by Brian Lipton
Ian Rosen

Since its humble beginnings as a single store in Toronto, Harry Rosen has become synonymous with high-quality men’s clothing; so much so, that the now 17-store Canadian chain has become the ultimate brick-and-mortar destination for those men seeking the best brands, best service, and best overall customer experience.

However, new patterns in online shopping coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic that shuttered many of the company’s stores temporarily led the retailer to recently make a massive shift into online retailing, with remarkably successful results. Online sales currently generate 25 percent of Rosen’s total store volume, with a projection of hitting 40 percent by 2025

“We saw our online business grow threefold from 2019 and we are continuing to build on that trend in 2021, where online has emerged as our largest storefront,” says Ian Rosen, the company’s executive vice president for digital and strategy. “In fact, I wouldn’t consider us brick-and-mortar-first anymore, but shedding that mindset was the main challenge to getting where we are today,” he notes.

The company’s philosophy began to change slowly four years ago, with major updates to the website made in the past year or two in order to drastically improve the customer experience. “Today, we are servicing most of our customer journeys through our website: a client can browse personalized deals and offers, review their loyalty points balance, find products in their local store, start a return, get customer service or product advice, book appointments, or shop with their clothing advisor, all with a service level we’re really proud of,” says Rosen. “The website is basically the new town square for our business.”

Indeed, the reasons for the store’s successful transition to online retailing are manifold, notes Rosen. “First, the investments we’ve made in technology have given us the ability to give confidence to clients that they are investing in a quality product. That can’t be done without offering quality imagery and an immersive digital shopping experience,” he says.

“We have a number of clients who look to us for head-to-toe dressing options, which pushed us to make images intuitively shoppable through a feature we call ‘Get The Look.’ We’ve supported this by enhancing most of our product pages to not only have extensive product information, but even show outfits and live videos of the product on a model. We also allow our 400+ in-store clothing advisors to curate the website for their clients, down to the relevant styles and sizes they are shopping for,” notes Rosen.

“Additionally, we’ve been able to leverage dropship technology to extend the aisle across many categories and deepen the relationships we have with many brands. The number of products we have up online for sale has increased by 15 percent year over year,” he notes. “However, while we wanted to find a way to get more products up online, we also didn’t want to lose our fashion point of view!”

Moreover, Rosen knows that many of his customers utilize both in-store and online shopping to fulfill their needs, although not always in the same way.  “We know that 15 percent of our online business is consistently driven by our in-store clothing advisors, but we also know that close to 40 percent of the clients who walk into a store have browsed the website ahead of that visit.  And we also know the items they purchase generally will differ based on how and where they shop. For example, in-store has a stronger tailored business and online has a booming sneaker and knitwear business, which helps us curate the website.”

As for keeping the customer satisfied, Rosen can’t stress strongly enough the importance of doing that.  “We have invested heavily in logistics and fulfillment operations which has decreased the average receipt time to one or two days — and even less for curbside/pick-up-in-store. We know we need to continue to pick, pack and ship items quicker than ever in order to compete,” he says.

“Return rates have also been a big focus for us and generally trended in the right direction for our business,” he adds. “To continue to manage these down, we’re working to aggressively ensure that our size/fit information is as accurate as possible so clients can purchase with more confidence. We are also capturing good data on returns we do receive so we can address issues with specific brands or categories.”

Naturally, even the smoothest road has some bumpy patches, and Harry Rosen hasn’t been immune to some of the issues all online retailers face. “We have seen substantial shipping delays which has decreased the time we’ve had to sell through seasonal items, so we’ll continue to monitor this and ensure we keep our pricing in line with our customer expectations,” says Rosen. “And there’s no question that acquiring clients is tough in today’s market – and retaining them is even harder. So, we’re using a lot of third-party data to ensure we’re being very targeted with our acquisition campaigns. Further, when we acquire a customer, our marketing is committed to showing them the breadth of our offerings.”

In the end, though, Rosen attributes the success Harry Rosen has found in online retailing to the people who work for the company in every department. “Ultimately, our team has been able to rally around this vision that the customer is in the driver’s seat and we allow them to drive whatever direction suits them!”

Talk about a winning formula!


  1. I have been to Harry Rosen in Vancouver and Toronto. Top flight retail, knowledgeable and friendly sales people.

  2. I have been to Harry Rosen in Vancouver and Toronto. Top flight retail, knowledgeable and friendly sales people.

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