Canada’s leading menswear retailer is looking to its history while making investments in its future. Grafton-Fraser Inc. – which consists of the TipTop Tailors, George Richards Big & Tall Menswear, Mr. Big & Tall and Kingsport Big and Tall Clothiers brands – has more than a century-and-a-half of retailing experience. President  and CEO Dave McGregor explains that he leveraged that experience when he joined the company in 2010.

“Our business is based around making sure men are dressed for success in the office or business environment,” he says. “My goals when I started here were to take the company back to the roots of what made it successful, which is offering quality merchandise and style at an affordable price.”

Tip Top Tailors is Grafton-Fraser’s largest brand, with 102 locations across Canada and two more projected to open in June. George Richards Big and Tall has 39 locations with Mr. Big and Tall operating 22 stores and Kingsport a single location offering upscale premier brands. Most of the company’s retail locations are mall-based.

On the quality front, the company works with suppliers and manufacturers to make sure the items it carries are consistent when it comes to fit and labeling. Grafton-Fraser always thinks as a consumer would.  For example, the merchants recently lengthened the dress shirts by three inches, making them easier to wear and fit with dress pants. All items carried in Grafton-Fraser’s stores are made of the highest-quality fabrics regardless of price point. “Our assortment together with our commitment to full service makes shopping for menswear effortless,” McGregor says.

Making Upgrades

Investing in the stores and technology is a high priority for McGregor. Since joining Grafton-Fraser, McGregor led efforts to renovate 12 stores in 2011 and plans to refresh 14 more this year. “We’re investing back into our stores to make the shopping environment more up-to-date and have our stores reflect the look and quality of our merchandise,” he says.

Notable internal technology investments include implementing the QlikView Business  Intelligence system  as well as a new point-of-sale software system, which has greatly improved Grafton-Fraser’s ability to collect consumer data as well as the company’s ability to act on that data. “The company has collected useful data for years with no ability to access information to make timely decisions,” McGregor says. “QlikView allowed my team to make real-time decisions without over- or under-reacting to trends.”

QlikView allowed the company to increase profitable sales that include usable consumer data from 9 to 80 percent. Grafton-Fraser plans to use the data in a customer relationship management program it will launch later this year or early 2013. Grafton-Fraser also looks to develop a transactional website focused on its big and tall apparel in 2013.

The ‘Little Things’

Many of Grafton-Fraser’s sales associates and managers have been with the company and its stores for several years. McGregor attributes this loyalty to the company’s “open culture which embraces accountability and new ideas from all levels of the organization,” which he encourages in a variety of ways.

“Our culture is really about recognizing people and doing little things to support them,” he says. “Our people have pride of ownership in their own business and a commitment to this company I haven’t seen before.”

For retail associates, this includes employee discounts for male associates and clothing allowances for female management. As a demonstration that it values its veteran employees, the company re-negotiated with its benefits provider to provide health and other benefits to employees over the age of 65. The company recognizes performance among all workers through service awards and frequent and public recognition.

Employees in Grafton-Fraser’s front office in Toronto saw improvements including software, computer and break room upgrades, as well as company lunches and informal gatherings. “All of these things go a long way to say `thank you’ for what they do every day,” McGregor says.

On the executive and management level, McGregor says he believes in surrounding himself with passionate people who are focused on the success of the organization as a whole. “I believe everyone shows up with the same intent every day – to be successful,” he adds. “I am collaborative and open to learning from my team’s experience, and don’t over-manage. The dynamic amongst my people is very strong and always directed to the betterment of the business.  I’m always there for my team.”

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