Retailer of the Week
23 Nov. 2011
MELISSA AUSTRIA, GOTSTYLE MENSWEAR, TORONTOConsistently named as one of Canada’s finest menswear stores, Gotstyle was founded by wholesaler-turned retailer Melissa Austria in 2005. Starting out as a second-floor walk-up, the store recently moved to a brand new 3,000-sq.-foot (279sqm) ground-floor space in the trendy King West neighborhood. With floor-to-ceiling windows and an onsite barbershop, the space is divided into four areas: casual, social/going out wear, business apparel and made-to-measure suiting. Austria says that suits are the store’s bestsellers and that in general, menswear is getting dressier. Interview by Christopher Blomquist
What are your bestselling sportswear and casual brands?
Probably John Varavatos Star USA, Ted Baker and Sand, a line from Copenhagen.
How do you find new brands for the store?
My background is wholesale so I was already aware of some of these brands but then I do the shows in New York and Las Vegas. Next year I will hopefully be going to Pitti because we’re going to start being a little dressier. I think it is important for retailers to constantly be going to shows and seeing what’s new out there.
Gotstyle casual area
What is the biggest challenge independent retailers face today?
I would say we probably have to get on the same page with dealing with vendors to work out a win-win relationship. I think that has been sort of off for a little while. Retailers are taking the initiative - we do a lot of events and fashion shows and parties for our customers - and we need support from our vendors for that. We usually take on these things ourselves. I think we’re at a point where there are so many brands out that we’re not selling by brand as much. We are selling by lifestyle and the brands that are in the store have to be more open to helping us out. Going back to giving a gift with purchase, for example – extra things that we can give back.
I think one thing I’m going to be doing heading into the next buying season is to have a readout of what I have bought over the past three seasons, how many events we’ve done and how they have contributed. And then planning for the next year at the beginning of the year. For us, it’s about having a more open dialogue with our suppliers and then making the decision of sticking with those suppliers that are more interested in helping out retailers. I think that mandate of seeing your retail store once every six months, having them to buy all this stuff and then not seeing them again for the next six months is over. We’re taking the risk of buying all the products; they’ve got to be helping out too.
What do you think will be the key menswear trend for fall 2012?
For me, it’s going to be continuing on that trend of dressing up. So we definitely believe in a lot of sports coats, evening jackets and evening suits.
And what are the store’s key items currently?
Denim for us really isn’t a big deal anymore. We are definitely moving on to alternative bottoms. Even on the casual side we’re selling a lot of casual unstructured jackets. And a lot of vests. Last year we went very heavily into boots for the fall season, which is really kind of continuation of the last season. This time we offer them in a much bigger breadth and selection.
Gotstyle social area
Are you doing anything special to attract holiday shoppers?
We are trying to get people to stop shopping at the mall and support their local, independent stores. We’re making it very Christmas-y. We’re going to have eggnog, Christmas wrapping for customers, valet parking and a coat check. We are trying to make the whole experience a lot more fun and Christmas-y as opposed to being in a mall, being really hot with tons of people and having a hard time finding parking. We’re doing special shopping nights but we’re not going on sale until Boxing Day. We’ll do a Ladies’ Shopping Night and we’ll have Christmas cookies at the store on Saturdays. We’ll just make it more of a festive environment as opposed to a sales environment.
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