Apothecary profile: Martinpatrick3

by Harry Sheff

For August’s fragrance and grooming story, I interviewed three menswear retailers—Blackbird (Seattle), Halls (Kansas City) and Martinpatrick3 (Minneapolis)—that have made the category a notable one in their stores. That was a relatively short piece, so I decided to post a couple of the interviews here in longer form.

MartinPatrick3, in Minneapolis’s downtown Warehouse District, started as an accessories store. Now 2,000 sq ft., it has expanded to apparel and added a large and growing apothecary business. I spoke to Sam Fehrenbach, the manager.

On making fragrance and grooming its own section: Most men’s contemporary stores have one or two brands, rather than a full apothecary section, but we what we found was that when you have this full presentation, it really accelerates sales. It costs a lot more to set up, but it’s paying off. We’ve got 9 million Macy’s locations in this town but none of them have a diverse fragrance selection. So the fact that we carry Santa Maria Novella, Aesop and Malin + Goetz makes it a destination.

When we started out we got all of our fragrances through a distributor so we had a lot of big ones like John Varvatos. When we had the opportunity to focus on the selection a little bit more, we expanded to some niche brands like D.S. & Durga, Odin and Etat Libre d’Orange. But we also have Etro and Hermes.

On the size of the apothecary: It’s not that big in terms of square footage, but it’s packed pretty densely with small high-dollar items. In terms of overall sales volume, fragrance, grooming and candles probably accounts for just south of 10 percent. We carry a lot of other categories. But fragrance and grooming is increasing as we add more.

E-commerce and grooming: We just started e-commerce in the last six months so the amount of inventory we have is maybe a tenth of what we have in the store overall, including apparel and other categories. We’re not allowed to sell most of the brands we have online. Santa Maria Novella and Hermes, for example, have both written very specifically into the agreements that you can’t sell online at all.

On who the grooming customer is: It’s a mix. Because we started off as an accessory store we had a really broad base of clients (it’s hard to pigeonhole a customer type when you’re selling hats, ties and bags). But now that we’ve got apparel in there, we’re pinning that customer down a little bit more. He’s a 30s and 40s downtown loft-dweller guy. We’re in a very pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, and the bulk of our business comes from within a mile. They’re not necessarily fashion guys — there aren’t that many of those in Minnesota — but they’re naturally curious and still want unique products that they won’t see other places.

On customer education: To some extent, particularly with the skin care lines, some education is necessary. But if it takes much effort to educate your customers about the product, it may not be worth it — you want your products to be recognizable and salable on their own. When it works, the repeat business we have — like with Malin + Goetz — is unreal. Scruffy looking dudes who you’d never think would drop a hundred bucks on three different skin care products will come back and do it every other month. It pays off when you get that right.

On sales training: Usually when we start with a brand, we’ll do a Skype training if their trainers aren’t coming into the store. All the apothecary brands have national trainers that will go through each product, one by one. So to a certain degree it’s a lot to keep track of, but you get the basics down. There are always a few different versions of the same type of thing across different brands.

Best sellers in fragrances: Odin 04 does very well for us. This season we started carrying D.S. & Durga and their Freetrapper fragrance has gone very, very well. From Hermes, Eau d’Orange Verte and Terre d’Hermes always do well. Those are probably the top four for us.

There are a million different citrus scents for guys and the total amount of citrus we sell is more than any other category that we’ve got. Odin 04 is so different — a spicy floral. I think it does so well because here aren’t that many scents that are marketed in a masculine way that are like that.

Fragrance prices range from around $60 to $160. We’ve gotten approved for some really nice, very expensive brands, but we’ve decided to hold off on them; how many $200 bottles can we sell? It would be nice to have them but we wouldn’t want to sit on them. In this market, I think there’s a limit to things.

Best selling items and brands in the grooming category: Malin + Goetz does well, and Baxter of California does really well partly because they market themselves as a skin and shaving company that’s just for guys. Knowing it’s an exclusively men’s company makes it a little easier for guys to sink money into a moisturizer. The Malin + Goetz deodorant is the second best-selling item in the entire store. And Aesop, which we just introduced, is doing well so far.

Combs and brushes from Kent and things from Swissco, which are cheap in the scheme of things, do well for us here. Although not everyone will pay $7 for a wooden toothbrush. Toothpaste from Marvis ($11, $6 for travel size) sells like crazy. Shaving brushes, because we have a pretty broad range, starting at $15 and going all the up to around $250, sell pretty well. A guy will buy a cheaper one and come back and take the step up. We have these Japanese-made nail clippers from Concord, made in the same prefecture that specializes in samurai swords, that are about $30 and we just can’t keep them in stock. We’ve sold a lot of them.

Stay tuned for my complete interview with Nicole Miller from Blackbird.