At men’s boutique shops nationwide, top-selling apparel items and accessories vary, but establishing a good relationship with customers is key to accelerating sales in each of these categories. Shop owners and staff discuss their best-sellers and customer service.
At Nick’s Menswear in Chandler, Ariz., Lila Polewka, who manages wedding operations for the company, speaking for General Manager Joanna Allen, said, “The best-sellers in apparel for us are definitely specialty item suits with patterns and texture. People love them because you can piece them out, and wear the jacket as a sports coat, or pair them together, jacket, vest, and pants. We have cobalt blue, and lighter blue plaids that are very popular. Our best-sellers in accessory items are cotton floral ties. They’ve been a trend for some time now, but they still are going strong. Instead of a satin finish, it’s more of a flat cotton fabric in different sizes.”
Top gift item purchases are often the same whether being purchased as groomsmen gifts or Father’s Day presents, Polewka attested. “As groomsmen gifts, tie bars are very popular. They’re like jewelry for men, and you clip them to your tie to attach to your shirt to keep the tie from shifting. Paired with matching socks and a tie, they make great gifts for dad, too.” The shop uses displays in the store, but it’s paying special attention to customer service as key to selling the shop’s clothing and accessories.
At 5.11 Tactical, the shop’s name refers to a measure of difficulty in rock climbing. Located in Honolulu, Hawaii, Shift Supervisor Jonathan Nichols said his top-selling apparel is “definitely our pants line. They’re comfortable, durable, and built for everyday use. Our motto is ‘be ready,’ that is the overall goal of our products. We want everyone to be ready for everything. You really have to go out of your way to damage or destroy them. They last.” The shop’s top-selling accessories are bags and pouches – and patches. “We have duffel bags that people can pack in any situation …we also have hiking bags, we have Mission Packs in a 12-hour, 24-hour and 72-hour version that are different sizes depending on the length of your trip, and those have so many different uses,” he attested. And when it comes to patches, called Morale Patches, they’re extremely popular collectibles, with fans from the UK to California. “Every month we have a ‘Patch of the Month.’ The design varies, and there are a limited number created and offered in the store and online. Those actually have quite a following.” As far as top-selling gifts go, Nichols said, “Right now, we have our Father’s Day tactical apron, and it makes a great gift. It’s perfect for grilling. I call it a ‘combat smock,’ as it’s made of very durable material. It has a built-in bottle opener, large pockets, and attachments for all your grilling tools, and it has our limited-edition Father’s Day patch on it.” Nichols stressed that prides of the store include pants, bags, boots and other footwear. “Many of our employees use our products themselves, so it really sells itself.” Wearing the clothing and personal recommendations from staff create their own built-in sales growth. “In fact, we’ll joke about some of the products that come in limited quantities about who will get their hands on them first.”
At the 1,000-square-foot Douglas Fir in Los Angeles, Calif., Owner Jon Noble sells an entirely different type of menswear. “Our top-selling apparel items are our Hartford shirt; we’ve been selling those since they were established in 1978. They come out of France, the company is headquartered in Paris. They sell because they are very good quality, very consistent, and the prices are not super high or too low. I find that once someone starts buying them, they will keep getting them,” Noble said. “Our top selling accessory is our Moore and Giles Wash Kit.” Noble said what makes these kits popular is the fact that they are “nice quality leather wash kits, and they’re a good size. They cost right around $200 and they make great gifts, too.”
Also in Los Angeles, at Apolis: Common Gallery, an industrial-chic-style shop for Apolis menswear and accessories, Assistant Manager Christian Davis cited his best-seller as “definitely our Indigo Wool Chore Jacket. That’s made from Italian wool, cotton and nylon, and it’s made right here in LA. It’s a vibrant blue, and will fade over time as you wear it, just like indigo denim jeans. It’s definitely our most sought-after item; people come in to ask for it all the time.” The jacket’s local origin and unique look, as well as its durability, make it popular. “Our top-selling accessory is our Market Bag,” he explained. “It’s a tried and true staple that really put our brand on the map. It’s made of sustainable materials, and each one sold goes to support the mothers in Bangladesh who are handcrafting each bag.” The bag, too, is sought after for its durability, its uniqueness, and the charitable aspect behind it also draws interest. When it comes to a gift item, Davis said, “That’s definitely our candles. We have a Cypress Fig candle with a 40-hour burn time, made of coconut wax. The smell is very complementary, not especially masculine or feminine, so it’s very addictive. People come in the store and ask about it. We’ll burn it in the store all the time.” Presenting the scent in-store is a sales boost for the candles, but for most products, a conversational customer service style heightens shopping appeal. “When people come in the store to browse, I try not to talk about the clothing, but instead I try to have a conversation with the person, ask about their day and what they are looking for, so I can build a relationship with them,” he said.
In Seattle, Wash. at the 400-square-foot Ballard location of C.C. Filson, Assistant Store Manager Jeremiah Moon described his top-seller in apparel as “our Mackinaw Cruiser Jacket, that’s an iconic piece. Outerwear is always big for us, because we’re based in the Northwest, and we have plenty of weather.” Another top apparel seller: logger uniforms. “Historically, we’ve been known as Alaskan outfitters; our brand started as that. It’s in our DNA. People come to us because they know if you’re going out in the woods, we will keep you safe and warm.” In accessories, the store’s well-known Rugged Twill bag, as well as briefcase and duffel bag, are all big hits. “Those are popular for two reasons,” Moon explains. “One, they should last your whole life, and two, they have a lifetime guarantee. Our wallets and belts are also popular.
As far as gift items, again our wallets, belts and bags are very popular. Often people will come in looking for a graduation gift or a gift for a promotion and will go with one of those.
People come in and will be surprised by the price of our products, but once they understand our brand and the quality that we offer, they begin to realize that it’s an investment piece that you could pass on to your kids and your grandkids.” To sell more of this top-end merchandise, Moon said, “I explain to people that what we have is not something that you would come and buy every month, but maybe one piece a year, or a few pieces that you will really know and love. You can build a collection.”
At the 5&A Dime in San Diego, Calif., Co-owner Arthur Pino said his best-sellers are hats. “The reason for that is made up of a lot of factors. First, being in San Diego, it’s almost always sunny, so people come in off the streets looking for hats. Plus, it’s our branding to promote hats. Our top accessory is also hats,” he said. In terms of raising sales, the approach for Pino and his staff is to stay low-key. “We’re an outlier in that we’ve already built a community customer base. Our approach is not about pushing different items each month; we want to build a good relationship,” he said, noting that long-term customers are more important than selling any individual item. “You never know where that’ll take you,” he attested. The family-owned men’s boutique specializes in streetwear, shoes, and of course, hats.
At The Man’s Shop in Portland, Ore., which has been offering men’s fashion for 75-years, long-time Sales Associate Danny Hassler said the store, whose motto is “Meet us and be well dressed,” is still working hard to attire men well. “Our best apparel sellers are dress clothing such as suits, shirts, and ties,” he noted. “In accessories, we do best with ties, socks, cufflinks, and belts.” His most popular gift item? “Pendleton shirts are a big gift item for us, rather than accessory purchases.”
Summing up: men’s boutique apparel, accessories, and gift items are a varied lot, but focusing on establishing on-going relationships through conversations with customers is a strong focus to build sales.