E-commerce startups targeting men with offers that both tailor to their unique body size and aim to save them the hassle of going into a physical store have found a budding marketing with companies like Indochino and Frank & Oak leading the way.
The new kid on the block is Guelph-based Suitly Apparel, which launched in August 2012, and according to co-founder and CEO Matthew Krizsan, has been seeing a steady rise in sales since the new year.
“It’s been interesting, sales have slowly ramped up since the launch. Considering when you’re launching a new company with two people and other day jobs, we’ve been doing really well,” said Krizsan in an interview with Techvibes. “We’ve sold a few hundred suits since we launched. The majority of the orders have come this year and the response from our customers has been great.”
Krizsan, who also simultaneously runs a family-owned land development business in Guelph, is a slim guy who always found it hard to find suits that didn’t look they were his dad's, which was something that became more pronounced as he was doing his MBA at Ryerson and had to dress for the part. During a trip to Thailand he discovered a local tailor who would alter his shirts and suits and Krizsan loved his work so much so that they had built a relationship where Krizsan would send him money through PayPal and wait three weeks for his clothes to arrive. After seeing the initial success that Indochino was having, Krizsan took calculated steps to launch his own e-commerce business focused on custom tailored suits and men's apparel.
With the help of his wife and co-founder Carol Mechedjian, he spent a year writing the business plan, then spent several weeks traveling to Thailand and setting up his supply chain, and worked with Playground, a digital creative agency in Toronto, to build out the site itself. The company boasts a perfect fit guarantee allowing customers to get reimbursed if additional alterations are required or asks them to send in their order for something completely new.
The site asks users when they first sign up to go through a 10 minute self-measurement process with a measuring tape, a friend, and video instructions to set up their profile. Once that’s out of the way, whenever they see an item they like, they simply click the customize button and it will use their data as part of the order. The company also uses a built-in algorithm that will detect incorrect measurements and prompt users to measure themselves again if required.
When asked how Suitly plans to compete with Indochino given the company’s track record and venture capital backing, Krizsan said the company aims to differentiate itself based on the quality of the menswear. Suitly manufactures and ships all its attire from Thailand, a choice which was made after a series of early prototyping and testing and realizing the suits it was receiving from Thailand were of much greater quality and make.
“We’d done about 50 different test suits and shirts from various suppliers, the quality coming from Thailand was top-notch with the stitching and attention to detail," he explained. "So we ended up using actually trained tailors rather than assembly line kind of fashion. These are half-hand, half-machine sewn suits, there’s a lot of care and attention to detail that goes into it. It costs us a little more in our margin end but it pays off in the end with the end satisfaction from the consumer.”
The company is completely self-funded by Krizsan and he has no plans to raise external capital in the near term, stating that he spent a great deal of leg work up front to set up the business as such that it could be self-sustaining. With a current staff total of just two with him and his wife, not to mention juggling two businesses at once, Krizsan appears to be doing just fine; however, whether he is able to see Suitly become a heavy-weight brand in a competitive e-commerce landscape is something that remains to be seen.