Tailoring Directly to Their Customers: A Chat With Sue & Robert Prenner
CS: Biggest challenge this year?
BP: The last couple of years our biggest challenges have really been the suppliers we work with, and of course there’s the increasing pressure from the Asian market. Our suppliers are pretty much in Western Europe, Canada, very few left in America unfortunately. We get involved in issues of maintaining quality, because that’s really what we’re about. You can go a lot places and buy a shirt or a tie, it’s our opinion anyway that you can’t buy the quality or the care that goes in to what we sell in too many places. We have to make sure that we maintain absolute precision in what we’re getting — that the colors match the colors that we’ve photographed for the catalog, that the quality is as good, that the deliveries are timely (that’s a big problem too). We live in an instant gratification society, with UPS and FedEx, people want it right away. When we started out, if people got stuff in two or three weeks, big deal. But now they want it in two days, and we have to be ready for that. Also, a lot of our suppliers are getting tired of their struggle and they close down and we have to find new people who are at the same level.
SP: The people who are at our level of the industry, high-level men’s clothing and accessories, are able to produce at the level that we’re producing are big names that are able to sell at wholesale as well as at retail. So therefore they’ve positioned their retail pricing to be extremely high. The people that we’re talking about are the Polo’s, the Brioni’s or the very, very big names in Italy. We want to stay at a price point that is fair and yet consistent with the quality. It’s very hard to be in that position.