Retailer of the Week
Stefan Kalch (l.) and Gerhard Fuchs, photo: Alexander Rauch
18 Jun. 2014
Gerhard Fuchs and Stefan Kalch, owners, SunsetStar, Graz, Austria
Establishing a trust relationship with customers, offering them a wide selection of products that best meet their taste in terms of denim, along with honest and excellent service are musts today, according to Gerhard Fuchs and Stefan Kalch, owners of the specialized denim store SunsetStar in Graz (Austria). “Customers value their clothes for what they are and not what the labels say,” they comment. Interview by Maria Cristina Pavarini
The men's area at SunsetStar, photo: Jasmin Schuller
What are the current bestsellers and why?
That totally depends on the type of customer. On one side there are the “beginners” and those who already love raw denim products. They are mainly new customers and - either via regular customers or social media - they mainly heard about the raw denim phenomenon and the durability that goes along with it as well as the uniqueness you gain through wearing your jeans pair. Another group of customers looks for the rare and exclusive products offered by brands such as Scarti-Lab, Momotaro or Big John. Then there is a third kind of customers, the regular ones – the denim heads and vintage aficionados - who mostly search for and buy very unique and hard-to-get-items in order to stand out of the crowd. They are sure about what they want although they really enjoy and also want to hear the story behind the product. It’s all in the details…Some are more fashion-focused and enjoy brands like Naked & Famous Denim or Edwin.
General bestsellers for men are denim brands in all facets, while women mostly buy vintage-inspired dresses.
Do people buy according to their favorite brand, style, or impulse?
Most prefer recommendations, some are really in love with a certain brand and their image and their respective philosophy. So all three guiding reasons are kind of true.
In general, clothing offers the opportunity to make a non-verbal statement - a “visual message” that can pass through the conscious or unconscious.
Years ago we tried to “educate” our customers by explaining them, for instance, that the bitter taste of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. In fact, there’s a new call for durability to be appreciated and a cultural desire for reliability which has been growing for years.
When we started importing Japanese denim brands most of our customers here didn’t know anything about them. They didn’t buy the name of the brand; they bought the product, which stands for itself and for many this is still like that.
More men's fashion at SunsetStar, photo: Jasmin Schuller
The foundations of our actions, our drive, can be summarized by a few keywords: Quality + Sustainability, Identification + History, and Independence + Individuality. These keywords work like a map that helps us to select brands – it is necessary that they fit into this criteria. For this we mostly focus on authentic brands and durable products with preferably sub-cultural roots. On one hand terms and definitions like sweatshop, environmental compatibility or child labor are gaining importance in the consciousness of our society. We see this as a welcome development which confirms our efforts. The communication with our regular customers is essential in many ways although they are more friends than customers in the traditional sense. Another essential aspect to us is knowing the people “behind” the brands personally. Our selection is constantly updated, and we try to get our hands on exclusive pieces from various brands. To give an idea: our web shop is updated regularly and open 24/7.
How do the collections you offer for next fall/winter look like?
We will add an elegant touch to our offered collections - not too fancy, of course. Besides that, we will do a small but very nice collaboration with (one of) the oldest Japanese denim brands, and the “usual suspects” will supply us with some great gear for fall/winter: Fidelity, Scarti-Lab, Naked & Famous Denim, Momotaro or Edwin…
What are the most important trends, in general?
Above all, we would like to make very clear that there are movements – on which we are focused on - that are much more than just a short-dated trend everybody runs after. We see ourselves as part of a movement and try to ignore short-dated trends. A mixture of our sub cultural roots which combine not being mainstream with our mutual interest in products that become better with age. It may sound simplistic, but first we must be convinced ourselves. As we said before, it is very helpful – it is almost essential - to know the people “behind” the brands personally.
Did you add any new labels to your assortment?
Our newest family member is Scarti-Lab and we will add at least three new labels to our brands roster for fall/winter. But we do not want to reveal too much…
Womenswear area, photo: Jasmin Schuller
How does your store differ from other stores?
It all started in 2001 straight out of the local punk rock scene. We thought it might have been great to have a lifestyle fashion shop in our hometown of Graz, Austria. The idea was simple: "Let's bring sub-cultural lifestyle fashion straight to our customers." We always tried to be more than a “boutique” or a “fashion store“. Everybody’s welcome. We want customers to enjoy our personal advice, some drinks and a “feels-like-home” atmosphere alongside handpicked items, each of which can tell a story.
What do you like about your customers?
Our common interest in the products, the stories and intentions behind them, and, of course, the resulting friendships that go far beyond the seller-customer relationship. We want to be/stay a friendly place where everybody’s welcome even if it’s for a drink or two, and have nice conversations about things beyond just beautiful clothing…
How important is the interior, the atmosphere and the whole package?
The overall package is our priority. Though we are convinced that the location isn’t the most important part. Bringing a good product, nice variety, along with honest and excellent service, will attract customers. I think this goes for all quality products. Graz is the second largest city in Austria with 300.000 inhabitants. Customers are ready to travel some extra kilometers. They value their clothes for what they are and not what the labels say. That’s our experience.
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