Eliminating a gentleman’s hassles when shopping for clothes is as simple as providing the correct fit, says Will Rogers, Founder of menswear online retailer, Kent & Lime.
Some say the easiest way to come up with a great business concept is to first identify and then solve a problem that you personally encounter on a regular basis. When you are your own target customer, market research becomes a whole lot simpler.
This is exactly the strategy that Founders of Kent & Lime, Will Rogers and Nick Gonios started out with. As your typical blokes, the pair realised that shopping for menswear online – or anywhere, in fact – was an area ripe for disruption.
Since they’ve launched, they’ve discovered even deeper insights into the psyche of male consumers.
Power Retail recently interviewed Rogers to find out a little more about their model, their startup progress and what other secrets they’ve unlocked in the depths of their virtual man cave.
Kent & Lime
Specialty product: Branded mens clothing
Point of difference: Style Advisors work to ensure fellas are fitted with the ideal ensemble, arriving at their doorstep in the form of a ‘KiT’
Target customers: Men aged 30+ (or their frustrated partners)
What is your professional background and how did the concept for Kent & Lime come about?
My business partner and I were introduced through a mutual friend – Dean McEvoy from Spreets. As luck would have it Nick Gonios and I shared the same frustrations; shopping for clothes was a real hassle and the service you got was pretty average. It [shopping] felt more like self-service than anything else. We both thought that there must be a way for guys to get the clothes they wanted, combined with excellent personal service, so we looked hard at how men bought clothes and saw an opportunity to do most of the leg work for them. Our box is called a KiT because its all in there, you just need to put it together.
I’ve been involved in the menswear industry for over 10 years including senior buying roles at TK Maxx and ASOS.com – it was at ASOS that I set up the menswear categories from scratch. Nick is an internet war horse and has been involved with several internet companies for the last 15 years across a number of industries.
What initial challenges needed to be overcome in order to bring the concept to launch?
- February – May this year was our inaugural brand roadshow – engaging with brands pre-launch with our concept. We found that the challenge was explaining how KENT & LIME was going to change the way men shopped for clothes. We now have some compelling data, so these conversations are a lot easier to have now.
- May – July was more about how to source our required stock in a ‘lean’ fashion.
- Since then, we’ve been very much focused on driving traffic – because the concept is new we have to educate the market on what we do. It’s all part of our process now and we’re enjoying it!
- More recently we’ve been recruiting and selecting our Style Advisors. It was key to get the right people as they are the voice of our business and have to be naturally focused on service and go out of there way to delight our customers
- Finally, the process. For the entire period up until launch and even since, we’ve been thinking thoroughly about or service process had us looking for the right solution to manage it. We are in phase one of this stage with many more simple innovations to come.
What are your unique value propositions? How has your business model been adapted to meet these?
When we dissected how guys shop, we came to the conclusion that our USP is ‘shopping without shopping’. There are only two things the customer needs to do, and they are: speak to us and try on the clothes we send. The entire process takes about 15 minutes in total.
I would challenge any man to complete his clothes shopping in that amount of time, while also getting it all right and looking good at the end of it all. We believe men want to be – and should be – spending time doing things other than shopping.
How do you source your product and which brands do you support?
We operate like any other retailer from a stock position – we buy brands at wholesale and sell at regular retail. We don’t believe that discounting is important to our customer. On the other hand, there is no charge for our enhanced service because we don’t believe you should pay a premium for excellent service.
So far, KENT & LIME has partnered with some great brands such as Deus, Nudie, Weathered, Spring Court, The Academy Brand and others, all of which cater for the 30-plus guy looking for smart and casual clothing. We look for brands that compliment our values of authenticity, quality and excitement. We always try to deliver the customer something that makes him think ‘Wow!’
What are some of the crucial technologies you use to deliver your offering?
We have implemented a CRM called InfusionSoft, which is fantastic and servicing us well. We are just about to go live with Xero and Unleashed to run inventory and accounting. Everything else is developed in house by our CTO Jon Tyson.
Our shipping partners are Want It Now and Couriers Please. Because we don’t charge our customer for any of the shipping, we found the service model and pricing structures from these providers fit well with our current offering.
What elements of your business do you manage in-house and why?
I manage brands and Style Advisors, while Nick is focused on driving the online roadmap, finance and business development. We currently share marketing for digital and lead generation between us.
It’s a strong partnership built from our strengths, and that’s the only way you can kick off a business like this!
What does your current marketing mix look like? What has been successful and what hasn’t worked?
In the last three months we have tried a number of channels, but the most successful channel consistently comes back to simple word of mouth. Create a great experience for one person and pass it on, guys are not catered for well so we think KENT & LIME will change the way men shop for clothes by simply giving them better service than any other retailer.
Are there any successes you can share with us?
We undertook a big survey before we launched KENT & LIME, as we had some pretty big assumptions to test. As it turns out, nearly all of them are surfacing as fact.
We now know that men are not brand loyal but fit loyal. Give a guy a shirt that makes him look good and he’ll buy virtually every colour. We are seeing amazing sell-throughs on most KiTs going out the door and we’ve begun working on a few initiatives to accelerate this over time.
One surprising trend is the amount of women using our service for their partners. For them, the same value equation applies: why waste time shopping for him when someone else can?
What does the future 12 months look like for Kent & Lime?
We are only serving men in NSW at the moment, but we are planning to switch on other states in the next few weeks. This is a case of getting the service perfectly right and constantly improving the customer experience before expanding too quickly.
Another initiative we’re launching shortly is our gift card service so that the other half can get their partners’ style sorted. We also have some great UX projects planned, however they’re under wraps for now.