Fast-growing men’s retailer Indochino continues to pursue its clicks-to-bricks strategy about five years after opening its first showroom, in Toronto. The Vancouver, British Columbia–based company, which launched as a digital platform in 2007 and makes custom suits at off-the-rack prices, was operating 38 showrooms as of last year and has plans to open as many as 20 more this year. To get the skinny behind Indochino’s growth, SCT spoke with Corey Bialow, head of Bialow Real Estate, in Needham, Mass., who represents the company in all its U.S. leasing.
What makes Indochino different from other men’s apparel retailers?
We’ve created a vertically integrated, made-to-measure business model that cuts out the middleman by custom-manufacturing every suit and then shipping it to the customer or to the showroom for pickup. The showrooms are not traditional stores in the sense that they carry inventory, but they are really customer acquisition tools. The model has been tremendously successful and has created tremendous brand awareness.
Corey Bialow, head of Bialow Real Estate, which handles U.S. leasing for Indochino
What’s behind Indochino’s success?
First, it’s difficult to get a man to spend 40 minutes in a store, outside of Home Depot, but we’ve tapped into a desire for people to feel pampered and paid attention to. From the moment you enter, we treat you like you’re in a high-end boutique: A personal shopper greets you, sits you down in a plush leather chair with a cocktail — in jurisdictions that allow it — and takes you through the process.
Second, you pick every facet of the product: the materials, the color, the pattern, the stitching, the buttons, the collar — there are a million combinations. When that’s done, you can add your name, a nickname, a quote or something else that’s cool. People love that kind of personalization.
Third, the company wouldn’t work without providing a quality product. A custom suit typically costs $2,000 to $3,000, but you can spend $500 or $600 at Indochino and get a custom product of equal quality. We’re in an environment where nobody wants to pay full retail anymore.
Indochino's Seattle showroom
What is guiding the current site-selection process?
Because the company started as a digital platform and still does a lot of online business, we’re not guessing where the demand is. The core urban markets that have a lot of young white-collar professionals were obvious targets. But I was surprised at how much of a following Indochino has in second-tier markets like Nashville and Kansas City.
Indochino's Chicago showroom
How did you land the gig?
A private equity group in Boston that I’ve done work with was an early investor in Indochino. When they opened a showroom on Newbury Street, I walked in, and right away I loved it. I don’t know how to design a suit, and I am not necessarily up to speed on fashion. But they held my hand, and I ended up with a very fashion-forward suit that looks great. And then, once Indochino had my measurements in the computer, I was able to go online and order shirts. I was taken with the whole experience. I went to the investors and said, “Put me in touch with these guys. I love what they’re doing.”
By Joe Gose
Contributor, Shopping Centers Today