July 19, 2013, 11:53 AM

Custom men’s suit e-retailer Indochino expands offline in two- to- three week bursts

The custom men’s suit e-retailer sets up temporary stores in major cities.

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E-retailer of custom men’s suits Indochino in the last year and a half has been going offline to sell to customers in person in major cities. Its “travelling tailor” service sets up shop in a new city for two to three weeks at a time, allowing men to check out fabrics and styles and have an expert take their suit measurements, says Indochino events manager Kendahl Cardinal.

After taking a shopper’s measurements, the retailer saves them in his online profile so that he can go online, shop or reorder at his leisure and rest assured the suit he chooses will arrive fitting him perfectly, Cardinal says. He can also pre-book a visit to a pop-up shop through Indochino’s e-commerce site.

From July 12 to 28, the Vancouver, Canada-based merchant has a storefront open in New York City’s trendy Meatpacking district. More than 2,000 men have pre-booked appointments to come in for a fitting or measurements and the shop gets a couple of hundred daily walk-ins, too, Cardinal says. “We always try to make a location near a financial district so people can pop in on their lunch break easily, not make it a huge shopping experience,” she says. “It seems to be working really well with how men shop.”

For years the retailer had been providing how-to videos and mailing men kits with helpful tips and tools to measure themselves at home, but some customers remained uneasy with the process and hesitant to buy as a result, she says. So, Indochino decided to come to them personally. While many visitors to the pop-up stores have already purchased from Indochino, most are new customers, Cardinal says, without providing exact figures.

In preparation for a pop-up store event, Indochino had been spending lots of time and effort searching for good locations, negotiating leases and fixing up places to meet its needs, for example repainting an ugly wall, Cardinal says. About nine months ago, however, the process began getting easier, she says. That’s when Indochino began working with a new company, Storefront Inc., which acts as broker for e-retailers looking to rent space for pop-up shops.

Storefront finds and lists available locations, which it has vetted for quality and landlord compatibility (many landlords are wary of temporary store leases, Cardinal says), and connects e-retailers with the appropriate person to set up a lease. The listings include spaces available on a daily or monthly basis, it says. Retailers take care of the legal procedures themselves, though Storefront connects them with the landlord or rental broker to do so. The company charges a finder’s fee which varies based on the location and its price, but which typically comes out to about 5% or less of what Indochino pays for a lease, Cardinal says. Real estate brokers the retailer works with to do the same thing usually take between 5% and 15% in finder’s fees, she says.

Additionally, Storefront saves Indochino about half the time it would spend searching for and arranging leases for pop-up stores itself, she says. Using Storefront’ss online listings to search for spaces and connect with landlords reduces the time for finding a shop to about a month versus two to three months through a broker, she says. One of the biggest headaches Storefront solves is making sure landlords are actually willing to lease temporarily to a landlord—Indochino on its own might spend lots of time finding a place only to learn there’s not a chance they’ll be given the lease, she says.

“How do you find a great location that’s as-is ready to go and accessible, but only for four months?” she says. “Having Storefront as the buffer in between eases landlords’ minds.”

Indochino advertises its pop-up events on a part of its e-commerce site called the travelling tailor. It also hosts a media night to kick off the pop-ups in each city, she says. The retailer sets up shop in one city at a time, with a plan to be in 10 cities this year and more in 2014, Cardinal says. While it doesn’t use Storefront’s services to set up all its shops yet—the company is new and doesn’t have listings everywhere yet—Indochino still lets the company know where it’s going and Storefront often has suggestions of brokers or spaces to look into, if not a full listing to provide, she says.

“When you try to make that transition, expanding your online to offline, there are challenges,” she says. “It’s nice to have a company focused on it in the middle ground.”

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