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From eHABERDASHER - a half canvassed suit in $325 - $350 range. Thoughts?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by eHaberdasher, May 8, 2013.

  1. Semi Fly

    Semi Fly Active Member

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    I'd first like to say that I'm also just offering my personal and non-professional opinion. I was a commercial loan underwriter for about 4 years and am attending business school in the fall, so this topic is interesting to me, but I have no direct industry experience here. I don't want my quote-reply to be misconstrued as trolling/arguing [​IMG]

    1. The folks who buy $300 suits are usually different than those who buy $500 suits, at least if the threads that pop up around here all the time are any guide. Why not sell to both if you can?

    Since this second line will be targeting different customers, there may be additional marketing time/expenses needed to reach these customers. There is also increased competition to consider in this price bracket, from retailers with established brands, distribution channels, etc. Again, buyers in this price range may not be informed, may be indifferent, or may not be willing to buy sight-unseen. It is a different demographic after all. There are also opportunity costs involved with time, design, sourcing, and cash flow. There may be hard costs involved as well - pre-production, inventory holding costs, additional warehousing if expanding, etc.

    With that said, there is definitely a market out there for these suits as others have mentioned. A small batch to gauge the market is probably pretty low risk, all things considered, but I think there may be some others to consider. Again, I am being very liberal with my assumptions here:

    Can the extra time/effort/money be better spent expanding the current line? Additional fabrics, sports coats, restocked inventory (these all seem to be currently in progress on the main thread). Will adding these changes to the Sartorial line be cheaper/quicker than starting a new line? Does the lower price mean less profit per suit or is that offset by being half-fused/using different fabrics? Is it better to focus on selling more of the existing products, such as through increased advertising? YLS mentioned that "most" would plop down the extra $150 for a fully canvased suit, but the opposite is also likely. At the $300 price range, it may be difficult for many to justify spending an extra 50% on a better quality suit, especially when their budget for a suit is modest. This issue isn't necessarily limited to suits or price-conscious customers either; the Sam Hober vs. Kent Wang grenadine tie discussion is an example ("What's another $15 for a bespoke tie when you're already spending $75 on a tie?")

    Will the new line cannibalize sales from the existing line (I probably would have opted for the lower line rather than springing for the Sartorial line had that been an option). Maybe the line isn't hyper-exclusive luxury, but there are certainly some benefits to simplified product offerings, too.

    The biggest issue for me is still: "I have a great product right now. Have I pursued all avenues to maximize this product yet?" I would put all options (including expanding product offerings) on the table and let the cost/benefit analysis put things into perspective.

    Thanks for letting me play along. I'd totally buy one, by the way. [​IMG]
     
  2. scatterbrain

    scatterbrain Senior member

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    I'm a fan of your current product lineup. I assume that you would do the half-canvassed equally well - providing excellent value. I wouldn't buy it, though. At least not for long-term staples. If the fabrics were ones that I'd wear occassionally - glen plaids, browns, etc - I would consider purchasing one or two, but as someone trying to assemble a quality wardrobe, half-canvassed is generally out.

    As a Canadian, shipping costs are substantial and duties may or may not be levied on the purchase. The cheaper and less unique the product gets, the less likely I am to put up with these costs and uncertainties.

    My first reaction, when you asked in the affiliate thread, was that this cheapens the brand you have worked to establish in Benjamin. My initial thought was that you should at least brand the half-canvassed line differently to avoid damaging the Benjamin name.

    It seems like there's still a lot of potential to keep improving your current lineup. I'm among the many who have been waiting for the next batch of suits and sport coats, for example. I have bought 2 suits from local tailors while waiting for the restock. I would've bought at least one from you if a Classico 43r had been available. Entering into the half-canvassed world makes me think that you're trying to ride two horses.

    Would offering half-canvassed help get you better fabric prices or better production times because you would be ordering in greater quantity?

    I do think there could be a huge market for them, generally. There are a lot of people who graduate school and suddenly need a wardrobe full of suits. The idea of getting 5 well-cut suits for $1500-1750 is quite appealing.
     
  3. aravenel

    aravenel Senior member

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    There is the possibility that he cannibalizes a bit from his existing line--but thats a risk any time any company introduces a lower-priced line. They still do it, because you *can* end up making more overall.

    The point about being able to keep production up is a good one--given that it's been hard to keep the Benjamins in stock (good problem to have, but problem nonetheless)--would this make it harder? Could be a different manufacturer, so maybe it has no impact, but it's a good point nonetheless.

    Personally, I'd think if you could produce a decent $350 suit *with a good cut* you could do well. That price bracket is a wasteland in terms of suits that don't look like a potato sack with lapels--it's all Jos Bank and Macys and whatnot. I'd think that if you could make something that was cut a bit more towards the "SF-approved" cut--softer construction, more open quarters, etc--that you could get the recommendations around here when someone asks what suit to get for $300. That market probably won't make you rich, but it's a market that's underserved IMO. I'd imagine that Wizard of Aahs got decent referral traffic from here--I know my first post-college suit came from him after reading this site--so why not try to make a move on that market?

    Anyways, just my opinion. Not sure what it would take to do a trial run, but it could be a good experiment.
     
  4. thisfits

    thisfits Senior member

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    I don't have much experience in this realm, but from what I've read, a saturated market isn't necessarily a bad thing -- it means others have gone before you and found demand. Think of pretty much any successful company today, and they probably weren't the first to market -- they just executed better than the competition. Trying to enter a market where you don't see ANY competition suggests that maybe no one wants what you're offering at the price you're charging.

    My gut reaction is that they'd sell well -- ever since Lands' End raised the price and changed the styling of their Year'rounder suits, I've kinda been at a loss when people who visit my site ask me to recommend a sub-$500 starter suit. The choices in that range (namely, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Lands' End, and SuitSupply) all seem to have what I'd think of as deal-breaker problems. A $350 suit in the Benjamin Classico cut, half-canvassed with non-functional cuffs would be superior in every way. I would totally recommend those every chance I get. :D

    But my gut's a terrible gauge. I figure the best tactic, as others have mentioned, is put out a small test run and see how it goes.
     
  5. aravenel

    aravenel Senior member

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    Good point--if you could get the ThisFits/PTO/DWW crowd recommending your suits for starter suits, that'd probably drive even more traffic than this site.
     
  6. add911_11

    add911_11 Senior member

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    Haha, its seem you are determined, thats fine and wish you all the best.

    I am sure your product will be good, try to get some media coverage.
     
  7. bellyhungry

    bellyhungry Senior member

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    I am down with half canvas Benjamin suits in the $350 price point. :slayer:
     
  8. Pembers

    Pembers Senior member

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    I'm a recent graduate in the UK. I actually have a Benjamin Sartorial suit which I bought a couple of years ago and continue to be delighted with. Many of my friends (and a lot of them ask me for advice about this kind of thing) would not spend $500 on a suit, however.

    They would probably buy your cheaper half-canvassed option - I would certainly recommend it to them.
     
  9. Quadcammer

    Quadcammer Senior member

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    not really, brands like Charles Tyrwhitt and TM Lewin offer suits in this price range. They are fused, bu the fabrics are serviceable, the cuts are pretty decent, and they are typically side vented with higher arm holes.
     
  10. CousinDonuts

    CousinDonuts Senior member

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    Personally, I'd be all for it. The question I have is will you be able to drive business to your site? Really that's the big internet question at a lower price point. Will you have too many people who would probably just run to Mens Wearhouse and never buy your suit online, no matter how great the value? Or will you pick up the guy who begrudgingly pays $650 for J Crew now and would rather buy 2 of your $350 suits instead?

    Would you consider offering some sport coats for say $250?
     
  11. Displacement

    Displacement Senior member

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    My biggest concern would be cannibalizing your own sales. As long as you know you're getting new customers (and not just downgrading current customers) you're making a good choice.
     
  12. othertravel

    othertravel Senior member

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    I'd consider purchasing the half-canvass model if it followed the Hugo Boss Selection route. Their suits are half-canvassed but use high-end fabrics (C Barbera, Drago, etc...). They make great beater suits that actually look good.
     
  13. eHaberdasher

    eHaberdasher Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    Thank you everyone for chiming in. The time you've all taken in posting and your thoughts and ideas are very much appreciated... will try to address some of the many points made...
     
  14. eHaberdasher

    eHaberdasher Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    These are all great points, and indeed all things I've pondered. The time/marketing expense would be minimal as I do already have an established audience and customer base (including lots of you guys!), so that is not really much of a concern. And while the vast majority of men in this world would likely, by SF standards, be less informed, there does seem to be a large and growing population of men who are learning/aspiring and yet don't have the means to drop $500 on a suit. I know that 11 years ago I would have definitely been in that same boat (even reverse-inflation-adjusted to say $400 back then). These are lean times for lots of people. Design are N/A, but cash flow, inventory holding costs, warehousing are real concerns. Regarding focusing more on my current line - yes this is an ongoing project and is still my "baby" and will still get priority and my highest attention. I was supposed to go to China this weekend to work with the technician for several days to hammer out final details, but yesterday had my visa application denied on a dumb technicality and now may not be able to go there until the end of June due to my busy schedule. We are going to try to finalize things remotely, but frankly I have been less than 100% satisfied with the last few samples they sent me that didn't have the adjustments quite executed to perfection. Once finalized then production should be much less of a problem (hopefully), and indeed, if I produce a half canvassed line I can probably command a little bit more attention/priority from the manufacturer as well. Of course lower price would be mean proportionately lesser profit per suit, but again hopefully the new product would be to a new demographic to whom I was unable to reach prior. As far as cannibalization goes, my thoughts tend to lead me to believe that it may bite in slightly, but ultimately it can introduce the Benjamin brand at an entry level to an educated consumer who aspires to eventually get to the sartorial line. Again, these are just thoughts and ideas running through my mind recently, and I appreciate your thoughts and insights!
     
  15. eHaberdasher

    eHaberdasher Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    Would it cheapen the Benjamin brand? I've thought of that too... I tend to think (hope) it wouldn't. The Benjamin Sartorial line will always be a more exclusive line and I am aiming to drive the quality even higher with more exclusive fabrics and with emphasis on full canvas construction. I'll also probably upgrade the lining to Bemberg, not that I've had or heard of any problems with the lining I'm currently using.

    Regarding production, once again I do believe it will provide me more leverage and priority with the manufacturing, but only time will tell if I move forward with this.

    As I read all of these posts, I do feel that you are all helping me in building a stronger case for this - or at least to give it a try. Thanks again for all of your feedback and thoughts. I'm especially thankful for many of you who have purchased my suits and have provided feedback on the forum or otherwise, and/or have referred me to your friends and colleagues. As everyone knows, word of mouth is the best advertising!
     
  16. VinnyMac

    VinnyMac Senior member

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    hmmm...For those of us who aren't familiar, do you mind giving a quick rundown of your suit offerings? Do you sell fused suits?...fully-canvassed suits? What's the general price of those items?
     
  17. eHaberdasher

    eHaberdasher Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    Currently the Benjamin Sartorial Collection suits are fully canvassed - no fusing. They are $495 for the previous models (Maestro, Lucente, Granoro) and $525 for the Classico model. We do have a few on sale for $330 - a great buy for a full canvas suit.

    http://www.benjaminclothing.com

    What we are considering is to offer another quality of suit which would be half canvassed for around $350 to provide a great quality garment for those who can't quite (or don't care to) spend $500+ on a suit.
     
  18. pendragon

    pendragon Senior member

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    I am skeptical. In my experience, low price buyers are the hardest to please. If it doesn't fit perfectly out of the box, they won't want to spend $50 on alterations. I think you'll end up with more returns, more complaints, and more headaches. Their complaints will then be amplified by the interwebs, and may hurt your reputation and put off buyers for the higher end merchandise. Once you go down market, it's hard to come back.
     
  19. Mute

    Mute Senior member

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    Even Ralph Lauren offers half-canvassed and fused suits. Granted the fused crap is just that. Nevertheless, it hasn't exactly hurt their image. More choice for the customer is usually a good thing.
     
  20. scatterbrain

    scatterbrain Senior member

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    I had a long drive this morning, and I found myself (oddly) thinking about this for quite a while. Now that I have one of your Sartorial suits I don't want to step down in quality, even if I could save $175. I think that most of your current customers probably feel the same: they initially bought because the suits are fully-canvassed, and now that they have the nice fabric, they wouldn't want to downgrade. Therefore, I don't think a lot of your sales would be cannibalized.

    On damaging the brand, here is an interesting article on Packard cars and how they essentially butchered their quality-based brand by reducing quality. The article fails to mention that they made a ton of money doing this in the short term, which is how the company survived the great depression.
     

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