Paul Fredrick MenStyle

Founded in 1986, this Pennsylvania-based, high-end men’s apparel company covers a broader range of sizes than you would find in a typical department store. It’s also one of the few companies that sell dress shirts with exact sleeve lengths versus average sleeve lengths.

“Our men’s dress shirts are made to fit a specific sleeve length measured down to the inch,” said Abbott. “If you go to a typical department store, you’ll get a 34/35-inch sleeve because most retailers try to reduce their SKU count by eliminating the exact sleeve length feature.”

Rather than fitting the shirts the way Paul Fredrick MenStyle does, other men’s stores typically cut a sleeve to the longer of the two fits, adding an extra cuff button to allow you to make the sleeve tighter around the cuff. “Men who wear the shorter of the two lengths in an average sleeve length shirt end up with about an extra inch of fabric on their arm they don’t need,” said Abbott. “We make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Cut for consistency

Consistency of fit is important to customers of Paul Fredrick MenStyle. The fact that the company was a contract shirt manufacturer in its previous incarnation gives it an advantage in terms of satisfying that need. 

“We know how to write specification packages, so what we send to a manufacturer is precise in terms of what we want each measure to be, our tolerances for each measurement, and so on,” said Abbott. “The end result is if our customer orders a 16 ½ by 33-inch dress shirt from us today and they order one next year, the fit will be the same.” 

Unlike a larger, national retailer, Paul Fredrick MenStyle doesn’t have to reduce its SKU count like other department stores because it doesn’t have to display everything it sells. Instead, the company shows a picture of the shirt and lets customers go as broad and as deep into specific sizing as they can. 

Abbott said there are 55 size variations possible for each shirt style, and although it’s challenging from a logistical standpoint, Paul Fredrick MenStyle’s warehouse is large enough to hold its entire product offering. 

“At our warehouse, you’ll see an expanse of picking locations and dress shirts,” said Abbott. “It takes up a lot of space, but it’s warehouse space. We own it, and we’re able to stock the sizes that people want.”

Direct approach

Perhaps its ability to compete when it comes to size, fit, quality, and cost comes down to Paul Fredrick MenStyle’s designation as a direct merchant. 

From a cost standpoint, the company does not deal with wholesalers. When designing a product line, it goes directly to manufacturers that make the product to Paul Fredrick MenStyle’s specifications. “Our supply chain is very short,” said Abbott.

In addition, the company doesn’t have storefronts, which means it also doesn’t have the overhead of a typical retail store. Having done research on its customer base, high quality and low price is what matters most to men who go to Paul Fredrick MenStyle for their clothing. 

“They’re not terribly influenced by the fact that someone else has a Polo pony on their dress shirt,” said Abbott. “What’s important to them is they want a certain sense of style, a particular fit, and a good value. Those are the things we can provide.”

Paul Fredrick MenStyle felt the impact of the economy over the past few years, forcing it to look at and reduce its costs in a number of areas. However, once the economy began to rebound in the fourth quarter of 2009, the company was in a better place than it had been before. In fact, Abbott said that fourth quarter was the best in the company’s history. “We believe we felt the rebound earlier than other retailers because of our value offer.”

Sales transition

After looking at Q1 2010 results, for the first time in its history, Paul Fredrick MenStyle had more sales online than it did on the phone. Abbott said there’s been a migration of customers’ ordering methodologies, but it’s also an evolution of how people are shopping in general. 

In terms of current customers, Paul Fredrick MenStyle stays in contact via its catalogue and through e-mail. To expand and reach out to new customers, in addition to its traditional catalogue, the company uses print advertising, TV, and radio, often offering promotions. 

But although these methods are fairly standard, and have been for years, it’s the way in which customers are responding that marks a turning point in the company’s strategy. “Consumers are ordering online, but they’re ordering online because they saw a print ad, heard a radio spot, or saw an ad on TV,” said Abbott. 

“The ordering methodology has changed over the last several years,” he continued. “We’re approaching two-thirds of our print ad orders coming in on the website, but the advertising driver for those orders is still the offline ad.”

The company is looking at ways to retool its website to further along its e-commerce possibilities as in the last three years the company has transitioned out of being centered around its catalogue and more on web marketing. Abbott said the first indicator of the shift came in the company’s sales flow. 

“When we dropped a new catalogue in the past, sales spiked and then gradually went down until the next catalogue drop,” he said. “That doesn’t happen anymore; there’s so much online activity that we get a spike from a new catalogue and a strong e-mail.”

The consistency of its sales figures can be attributed to the growing influence of its e-commerce presence, but it can also be attributed to the company’s growing product selection. In addition to shirts and ties, the company has diversified into suits, trousers, sport coats, sport shirts, knits, and shoes. 

“Much of what we’ve done from an expansion standpoint has been taking existing products and listening to customers in terms of what they need from a fit standpoint,” said Abbott. “We’re now looked on by our customer base as a general supplier of men’s clothes but with the right fit and at the right price.”