Newsflash: anyone near a Suits You store may soon enjoy the experience of a stock-clearance sale as 2011 will see the end of trading for the much-unloved chain. Spare a thought though for the 300 Suits You employees who are now facing redundancy after the administrator of the long-flagging high-street retailer decided that the 66 stores no longer offer financially viable trading.
In other words: they can’t sell their damn suits.
I have only visited a Suits You store a few times and my first reaction to the decision of the administrator was not one of surprise; in my own estimation Suits You is not store concept that has any unique qualities that would see it through troubled times. In fact, the problems with the style are fundamental.
Lack of appeal
It looked like a clone of Moss Bros and inside and out; shop windows often had Young’s Formal Hire mannequins and boards, jostling for attention and dominating the display. The window should have been four or five mannequins with flatteringly pinned suits (hey, Ralph Lauren does it – why shouldn’t they?) displaying a variety of fabrics and styles; waistcoats, greys, blues, checks, along with a few interesting and relevant props for good measure – bowler hats and umbrellas.
Instead, wedding hire and red-tickets dominated their glass frontage and lent the emporiums the unappealing characteristic of a discount store.
Suits are a man’s best threads; don’t pummel him with big-font scarlet price reductions, simply offer the good value, more discretely, in store. And bring them in to buy, not to hire.
Image is everything
TM Lewin have a near permanent sale and get away with the loophole of trading standards by offering their shirts for the full RRP for the shortest period possible. They do have the fortune of a Jermyn Street address and history but they have blown neighbours out of the water in terms of trading numbers and expansion, and they have a very broad range of clientele. The reason? It doesn’t look or feel much like a discount store, just a store of excellent value; wooden shelves, attractive spot-lighting, Old-School decorative touches and leather armchairs. A lot of their stores have a sense of permanence. Suits You look like stock-clearance units.
Reduce the inventory
Instead of boasting about how many names (faux-designer or not) they stock, Suits You should have cherry picked the top seven or eight and focused on simple, currently-fashionable designs; you couldn’t sell a baggy three-button in this market if it was lined in gold.
Selectivity is attractive in a store, an endless list of names like Pierre Cardin, Racing Green and Jeff Banks is not and simply conveys the image of a bargain-warehouse. Suits in a bargain-warehouse might well sell, but not at less than half the price.
Your branding dictates who you appeal to. Don’t brand to people who don’t care about good suits, but do care about paying as little as they can for them and be surprised that they don’t purchase a suit discounted to £450 – even if there is a Royal Warrant on the label.
The brand name, the logo and the mockney tagline (‘Looking The Business’), are also cheap and unappealing; no one wants to say they bought their new suit, or their husband’s Christmas present, from a store named for a camp comedy punchline.
Comedy is never a clever idea for branding sensible stores; sooner or later, the joke is on you.