Commonly thought of as an alternative to the bricks and mortar retailer, a website is just another ‘location’ in which to do business. Or so many might think. For James Wakefield and his business partner Robin McGowan however, physical and digital presence is not about ‘alternatives’ but instead the creation of a reciprocal relationship where one works to compliment the other.
Awash with competition, retail can be a tough industry to break. With a unique mix of online and offline accessibility however, university friends James and Robin believe they have found the perfect formula to eliminate the pain from one particular group of frustrated shoppers. Co-founded by James and Robin and launched in 2012, InStitchu allows customers to design their own tailored suit or shirt by submitting their measurements and placing their order online.
Speaking of his own experiences, James said “we were tired of the endless search for high quality affordable business attire and it turned out we weren’t the only ones who were looking for a better experience and easier way to shop for a suit or shirt to wear to work.
“We both realised that we could do something about it and leverage the internet to bridge the gap between high end tailors in Asia and consumers all over the world.”
Directly challenging other high-end suit brands with equal quality and a lower price point, InStitchu is a unique hybrid of the online-offline retail business model according to James. With stores in Melbourne and Sydney, customers can view sample garments, fabrics and obtain professional measurements before entering their details into an online profile. All subsequent orders can be made online without the need for physical interaction.
James said “when launching our business we analysed all the pain points of a customer purchasing an off-the-rack suit.
“All in all, it’s a terrible process riddled with risk. We have taken away as many of these pain points as possible and have removed all risk.”
Finding a way to bolster a predominantly online retail offering with the benefits of bricks and mortar retail has been the key to delivering better value in the existing market according to James.
“We are able to maintain a very affordable sale price by reducing the number of overheads that a traditional retailer would have. We don’t carry stock and we do not need to have expensive retail spaces in shopping centres.”
A smart service for smart shoppers, the rollercoaster of highs and lows that has so far characterised James and Robin’s brand building experience is finally starting starting to pay off. While working to continue their domestic expansion in line with growing demand, InStitchu will be expanding overseas in response to the growing amount of sales in the US market.
“The past few years have been a rollercoaster of highs and lows,” James said.
“There were many months where Robin and I went without any pay and lived off credit cards. However, thankfully those days are far behind us now and we are fortunate enough to be going from strength to strength.”
If James’ vision for the future of online retail is accurate, other retailers should perhaps be looking towards InStitchu as a successful trial run of the truly ‘hybrid’ online-offline retail model.
“We envisage online retail being made up of showrooms or ‘guideshops’ acting as an extension of a website.
“Some businesses can thrive in a pure online capacity but I think most will look to incorporate guideshops and showrooms,” James said.
When it comes to going online – it might not be about jumping in with both feet.