Shirt retailer expands lines and channels

Shirt retailer expands lines and channels

In this recurring feature, we take a look back at our headline stories from a year ago and review the progress over the past 12 months.

Last year’s headline:

Just White Shirts tailors offering

Synopsis: The catalogue-based company Just White Shirts & Black Socks, based in Toronto, launches a corporate sales division. The retailer, which built its business through direct mail, newsletters and referrals, begins filling orders for apparel emblazoned with logos and hopes the corporate division will represent 10% to 15% of overall sales, according to Leon Goren, president and CEO. With e-commerce accounting for 43% of its sales, Just White Shirts also relaunches its Web site ( to improve ease of navigation. In October 1999, it also unveiled a bricks-and-mortar location in Toronto to create a multichannel sales and marketing approach, says Goren.

One year later: Corporate sales have met expectations and settled around 10% of overall sales, according to Goren, with offerings promoted through the company’s already existing channels. For instance, the Just White Shirts catalogue includes a one-page pull on corporate apparel, and the clothing is also on display in store. The retailer, which counts Royal Bank and AIC Group of Funds among its corporate customers, has approached its existing executive clientele with the program.

‘We have so many execs across the country buying from us today, so we let them know we’re in this business,’ says Goren, adding that Just White Shirts tries to fully service its corporate orders. ‘We sometimes subcontract items, like pens, which they require along with the apparel they’re purchasing.’

In the last year, Just White Shirts debuted women’s apparel and a grooming collection, which are now available to corporations too. Its grooming line will also hit shelves at The Bay across Canada in August. In the fall, Goren plans to debut a new print and radio advertising campaign for the brand, which will give it more of a personality.

‘We’re going to [position ourselves] like a Banana Republic, on the higher end of the business casual side.’

Meanwhile, the retailer is aiming to open a second bricks-and-mortar venue, this time a flagship store in the Greater Toronto Area, by November.

E-com site doubles sales expectations over the year

Last year’s headline:

Business Depot targets SOHO sector

Synopsis: Business Depot rolls out a full-service e-commerce site, which carries its entire catalogue of supplies. According to Peter Gibel, the company’s VP of marketing, the retailer plans to focus on small businesses, with fewer than four employees.

The Web site is designed to save consumers time and features e-mail reminders, personalized shopping lists and favorite aisles that directed browsers to their most frequently visited product categories. Meanwhile, its offline loyalty program, The Dividend$ Program, is integrated with its online component and will allow Business Depot to gather demographic data on its patrons. In an effort to offer its clientele value-added services, the retailer also teams up with CIBC to launch BizSmart, an e-banking site that offers no-fee daily banking.

One year later: At the front end, the Web site hasn’t changed over the past year, according to Gibel. However, the company recently integrated its catalogue, which is mailed to more than one million households three times a year, and e-commerce efforts by adding URLs alongside products featured in the catalogue.

‘A lot of customers for our Web site have a catalogue beside them when they’re ordering,’ says Gibel. ‘We’re finding it’s not pure Internet people, but customers who are shopping both channels.’

The portal is also supported in the company’s flyers, which hit 75% of households in Canada 20 times each year. According to Gibel, the strategy has worked, as the e-commerce site doubled sales expectations over the year.

Also, Gibel points out that somewhere between 25% and 50% of its online customers – small business owners from across the country, with a strong contingent in Toronto – are loyalty members and receive a 2.5% discount every quarter.

In stores, Business Depot recently added Canada Post shipping counters to better serve its clientele, but Gibel says there has been no decision as to whether the service will be brought online.