by John Russel Jones

2019 was a banner year for Würkin Stiffs, the accessories company best known for its patented magnetic collar stays. A big hit at Nordstrom and at better men’s specialty stores across the United States, the future looked bright for this 15-year-old category disruptor.

“We did a test in Men’s Wearhouse for Holiday 2019 that had a 25 percent weekly sell-through. We were the chain’s number one selling accessory,” says CEO and Founding Stiff Jonathan Boos. “I flew to California to meet with the buyer and was told the Joseph A. Banks buyer wanted to meet, too.”

Like so many other businesses though, when March 2020’s COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect, Würkin Stiffs’ sales plummeted, and stores canceled existing orders. Boos, however, still had inventory, so he pivoted to an online sales model and survived the storm.


Now that the pandemic is (mostly) behind us (we hope), Boos wants to help men’s specialty stores that don’t have ecommerce sites to start selling online. To do that, he’s started the Würkin Stiffs Back To Work initiative. The concept is simple: Würkin Stiffs is giving away $50,000 worth of magnetic collar stays (The brand’s most popular, one-pair metal set that retails for $19.50) to retailers. For free.

“There are no strings attached. Only magnets!” jokes Boos. “At the end of the day, I’m attached to this industry. Literally!”

“If you sell a collared shirt — be it a dress shirt, sport shirt, or polo shirt — if it’s got a collar, we’re going to show you how to make money. We’re going to help you connect the dots. Obviously, it’s not just about having ecommerce, but does the store have an email strategy? I’ve already learned these lessons, so I want to pass my knowledge on to these stores. And we’ll be able to learn from each other! I want to do the right thing.”

As Boos puts it, he doesn’t want to become a full-time consultant, nor does he plan on doing all the work for the stores. “But we’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting!”

Pre-COVID, Nordstrom was Würkin Stiffs’ biggest partner. The brand had been selling its innovative collar stays to all doors since 2009. The store displayed the product at the cash wrap desk, where it became an easy impulse buy, as an added value sale. And Würkin Stiffs was selling 10 times more than any other collar stay.

“I would drop in on the stores to see how things were going, and nearly every time, as I’d get closer to the cash register, I’d see some sales associate finishing up with a customer by adding Würkin Stiffs to the transaction. It was a natural!”

“Back then, we weren’t really set up for Direct-to-Consumer sales,” Boos points out. “Sure, we had a website, but any ecommerce business we did was just icing on the cake. We’ve built our business with specialty stores, so when lockdown hit, we felt the pain pretty quickly.”

Boos did have experience drop-shipping product for his larger accounts, but how would that translate digitally? He hopped on the phone with Kirk Keel of online custom shirt maker Stantt to convince him that selling Würkin Stiffs was an easy, digital upsell. Both brands used the same ecommerce platforms, so Boos was able to stitch together a hack that would “suggest” his collar stays as part of the check-out process. Stantt still made the markup, and Boos would drop-ship the product directly to the customer. The program was a success, and Boos saw the future.

Says Boos, “I like to add value for my customers. We’re small enough that we can react quickly, and the independent men’s specialty stores took me in when I first started and took me into the menswear family. What could I do to start helping them and repay the favor?”

Boos saw that the big dot-com players of the world were operating at an advantage. Brick-and-mortar stores weren’t recovering quickly (if at all), even as things began to open again in 2021, and not everyone understood his simple formula for inserting Würkin Stiffs into the checkout process. Boos began to research how smaller stores were running their ecommerce businesses during the pandemic. He quickly realized that many smaller men’s specialty stores were only using their websites, if they even had them, only for information, not for sales.

Boos used his experience with drop-shipping product and his learning from the partnership with Stantt to put together a seamless program that allows him to drop ship from any store’s ecommerce sales. The store doesn’t have to own the inventory because the product ships directly from Würkin Stiffs’ warehouse.

“I knew that stores could make money with us if they put us in the right place during the online checkout process, but if stores aren’t selling shirts, we’re not selling collar stays! That’s when I came up with the concept for the Würkin Stiffs ‘Back to Work’ initiative: I could see that we needed to figure out a way to help stores that didn’t have a real ecomm strategy and increase their Average Order Value.”

To qualify for the program, interested retailers can go to the Würkin Stiffs Back To Work (so click here already!) website and complete a simple 10-question form. Once qualified, Boos will help stores connect their ecommerce platform, with the added incentive of free Würkin Stiffs collar stays when sold through the program. It’s up to the retailer if they want to charge the retail price or pay it forward to their customer as a free item.

Boos says, “We know that, when the economy gets rough, guys will pull back on spending, especially on themselves. Würkin Stiffs represents attainable luxury. It’s a little something extra that makes a man feel confident. They’re also a great gift-giving item. We’re seeing that shirt sales are picking up, so we’re anticipating that, as we head into holiday, it’s going to be the perfect time to upsell with Würkin Stiffs.”

So quit reading this, and get Back to Work!