Should specialty retailers stop selling basic items easily found online?

by Steve Pruitt

Q: I saw that clothing has become the biggest seller on Amazon. As a menswear retailer, I was wondering how Amazon and other online sellers are affecting the sales of men’s basics in particular.

Should specialty retailers get out of selling tees, socks and other basics that can easily be found online? I’m not worried about my higher-end items, but even denim seems like it could be a basic now.

Steve Pruitt: You’re right—basics are categories that do well online. So, what should you do? Sell more specialty items that are not sold online, and focus on giving your clients top-notch, personalized service. An online seller can never replace this type of human interaction.

Just remember, there have always been places to buy cheaper merchandise. Distinguish yourself by your products and service, and you won’t have to worry about online competitors.

Note: collects promotional fees from site experts.


  1. If you click bow ties on the Amazon site, you will see nothing but cheap bow ties. I don’t think specialty retailers are selling cheap basic merchandise. Keep your quality and service and you will be fine. Do not give up your quality basic business, this is the most stable part of your business.

  2. I agree. But bring it a step closer – department stores carry the same brands. Boring. Be unique. It will keep all of us alive.

    1. Retailer should be a kind of “consultant”, selecting for his customers the best items on the market, by style and quality. Service is a key point. There are a lot of high quality basic item that people can’t find on line. Research them is another key point.

  3. Your clients should be coming to YOU for your expertise, service, quality, and taste, not just the “brands” you carry. YOU are the brand. Be exceptional.

  4. When a brand or an item wants to control my store I get off. The graveyard is full of brands that forgot that the smaller independent brought their merchandise to a broader market AND put the stores blessing on it. I think the same with the mass markets of basic goods today…my clients want to know what is new and where did you discover it. When we tell them the history they get excited and so do we.

Comments are closed.