General Discussion: Independent vs. 'Big business' menswear shops


swiftus
swiftus avatar

1116 posts since 1/7/09

posted 21 Jun 2018 11:58, edited 21 Jun 2018 11:58
With all this talk about the current retail climate (death of the high street, etc) and people becoming more aware of where their money is spent, I wanted to get FUK's POV on this topic. A few example questions…

Does it matter for you guys where you spend your cash?
Is price still the ultimate determining factor?
How much more (if any) would you be willing to spend to buy from a indie rather than a Mr Porter-a-like?
Or does the choice of retailer not matter at all; you just focus on overall customer experience?

I've got some skin in the game in this (just taken over a small indie), so really interested to hear your views. I think everyone likes the idea of shopping and supporting indies, but not sure how much this really translates to action, especially when price is (IMO) such an important factor.

P.S. I use 'big business' in the title cos I couldn't find a better word for the opposite of an indie!
jacko198
jacko198 avatar

389 posts since 23/10/09

21 Jun 2018 12:48
I guess with the clothing that we are buying and the sometimes extortionate price point, people are always going to go for the lowest price they can find. Even though you do feel good supporting an indie.

If I couldn't find any discount and was paying full price then yeah indie all the way.
nothingelseworked
nothingelseworked avatar

3548 posts since 21/2/10

posted 21 Jun 2018 13:03, edited 21 Jun 2018 13:03
I have no loyalties to any shop tbh - when you used to walk into an indie the relationship with the staff/people mattered (and was helpful in some cases), Internet removes that element. For me it comes down to (in order of priority):
- Catalogue/brands
- Price vs other stockists
- Shipping/returns cost
- Website experience
- Product information (individual product measurements most important)

When I'm just casually browsing and not looking for something specific, then website experience jumps to the top. If there's no basic shit in place like sub-category or colour filters than I will close the website without even looking. Can't tell you the amount of websites I've closed this sale season because it's just 10-20 pages with no way to filter - I'm sure I would've found something if I clicked through, but gotta better things to do than rummage through a bargain bin (and odn't mean that in a snobby way, just mean I CBA looking through stuff I 100% know I don't want ever).

I shop at Mr Porter and End a lot simply because they have the products I want and have free ship or at least returns. Indies sometimes have the products I want, but they're the same price as the big players and they don't offer free returns - I don't plan on paying £10-15 quid just to try something on if it turns out it doesn't fit, don't like it, etc.

Only times I can think an indie would win for me is:
- It's local so I can see the product, try it on, browse and get staff recommendations, etc
- Big player doesn't stock the product or is sold out
- Big player is more expensive, which is rare. Have been times where they're a fiver more or something, but then they do free ship/returns so that makes up for it.

Prior to End/MrP becoming what they are my shopping used to be quite spread: Tres-Bien, Oki-Ni, Peggs, Oi Polloi, Content Store, Present London and about 10 other stores that have closed down since.

I imagine it's tough as fuck out there for indies. Loyalty schemes might be a good play right now.
sodomgomorra
sodomgomorra avatar

1548 posts since 24/3/14

posted 21 Jun 2018 13:46, edited 21 Jun 2018 13:46
^

This
maximus
maximus avatar

1724 posts since 13/7/06

21 Jun 2018 14:09
Agree with all of above, free shipping and returns is a massive draw indie or major retailer.


Hanto
Hanto avatar

2250 posts since 30/11/09

21 Jun 2018 14:40
Agreed as well. Web experience massively puts me off some sites, e.g. Yoox. I just get lucky with what I find on there sometimes, but it is literally the web equivalent of visiting TKMaxx, which can be quite exausting.

Web experience/Load times on pages and price is key for me. Even if the product/price is better, if it is not easy to shop, I will go elsewhere, e.g. End, Matches, Goodhood.

On the flipside, I will forego that experience if the price is right, e.g. Kafka (I like their Patron scheme), and go to quite some length to find the right price. I have started using searchin.it to find trainers, for example. Can be hit and miss but I enjoy the search as much as owning something.

Sites that I think have improved recently are Hanon, Bureau, just because the checkout and filter experience has improved a lot. Aesthetically I think Mr Porter is the best; although Matches is basically the same, I find their look quite jarring.

I have started to try and find other websites stocking things I cannot find elsewhere, e.g. Alpha Shadows and Open as Usual. Not shopped with the latter, but the service from Alpha is great and v. personal. Bit like End in the earlier days.

I always prefer online shopping, because I do not likely being bothered in a shop/feel guilty if I spend ages in a shop and leave, unless in sale. The latter is particularly true of The Hambledon and Peggs, which are my locals. If money was no object, it would not matter.

Shipping fees are always key. It sounds stupid, but I'd rather a site add more on the product, and say the postage/returns was free, than charge me!
illwill
illwill avatar

4029 posts since 17/5/04

posted 21 Jun 2018 14:50, edited 21 Jun 2018 14:50
An independent will never be able to compete on price or service so you have to compete on selection.

End and MrP will obviously be able to stock a far larger range of brands but I often find that the pieces they select are much safer. Oi Polloi/Peggs etc frequently stock some killer items are totally unavailable elsewhere.

For example, Beams Plus is stocked semi-widely in the UK but I'll only ever buy from Oipolloi because their buyer has the best eye. They are frequently the only UK stockist for a particular item and you generally have to cop at full price because they will be all gone by sale time.

I also really like what Opumo are doing. They are to obscure/new Euro brands what Alpha Shadows is to Jap brands.
EssexBoyII
EssexBoyII avatar

6791 posts since 5/6/07

21 Jun 2018 16:55
If I don’t have a particular item in mind then brand mix is important to me. I didn’t use to think like that but now that Mr P and Matches seem to have 50% random athletic brands it’s decreased the enjoyment of browsing. No I prefer to browse somewhere like tres where I feel it’s less clogged. Will always price check it against other sites though
crutch
crutch avatar

450 posts since 22/11/12

posted 21 Jun 2018 18:27, edited 21 Jun 2018 18:27
Similar to everyone above, free returns is important for shopping online because it removes the feeling of risk. I'm not so bothered about paying for shipping though as I live in a rural area so figure it's the same as the cost of actually travelling to a store.

I will always look to buy from an independent if I can and will only really buy from End etc on sale, if there is a big difference in price or it's the only place I can find that particular item. Alpha shadows are a great example, interesting and well selected range of product and brands and really great, helpful, friendly service. I also have only had good experiences with the bureau and kafka. Similarly I prefer to buy independent brands, I buy a lot of shoes/trainers but can't remember the last time I bought a pair of nikes for example
pentonville
pentonville avatar

677 posts since 12/3/12

21 Jun 2018 19:55
There are a couple of independents that I trust to select pretty much exclusively stuff that I would be interested in and enjoy browsing those.. I find sites with a massive offering such as Mr Porter and End a headache and if anything the breadth of their spectrum really puts me off, not to mention how much I hate the styling. I basically have to feel like I trust the team behind the shop if I´m going to spend time browsing. That said if I have something specific in mind I´ll google that and go for the best price.
Doogan
Doogan avatar

730 posts since 13/4/14

21 Jun 2018 20:33
I live in Edinburgh where the menswear scene is pish poor. I tend to buy online where I can get the best deal. No loyalty tbh.

I'd love a good local store here but it doesn't exist.
Crackajack
Crackajack avatar

7562 posts since 21/4/05

21 Jun 2018 21:06
illwill wrote: An independent will never be able to compete on price or service so you have to compete on selection.

End and MrP will obviously be able to stock a far larger range of brands but I often find that the pieces they select are much safer. Oi Polloi/Peggs etc frequently stock some killer items are totally unavailable elsewhere.

For example, Beams Plus is stocked semi-widely in the UK but I'll only ever buy from Oipolloi because their buyer has the best eye. They are frequently the only UK stockist for a particular item and you generally have to cop at full price because they will be all gone by sale time.

I also really like what Opumo are doing. They are to obscure/new Euro brands what Alpha Shadows is to Jap brands.

Good points from illwill. I will generally buy newly released full price from Kafka, Bureau, OiPolloi etc as they will often have an item that only one of them has in stock and will probably not hang around (though annoyingly lairy things sometimes also make the sale Laughing out loud )

E.g. the ridiculous Ralph Rugby shirt, Candy stripe Beams+ popover or Jesus sandals I posted

For 'staples' I would probably look at Kafka first for price & service. I find points systems annoying but their patron rate is great.

Otherwise I'm generally on the lookout for something specific, like a suede bomber, and will do some research (on forums, Instagram or researching brands I have seen at shops) and buy from wherever.





swede
swede avatar

8840 posts since 21/3/09

21 Jun 2018 22:16
illwill wrote: An independent will never be able to compete on price or service so you have to compete on selection.

End and MrP will obviously be able to stock a far larger range of brands but I often find that the pieces they select are much safer. Oi Polloi/Peggs etc frequently stock some killer items are totally unavailable elsewhere.

For example, Beams Plus is stocked semi-widely in the UK but I'll only ever buy from Oipolloi because their buyer has the best eye. They are frequently the only UK stockist for a particular item and you generally have to cop at full price because they will be all gone by sale time.

I also really like what Opumo are doing. They are to obscure/new Euro brands what Alpha Shadows is to Jap brands.

this is so so true. while mrp and end have tonnes of stuff, they never end up buying in the weird/more interesting pieces. tres bien and oi polloi often do.

im not in london often so rarely hit up indies. when I was living in Bristol I would try and go to hoko quite a bit though - just because I would be really sad if it closed. I would buy a few items in sale season (yes pikey) and 1-2 items in non-sale season every year. the guy running it had a good eye for style and would buy in a great variety of stuff. some safe pieces yes, but a lot of the more interesting ones. the interesting/more out there pieces are always way better to see in person than online too
swede
swede avatar

8840 posts since 21/3/09

21 Jun 2018 22:18
pentonville wrote: There are a couple of independents that I trust to select pretty much exclusively stuff that I would be interested in and enjoy browsing those.. I find sites with a massive offering such as Mr Porter and End a headache and if anything the breadth of their spectrum really puts me off, not to mention how much I hate the styling. I basically have to feel like I trust the team behind the shop if I´m going to spend time browsing. That said if I have something specific in mind I´ll google that and go for the best price.

end styling is fucking shocking at points tbf. really bad
toocan
toocan avatar

823 posts since 7/11/07

posted 22 Jun 2018 00:00, edited 22 Jun 2018 00:00
Genuinely wish people that put there balls on the line all the best. Genuine admiration.

In the best possible way id say the fuk hive mind (not judging) doesnt reflect the local scene of provencial towns.

There is a thread "what every cunt is wearing" if your goal is fiancial id knock out those brands based on your local pull. If its to relplicate an online business like end or other then you need ambasadorship+ and brand building which aint cheap hubspot has great articles on brand building id start cheap on social proof https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/social-proof-examples
TIMDOT
TIMDOT avatar

867 posts since 6/8/14

posted 22 Jun 2018 00:05, edited 22 Jun 2018 00:05
Sssense's styling is good but the fucking measurements. Haven for the selection and measurements.
_
Most of the stuff I buy is proxy'd in from Japan. There are loads of small boutiques over there. There just aren't too many big one-stop-shops online, zozotown, but they don't have the top brands.
Because of the concentration of these little shops with little buys if you want an item you could be looking at shops in the big cities to ones in some fucking hamlet. Whereas looking for an item in the west your options are going to be in any big city from Moscow to Vancouver.

I sometimes think that the proliferation of these shops is because of all the Cool gear. That Japan must just have much better designers. That the UK is fucked because kids are now getting 1 hour of art classes every 2 weeks in schools now. But then I remember.
I don't live in a country with a rapidly aging population Cool Cool Cool
illwill
illwill avatar

4029 posts since 17/5/04

22 Jun 2018 09:46
toocan wrote: Genuinely wish people that put there balls on the line all the best. Genuine admiration.

In the best possible way id say the fuk hive mind (not judging) doesnt reflect the local scene of provencial towns.

I'm sure the only thing that keeps loads of provincial independents afloat is a Stoney/CP account.

Stuff that never really goes out of fashion that plenty of people are willing to whack half their wages on a top for the weekend.
Joe Bloggs
Joe Bloggs avatar

397 posts since 28/9/10

22 Jun 2018 09:49
Theyre cutting a load of those accounts, - i think about 40 or so from the bottom tier of retailers, trying to smarten the Stone Island business up a bit

Going to have a big effect on those market down indies who've been relying on it for 20+ years
Hanto
Hanto avatar

2250 posts since 30/11/09

22 Jun 2018 10:22
Interesting points on playing safe/buying risky products. From reading about Farfetch's business model, this is why they started. The idea was to provide a digital platform for independent boutiques to buy products that they cannot always guarantee will sell to their local market, and give it an international platform. I can definitely see why people like Hostem, for example, use their system. Trouva is a very similar model, but for a slightly different pricepoint.

Farfetch stated that they bought Browns to become a blueprint for how shopping can be in the modern era, so it will be interesting to see what they do with it going forward.
JustinCredible
JustinCredible avatar

2610 posts since 11/6/08

22 Jun 2018 11:13
toocan wrote: Genuinely wish people that put there balls on the line all the best. Genuine admiration.

In the best possible way id say the fuk hive mind (not judging) doesnt reflect the local scene of provencial towns.

There is a thread "what every cunt is wearing" if your goal is fiancial id knock out those brands based on your local pull. If its to relplicate an online business like end or other then you need ambasadorship+ and brand building which aint cheap hubspot has great articles on brand building id start cheap on social proof https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/social-proof-examples

There's a lot of truth in this, prime example for me is the number of lads in Vivienne Westwood tees on a night out anywhere in the North East. Places like Triads in Middlesbrough stay afloat from selling this tat for £100+ a tee shirt but it does enable them to stock some decent brands.