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Digital menswear brand Untuckit finds malls are a good fit

Chris Riccobono launched Untuckit as an online retailer in 2011 to address a need he had observed in men’s fashion: Dress shirts tended to look bulky and sloppy when worn untucked. Shorter button-downs designed with this in mind would easily find takers amid trends toward casual attire, he reasoned. The hunch proved to be right. Targeting the average Joe through ads on sports radio, Howard Stern’s radio show and Fox News, Untuckit quickly cultivated a national following for its shirts.

The company opened its first store in 2015, in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, and now operates 22 stores across 14 U.S. states, with plans to reach 50 by the end of this new year. The chain has one store each in Florida (Tampa) and Oregon (Portland), four each in California and New York, a handful of shops in central states like Illinois — including two in the Chicago area — one in St. Louis and one in Bloomington, Minn. Thus, for a seven-year-old company with fewer than two dozen stores in operation, its reach is quite wide. As many as 100 Untuckit stores could be in operation by 2022, according to CEO and co-founder Aaron Sanandres. The chain’s first international outposts — in the U.K. and Canada — are expected to roll out this year.

The company, which declined to be interviewed for this article, joins a host of once pure-play online retailers that are now betting on the benefits of operating physical stores. “In order to grow to where we want to be, which is a billion-dollar brand, you need to be in brick-and-mortar,” Riccobono told NorthJersey.com. “There are a lot of men who won’t buy without touching or feeling the product.”

But it is not only men who are buying Untuckit products, which are no longer restricted to only shirts: The chain recently introduced women’s and children’s lines and has begun selling pants and shoes. “We started with shirts and then started getting requests for new products,” Riccobono told CNBC. “We realized we were growing into a brand, and people wanted to buy from Untuckit.

“In order to grow to where we want to be, which is a billion-dollar brand, you need to be in brick-and-mortar”

Landlords, for their part, have received Untuckit with open arms. The chain’s shops, which typically measure between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet, have opened at some of the country’s top malls, including Mall of America, The Mall at Short Hills (N.J.) and Oakbrook Center (Oak Brook Ill.), as well as on some desirable street locations, such as New York City’s Fifth Avenue. The company is in talks with GGP, Simon and Taubman Centers regarding future expansion, Sanandres told Reuters.

The pivot to physical stores is a no-brainer for online apparel brands like Untuckit, says Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, a Coxsackie, N.Y.–based retail consulting firm. “[Digital] retail has huge limits, especially in apparel, where the return rate is 20 to 50 percent,” Phibbs said. “It costs a lot to have free shipping both ways. [Digital retailers] have a lot of consumer data to decide what kind of store they want to offer.”

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