Tailoring Directly to Their Customers: A Chat With Sue & Robert Prenner
BP: Also we only have one men’s store in Charleston, South Carolina, and although it keeps us busy, we’re selling clothing to people all around the country and they’re just looking at a picture in a catalog. They don’t have the hands to touch it, they don’t have the chance to have it tailored from any sort of alterationist. And so that’s what we have to do in the catalog and not scare them away by too high a price.
CS: What would you say are the keys to your success?
SP: With us it has to do with the fact that we’re very engaged in every aspect of the business. Very hands-on. We’ve had very long-term employee relationships with staff that have been with us for 15 years. They have the same commitment, and our commitment to them has been very great. Over the years I think that’s made a big difference. I think that one of the big challenges in any business is holding on to the staff as a capital investment and treating them as a great value within the company that can’t really be depreciated and set aside. We’re very focused on quality. It’s not just being hands-on for detail, it’s being hands-on for quality. We really style everything ourselves, we’ve created all our own patterns and our own models. Everything is unique to us. If we won’t wear it, we don’t want to sell it.
BP: Certain circumstances have just occurred that have helped us. We’re sort of, not the last man standing, but one of the few in the mail-order side of finer clothing. A lot of people have come and gone over the years. I think a strong survival instinct is always helpful. We have to recognize, as we continually do, that nobody needs anything we sell. I’m always telling the staff that. So if somebody comes in the store and says, “I’m just looking, I don’t need anything,” I like to say that customer ‘Well you’re in the right place because we don’t sell anything anybody needs.’ These are things you want. You can buy a pair of shoes anywhere, but if you want one of the top shoes in the world, which probably in the long run will cost you less because it’ll last longer, then here we are. That’s what we’re doing for you.