taking me to Monterey for my birthday) but if you're around Tuesday night, you should sign up and drop by.

datasupa: The shirts for ourselves are the samples we received many months back and are kind of odd (we were trying to pack as many features in as possible to better compare companies). I figured it would be more useful to see actual product we have sold.
post #12 of 38
This may be a stupid question, but are you guys able to do sport shirts (i.e. shirts that are designed to be left untucked)? I live in NYC, but I'll be in San Fran next weekend and would love to drop by and check out your shop.
post #13 of 38
As someone who would be part of your target market (well, except that I'm not in SF, unfortunately!) here are a few things that would encourage me to use your service:

- first and foremost, I find that tailors, local and online, generally offer a wide range of shirt fabrics that are great for work, formal events, and for 'basic', simple casual wear, but none of them seem to offer anything in the exotic-but-tasteful mold of the better Etro or Paul Smith shirts which, unfortunately, don't fit me well enough to justify paying full price for them. For that matter I often see shirts in interesting fabrics (subtle floral patterns, dots, etc) at places like Club Monaco and Banana Republic but rarely do they fit well enough even to wear casually, let alone precisely enough to wear with a suit or jacket. Here are a few links to show you what I'm talking about: http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/mainline-...productId=6679
http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/formal-sh...productId=6315
http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/formal-sh...productId=6572
http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/ps-254/ca...productId=6406
http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/ps-254/me...productId=6576
Because of the nature of these shirts you wouldn't need to offer a lot of fabrics like these, even a rotating assortment of 5 or 10, changing with the seasons, would be more than enough for me.

- offer a friendly, approachable, non-threatening environment and really really really good customer service. Nothing silly or gimmicky is necessary (and the customer -isn't- always right), but I've found that I often have to fight to be taken seriously by tailors (as a younger person, and, since I don't wear suits/shirts on the job, one who doesn't represent an especially large amount of business). Also, the customer service at tailors I've dealt with usually seems to be, to be generous, idiosyncratic. This can be fun, but also frustrating.

- finally, and especially if you are able to find a source for some more interesting fabrics, please consider offering your service online! If you're worried about accepting measurements made by customers, you could require that people send you a shirt that fits well already and either match it or match it with a few small adjustments.

I hope these suggestions aren't completely useless!
post #14 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 02///M3 View Post
This may be a stupid question, but are you guys able to do sport shirts (i.e. shirts that are designed to be left untucked)? I live in NYC, but I'll be in San Fran next weekend and would love to drop by and check out your shop.

Yes, we can create an untucked shirt (and have). However, in all honesty, if you're in NYC, there are a lot of other local options for you at the same price point. For example, Carl at CEGO comes to mind. The only difference (other a few years of experience ) is that I think he has a minimum shirt requirement. If your around SF though, make an appointment and drop by. If nothing else, you can grab some complimentary scotch
post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by jefferson View Post
Yes, we can create an untucked shirt (and have). However, in all honesty, if you're in NYC, there are a lot of other local options for you at the same price point. For example, Carl at CEGO comes to mind. The only difference (other a few years of experience ) is that I think he has a minimum shirt requirement. If your around SF though, make an appointment and drop by. If nothing else, you can grab some complimentary scotch


Yeah, I've thought about CEGO, and I've read good things here, but I'm only looking to spend about 350-400 bucks right now and I think he has a 5 shirt minimum. Plus, seems like you are good guys, and it'd be cool to give you all some business. I'll make an appointment on the website.
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