Paul Fredrick employs roughly 125 people who support all facets of its business, including shipping, customer service, merchandising, marketing, creative and IT. As for its merchandise, every piece is designed to coordinate as part of a collection. The company’s buyers spend a great deal of time collaborating on how to dress the Paul Fredrick customer from head to toe.
“The Paul Fredrick customer is a successful, mature professional,” Croft says. “He enjoys wearing high-quality, reasonably priced apparel that sets him apart from others. The terms ‘polished’ and ‘distinctive’ would help describe our customer.”
The company aims to put together four collections a year that provide style that its target customer cannot get any other place at Paul Fredrick’s prices. Customers might find color combinations and styling that are similar, but they would have to pay prices that are two to three times higher.
“Our customers have a strong point of view and can be a little resistant to change,” Croft says. “Being 30 years old, we have customers who have been with us for a decade or more. We have to stay sensitive to this as we make styling changes. We make tweaks, not wholesale changes. If we changed the fit of our collection to slim or ultra-slim and went with darker, monochromatic colors and patterns, we would leave our customer behind. We walk a fine line between moving our customer forward, while not making him feel like we’ve left him behind. Something that is part of our DNA is a very broad size offering. We are unique in offering more than 60 exact sleeve length dress shirt sizes.”
To be sure, the business understands how to evolve. Paul Fredrick started with a white, pinpoint dress shirt advertised in the Wall Street Journal. It added catalogs, the original base of its marketing. Over the years, the company has become less reliant on print and shifted the majority of its marketing online.
“We have been fortunate in making this move that we have still been able to very successfully acquire new digitally oriented customers while maintaining a strong base of catalog-loving customers,” Croft says. “While the experience is obviously different for a catalog-in-hand vs. paulfredrick.com customer, the merchandise offering and pricing is the same for both. We work hard to provide this seamless experience. We have a team of 30 customer service experts that help both our online and print customers. This group plays a pivotal role in this seamless experience.”
Looking to Improve
Being a small company, Paul Fredrick thinks long and hard about the kind of investments it makes to move the business forward and keep its shopping experience competitive and relevant. Last year, to respond to the shift in online shopping toward mobile devices, the company changed its website to be able to determine the kind of devices its customers were using. This new, responsive design has enhanced its mobile shopping experience.
As a direct-to-consumer business, Paul Fredrick knows it must stay in front of its target audience. It has invested in taking its customer acquisition efforts to a new level while it also continues to focus on offering something unique that is not readily available at countless other retailers.
Additionally, Paul Fredrick has built strong partnerships with a limited number of suppliers. Many of its suppliers have been with the company for the majority of its time in business. It may be a relatively small player, but the company has worked hard to be a great partner regardless of its size.
The company is able to be a great partner thanks to consistent, timely product development. It delivers every piece of what it orders and has always paid in a very timely manner. Paul Fredrick treats its suppliers as the experts in their arena, and it supports them by providing a clear understanding of who the Paul Fredrick customer is and what he wants to buy. This approach to partnership minimizes merchandising missteps.
Having achieved so much in its 30 years of business, Paul Fredrick knows the world of men’s apparel will continue to present challenges in the future. Fortunately, the company is aware of the challenges it faces as it seeks continued success.
“The major challenges we face in the future are not too different than those we have faced in the past,” Croft says. “Operationally we are small and our location is a challenge for both human resources and logistics. Our size allows us to remain nimble, but it presents problems for us with scale. We are always challenged to creatively overcome these issues.
“Our customers will continue to expect a great shopping experience and the highest-quality merchandise. The big online players have raised the bar quite high, and we must creatively compete.”