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Are brick & mortar menswear stores still viable businesses?

Discussion in 'Streetwear and Denim' started by blank, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. blank

    blank Senior member

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    I've long toyed with the idea of opening a brick-and-mortar menswear store in my neighborhood, which is gentrifying, evolving, diverse, and also underserved. I know that I can buy the right merchandise to meet the neighborhood's needs, maintain an inviting atmosphere that welcomes customers, think strategically to leverage the storefront and the name on the sign for auxiliary business ventures, and run the business intelligently. PR is simple; there are a thousand menswear blogs that will cover your launch.

    But we're in the age of online retail, where East Dane can undercut your price by 25% in a minute's notice and Revolve offers coupon codes that their sales volume affords. I could obviously sell my wares online as well as B&M (e-commerce setups have become dead-ass simple), but I'd be a drop in a large pond. I can style products and take gorgeous photos so that consumers aren’t looking at t-shirts on mannequins (as Fok said, TOJ’s biggest strength is their product styling), but I've been a StyleForum member for long enough to know that informed consumers know their product and first and foremost shop on price.

    I’d like to get StyleForum’s take on the state of retail menswear boutiques. Here are a few thought-starters:


    • your personal experience with the market (maybe we can hear from some of the proprietors on the forum?)
    • reasons to enter or avoid the market
    • gaps in the overall market that are worth exploring/exploiting
    • examples of young stores doing it right (don’t say American Rag or another store that’s been around for decades)

    Thanks. I look forward to the discussion.
     
  2. Dbear

    Dbear Senior member

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    FAIK, save yourself the trouble, it's an uphill battle all the way. Largely, it's going to cost you way more money (way more) than you think to start it, that is assuming you can get "SF brands" to even consider supplying to you.
     
  3. ter1413

    ter1413 Senior member

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    You considering doing this in NYC?
    The rent alone will kill you.

    I shop in brick and mortar stores all the time. Probably 98% vs 2% online. I like to physically see/feel/try on items before purchase.

    I was looking at a mason's bag(I would use it as an overnight bag) recently and saw that it was on sale online. I actually went to the store to see what it looked like close up and intended to buy it. It was the display model and was a little dusty so I passed and bought online(it was also the last one in the store.) One of the rare instances that I went online vs in store.

    Clothing....I actually can't remember the last time that I bought online. I mean...it helps that I live in NYC where just about everything is a subway ride away.

    I think there is definitely a place for them..but doing it in NYC is very expensive.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
  4. blank

    blank Senior member

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    I've thought about this as well. Does anyone have experience with manufacturers who won't sell to certain retailers?


    Is $4K/mo too high?
     
  5. ter1413

    ter1413 Senior member

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    You mean for rent? In nYc? Too LOW!
     
  6. blank

    blank Senior member

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    Well, that's what I can get in Brooklyn.
     
  7. kiya

    kiya Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    If you're trying to open a retail store and are worried about the rent cost you should not be opening a retail store.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Portland Dry Goods

    Portland Dry Goods Senior member

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    We've been primarily brick and mortar for the greater amount of our life at PDG. even now with an online shop 95% of our business is done in house or over the phone.

    I can elaborate on what I think it takes to run a successful physical shop but I can also boil it down to a few key questions;

    "where are you?"
    "who are youre neighbors and what are they doing?"
    "what unique service do you provide to this neighborhood?"

    NYC is a daunting market mainly because of these questions - there are a hundred places to shop and you have to stand out. Portland, on the other hand has only a handful (though the market is growing and new friends and competition are sprouting up!) so we're able to bring something special to the table.
     
  9. ter1413

    ter1413 Senior member

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    Ok. What part of Brooklyn?
     
  10. JezeC

    JezeC Senior member

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    "examples of young stores doing it right (don’t say American Rag or another store that’s been around for decades)"

    The first vendor that came to my mind is EP. I think they're staying away from carrying other brands and focusing more on their EP brand (which is probably a lot higher margin) - walts, driggs, shoes etc...

    They focus on creating similar or better quality products at below respective designer price points - their in-house pants are the perfect example.
     
  11. SirMeowly

    SirMeowly Senior member

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    Hey blank. Longtime SF lurker... never really felt the desire to post though until this.

    Your situation is a bit different, being in NYC. I live in Seattle and would love it if there were a couple more brick & mortar menswear stores here (the only non-online one is Jack Straw). The prices are indeed usually a bit higher than online (partially because of WA's sizable sales tax), but I shop at Jack Straw a lot because I like the owners and enjoy buying from a local shop. Without them, I wouldn't be able to try on EG (and other brands') pieces before buying, so I'm willing to pay a bit extra on a few pieces every season in order to support them.

    If you want to do it and you think you can make it work - do it. New York is competitive, but if you provide something different than the other shops there, you could make it work. (Don't open a shop if all you're creating is another version of a shop that already exists). By the way, 4k rent sounds insanely cheap.

    re: market gaps, maybe not applicable to NYC, but in Seattle the buys of summer items are always minimal because of the weather here (never many shorts or short sleeve BDs). Same thing with shoes... there are no places to buy the shoe brands I like (what I wouldn't give for a local Tricker's, Viberg, or Visvim stockist). If you're thinking about opening a shop, I'm sure it's because there isn't already a store in your area that's exactly the way you'd like it to be. So, make it exist.
     
  12. Distorbiant

    Distorbiant Senior member

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    @SirMeowly What about Blue Owl in seattle?
     
  13. Bam!ChairDance

    Bam!ChairDance Senior member

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    Plant your store in DC! Tons of young dudes with $$$, but the retail scene blows.
     
  14. MooseRooster

    MooseRooster Member

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    .
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014
  15. Distorbiant

    Distorbiant Senior member

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    Understandable. Blue Owl is very well known in the online raw denim community.

    It was a shame that blackbird closed down. I always had great customer service experiences with them.
     
  16. SirMeowly

    SirMeowly Senior member

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    Ah whoops, posted that from the wrong account (apparently I already have another one linked to FB that automatically signs in? oh well...)

    I miss Blackbird a ton. Wish it was still here - has definitely left a gap in the market.
     
  17. patagonianwild

    patagonianwild Senior member

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    Second that
     
  18. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I think that to survive retail, period, right now, requires that you bring something special to the table. From what I've seen, this goes for both online and offline. There are certainly advantages to being a B&M. For starters, at very least, you will be seen. Internet real estate is cheap, but by the same token, it's hard to get exposure, and the competition is literally a click away. For a B&M, the difficult thing seems to be in understanding the local market. In either case, you simply can't, with any certainty, duplicate success. A successful concept, put into a different environment, can fail, and this happens both online and off. I am always wary about giving any sets of rules. There are best practices, but these just keep you from abject failure at launch... most of the time.

    I think that a lot of whether any store makes it, these days, depends on a combination between scarcity/exclusivity of your goods, and the pricepoints at which you are dealing. If you have a lot of things at pricepoints that don't give your target audience pause, and they are difficult enough to find elsewhere that not buying at your store would not be a clear net benefit to them, and your business model is sound and realistic, then yeah, you might have a competitive chance.

    I think that Epaulet and Taylor Stitch have both done a good job. They focus on basic items with wide appeal, with many of their items actually exclusive to their store and in limited supply, Any outside brands that they carry enhance the image of their house brands. They are both also adept at social media, which is not just important for an online business, but for anyone trying to build their brand. They also have a very disciplined way of introducing new goods, in terms of volume, the capacity for higher volume or dial down, depending on the reception, and marketing, which gives new goods a greater chance at success. Theirs is certainly not the only model, oif course, but it's a smart money model.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014
  19. Distorbiant

    Distorbiant Senior member

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    I met the owner of a local men's boutique that's struggling to get by. He's a cool dude but really doesn't know how to get on top of the online game. The store's brand recognition is fairly low and his online storefront is rudimentary at best. He prices everything to beat the popular online stores' price by $10 or so plus free shipping, but I'm not sure it's working.

    He's got some cool store collaborations going now with some popular brands. It just feels like the store's social media presence is completely null.
     
  20. gaseousclay

    gaseousclay Senior member

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    agreed. I would also add companies like Skoaktiebogalet and LSH as being successful at what they do. They offer sought after product, especially with some of their exclusive makes, and don't rely a ton on discounting. If you have a product customers are willing to dish out for then discounting wouldn't be in your best interest. In this case, Skoak and LSH rely heavily on customer service and word of mouth. The other thing about discounting is that it tends to attract the bottom feeders of retail if you will, that is, customers that will only spend money if something is cheap enough.
     

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