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Talking Shop: Increasing casualwear has attracted younger shoppers

There is a definite benefit in our business having two sites, as it gives us some added flexibility.

Freddy Cole, owner of two store independent Coles menswear in Epping and Uckfield and member of the International Menswear Company (IMC)

Freddy Cole, owner of two-store independent Cole’s in Epping, Essex, and Uckfield, East Sussex, and member of the International Menswear Company (IMC) Buying Group

So far this season, we’ve noticed a strong reaction to Barbour jackets and they have all but sold out in our Epping store. Fortunately, we’ve been able to pull in stock from our Uckfield shop.

Although we have carried Barbour for a long time as a heritage brand, we have only bought it as a lifestyle brand for a couple of seasons. It is a significant investment, but our customers have taken really well to it and the group sits well with our other lines. The shirts and polo shirts perform strongly and we topped up our last order with twice the volume we had initially bought. We have increased our casualwear to meet demand and have consequently pulled back on some more formal jacket styles.

The branded casualwear we carry, such as Gant and Barbour, has a loyal following despite being more expensive. We choose our brands carefully and stick with them because we know the quality backs up the price. I think this is why we have a better sell-through than some of our competitors. It is quite usual for older gentlemen to appreciate quality in clothes, but I feel the younger generation have come to value the quality of merchandise a lot more in the past few years.

This season we are introducing Campione polo shirts and Oscar of Sweden shirts. The price point of Oscar is similar to Gant, but we feel it offers our customer something a little different and may meet the demand for more a casual style of dressing at weddings, with open-neck shirts and blazers.

While Cole’s is historically known as an older gent’s store, the hire department has drawn in a younger customer. Located at the rear of the shop, wedding parties will walk through the shop to the hirewear and pick up pieces from our casual offer. We manage to capture new customers this way each season. I would say a lot of our current success is directly due to the fact that we have altered our image and now appeal to a much broader and younger audience.

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