Trevor Furbay is grateful that his store (Trevor Furbay Bespoke Tailors) is in a protected part of Cincinnati with ample police security during this turbulent time of protest. And he’s grateful that, after being open only a week, he’s doing some business (about 50 percent of his normal May volume, despite being closed for most of the month and having to lay-off most of his staff).
So, what’s his secret? “A lot of hustling,” he confides. “I’m missing six people but I’m slowly bringing them back. In the meantime, I’m doing it all myself (with some help from Jake Fell at eMarketing Logic).”
Relying heavily on social media to promote new fashion, Furbay is aggressively creating “Style Boxes” that he personally curates, delivers, and picks up for no charge. “It’s kind of a local Stitch Fix,” he explains. “And customers are loving it. On average, they keep 30-50 percent of what I send them, so in a typical $2,500 box, they’re keeping $750-$1,200 worth.
“Rather than cancel all orders, we continue to buy from vendors whose product is selling: Faherty, Grayers, Johnnie-O, Ballin shorts, M.Singer, On shoes, W.Kleinberg belts, Tom & Teddy Swim, Seavees, and Rhone… (We’ve also sold a ton of hand sanitizer from Commonwealth Provisions.) “Our storewide inventory is high because customers are not coming in for tailored clothing; our dress trousers are just sitting there and will hopefully move in a 50 percent-off sidewalk sale, where we’re putting all our slow sellers. But polos, tees, and shorts are selling well (at full price!) so we’re keeping these hot items in stock. Fortunately, our key brands are working with us…” Also helping his margins are some summer goods he can buy off-price and sell at regular price. “We’re taking advantage of Ballin offering 40 percent off their shorts inventory. I know we can sell much of it at full price and come out okay when it goes on sale. Our immediate need is margin.”
Key to all this, Furbay confides, is “over-communicating” with his vendors. “Even where we’re behind paying bills, we let them know where they stand and make every effort to send them something on a regular basis. Although a check for $1,000 when we owe $5,000 is not great, at least they see that we’re proactive and that we’re not running away.”
Furbay bought his first tailor shop when he was 26 years old and strongly believes in the power of custom clothing. “I’m absolutely reducing my buys in off-the-rack clothing; custom will remain at least 75 percent of my clothing volume.” (Furbay uses Trinity for tailored clothing, for its 3x markup and little to no inventory!) And he’s not just talking suits. “I’ve developed a great business with Camessi made-to-measure shirts so I no longer have to sit on a large inventory of $245 ready-made shirts. Retailers need to teach their associates how to ‘work the box.’”
Asked how he competes with those vendors who sell direct-to-consumer and whose goods are online at 25 percent off (or more), Furbay doesn’t hesitate. “I’ll match price if a customer complains but believe it or not, I get very few complaints. I deliver, I pick up, I give tremendous service. Fortunately, most of my customers believe that I’ve earned the full markup.”