by Steven Valenti

As I was sitting at my kitchen table very early the other morning sewing brace buttons into a pair of rental tuxedo trousers – because I promised a bride that her groom and groomsmen would all wear real braces for their wedding — I thought about Karen Alberg Grossman’s recent MR editorial, “Why Independents Will Survive, Even With Amazon Taking Over the Universe”. And you know what? She’s right. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Amazon can’t iron a customer’s new shirt that he needs for a presentation in an hour after the old one became a victim of an unfortunate coffee spill.
  • Amazon can’t tie a wedding party’s bow ties that they bought online, not realizing they have no clue how to tie them.
  • Amazon can’t outfit a young man in an altered suit by the end of the day for an interview for his dream job tomorrow morning that he just learned about.
  • Amazon can’t visit a nursing home and measure an ill grandfather, whose wife wants him to wear a new suit for their grandson’s upcoming wedding.
  • Amazon can’t see the joy on a mother’s face when her “special needs” son comes out of the dressing room donning his first suit.
  • Amazon can’t feel the sorrow of a family who has just lost a loved one, and who needs dress clothes for everyone for the services the next day.

But we can. Indeed, during the 35 years we’ve been in business, we can fill volumes with examples like these. (I’m sure that all of you can as well.) In fact, our radio advertising campaign is built around these “true stories” that we tell every month, from helping a businessman who packed his wife’s dress clothes instead of his to a gentleman who broke his zipper mid-presentation and visited us during his break to get a new pair. To date, we have 44 different commercials recorded.

While Amazon can’t shake hands, can’t hug, can’t feel smiles or wipe away tears, brick-and-mortar retailers can and DO! This is our mission statement day-in and day-out. We must show all of our customers what a computer screen CAN’T do and turn them into fans for life.

P.S. When you finish with a customer and say your thank yous and your goodbyes, remember to add the phrase “Tell Your Friends!” A few weeks ago I said this to a local pastor, who needed a suit for an event. We ordered, fitted, and altered the suit in two days. He was so impressed with our service he wrote his Sunday sermon based on his great experience, and read it to his congregation that weekend.

Steven Valenti is the president and founder of Steven Valenti’s Clothing, a menswear store in Pittsfield, MA.