Speaker interview: A Suit That Fits builds a model that fits its customers¬í requirements
Taking on the long established industry of tailored suits has required some skilled alterations to be made to the model of A Suit That Fits to enable its customers buy its handmade products they way they prefer. By Glynn Davis
Ahead of presenting at the 4th Annual Retail Bulletin Multi-channel Summit 2013 in London on February 6 David Hathiramani, co-founder of A Suit That Fits, detailed how he has developed the business that began in 2006 as a pure online operation.
“We had an idea of being the world’s first online tailor but quickly realised our customers wanted a one-to-one experience. We got phone calls at our office from people saying ‘we love the concept but we want to visit you’,” he says.
The technology made it possible to take the customers measurements and styles and to make a handmade suit from this but this was not the preferred customer experience. Listening to their demands led the company to opening up a number of outlets housing ‘Style Advisors’.
They deal with around 15 customers per day and help them create the image of their suit that they have in their heads. Such has been the demand for this personalised service that only 5% of A Suit That Fits revenues are currently derived from pure online transactions.
This re-jigging of the model does not suggest that technology has been sidelined in favour of bricks and mortar as Hathiramani confirms that: “The fundamental difference of our business [to other tailors] is that everything we do is facilitated by technology. We are the most technology-enabled tailor, which is why we can give value to customers. Every step of the tailoring process is systemised.”
All the scheduling, quality checks, timings of delivery etcetera are handled by the system. And whereas it previously took hours to analyse the designs and measurements of each suit on paper this has been improved through technology, which has led to the eradication of mistakes from hand-writing orders.
Hathiramani says it is also possible to see exactly how well the individual style advisors are performing – in terms of the customer experience given, and the number of alterations required – which ultimately affects sales growth.
Crucially, one newer element of the technology has been the introduction of software that enables the style advisor to have a more personal relationship with their customers by providing them with all the details relating to specific customers’ orders.
“They are their tailor and they know all the customers’ details. Tailoring had been difficult to scale in the past because of these relationships but we’ve now scaled it. Without this we couldn’t make the most out of economies of scale and reduce our central costs,” suggests Hathiramani.
These economies of scale enable it to produce a suit for as low as £259 although he reveals that the average spend is £450 as customers become enveloped in the process and increase their investment in the suit.
What has not been affected by the approach of A Suit That Fits is the actual tailoring, which is carried out in Nepal, in a traditional way: “Savile Row makes its suits the same way. All the suits are hand-cut and the jacket maker will make the whole jacket.”
Because he says the company is “trying to keep all of this [tailoring] special” and has not said it makes suits just as good as Savile Row but cheaper, Hathiramani believes there have been no issues with the tailor community on the famous road.
Ultimately he is helping to grow the overall market for bespoke suits. “We’re saying tailoring is awesome and have never aimed our sights on Savile Row. We feel our market is the people who are going for off-the-peg suits. These are more difficult customers as you need to educate them on the whole process as it is not like buying off-the-peg,” he explains.
Interestingly, once customers have bought using the style advisors route Hathiramani says a number have purchased their second suit online or partly online. This will over time push the level of online sales up – particularly as he reveals that 65% of the company’s customers are repeats or referrals.
This will help it evolve further into a multi-channel operation: “We will look to develop the business so that if customers want to do it at home they can. We shall give them every way possible. The most important thing for our business is giving customers the different avenues to buy down.”
David Hathiramani is one of many high-quality speakers at the Retail Bulletin’s 4th Multichannel Retailing Summit 2013 to be held in London, 6th February. This highly interactive event will look at how to connect everything in the new omni-channel world retailing environment: 360 solutions to maximise sales effectiveness at every customer touchpoint. Make sure of your place by registering now. Click here for further details.
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