The Name: Enclothed
The Place: The office is in Islington while the warehouse is in deepest Berkshire, well Slough actually.
The Story: This is a tale of men, pants and a reinvention of the way males shop through the subscription model.
Crikey. You’d better start: Three years ago two young women decided that it was time to give the shopping experience for your average man a substantial overhaul.
And what exactly is wrong with traditional Oxford Street-style shopping may I ask? You have to go into more than one shop because one place never has everything you need.
Duh, how else could you make it last a whole day? The endless riding up and down escalators onto stuffy shop floors and past clothes you have no interest in…
Amateur. That’s just browsing: And the faffing around trying it on in those poky, little fitting rooms with listless sales staff and horrible lighting.
A good chance to get second opinions from complete strangers: So all in all, it’s a damnable nightmare.
I always thought men liked walking around in their pants: Yes, at home. But mainly most men’s idea of a wonderful life is if correctly sized, suitably coloured and the requisite brand of clothes could be laid out on the bed in the morning by someone already intimately acquainted with the customer. Remind you of anyone?
Actually yes, whatever happened to the post of valet in civilised society? Well, Enclothed acts rather like a virtual Jeeves. Like I was saying…co-founder Levi Young and Dana Zingher correctly ascertained that it is NOT true that men do not care what they wear but the image of a dejected man sitting exhausted on the department store’s comfy chairs IS definitely a thing and revenue is on track at £1.2 million a year to prove it.
Hmmm, what to do about him? This is what – you only go and deliver a box of super stylish clothes to that dejected man every month or so tailored to his preferred requirements and let him sift through a curated edit of looks that he might like while allowing him to purchase only the items he wants, returning the sartorial fails for free.
Like a personal shopper but you don’t even have to leave your house: Correct. It’s quite possible to swan about your duplex all day in your pants and still have all the right stuff for your evening out.
Genius. But surely. Wait, stop. Doesn’t this mean that men will be choosing their own clothes? Women have been edited out of the equation. Civilised society as we know it is under threat: Calm down, dear. I can assure you that nothing is going to come between a woman and her desire for her man to wear a Colin Firth-style chunky jumper. In fact Levi Young insists that although single men of course form a segment of their customer base, partners in general, are very happy to support participation. In fact, for many clients, it is still the women that Enclothed stylists largely deal with in terms of payment, feedback and returns. Men with partners will open the box with them, try on in front of them and choose with them what goes and what stays.
Phew. Now that I know that social order is not in turmoil you can tell me about the way it actually works: Thank–you. Finally. So I am a new client and the first thing I do is to register online where the system will ask me all about myself and my preferences. A stylist will then be assigned with whom I will hopefully develop a long and fruitful sartorial bond.
Which in normal English means? That you will give very honest and candid views on the clothes that she (and it is mainly female stylists) sends out to you. Mind you the stylists do have their work cut out – they will have several hundred clients each. Young estimates that in the first box only around 30% will be a successful fit. Most will be returned but the onus is firmly on the client to say why they did not like that colour, why they never want that brand to feature in the box ever again or, if it didn’t fit, exactly where it didn’t fit.
Yes, like you say. Intimate: Young is insistent that every single returned box has to be learnt from and every box should have a higher hit rate than the previous until around the sixth box when you reach Shangri La. Otherwise known as…
The Perfect Box: Indeed. After all your details are in, there will be a phone or online consultation and the stylist will begin to put the box together. Around 10-12 items will be in that first box, at least two complete outfits so all your sizes can be checked out.
And the cost? Average full box contains £800 worth of clothes.
Are you still there?
Yes, just getting up now. Everything’s fine, I’m not hurt: Don’t worry though. The average transaction is £200.
And what’s in the box? Lots of the brands you would want to see like Ben Sherman, Hackett, John Smedley and Gant – the top-end of the high street. Around 40 in all. Incidentally Young says that after some initial trepidation the brands have got right behind the idea and are very supportive of this new channel to market.
So I’m imagining Enclothed sends out 100 of these a month or so mainly to metropolitan types working in the media: Actually it’s 900 boxes a month and they go all over the country to all sorts of people, which just shows how much you know about male shopping habits. In fact there is large rural contingent with no access to the products via traditional shopping routes.
OK: At least one of every item in the range is kept in the London office for the stylists to refer to as well as a kind of internal shop site so a box is built digitally and then sent down to Slough for the warehouse staff to make-up physically including a personalised note about the box from Enclothed prior to despatch.
OK: From taking delivery the client then has five days to decide what they want to buy. The stylist will then call to see what the deal was and the preferences etcetera are updated for next time. None of this costs the customer anything – delivery and returns are all cost-free. Card details will already have been taken so if anyone did fancy running off with the goods they would be charged.
Can I say something? Not yet. According to Young, one of the joys of knowing your customers so well is that unlike a normal retailer you do not need to have every single size, every single colour, for a product. They can really hone the range and remove poorly performing products from the mix very quickly.
Please. Just one word – subscription model: Enclothed is bang on-trend with this. As Young says she and Zingher were users and fans of subscription models but without this kind of personalisation she thinks it can be meaningless. The average Enclothed customer buys four times a year but it can be for any number of reasons, a birthday, a new job, a party, newly divorced, you name it. And the company does plenty of client prompting too.
How does that work? They say “it’s your wedding anniversary again – get a new outfit” or “it’s almost the summer holidays again – get a new outfit” and it seems to work. Most marketing is done on social media and through fashion content uploaded on to Facebook. Additionally, a few months ago they opened a pop-up in London’s Soho which was really about brand awareness and for the stylists to meet their clients face-to-face.
You know the only thing missing from this whole experience is the comforting snifter a valet would provide after the effort of dressing but you can’t have everything: Funny you should mention it – Enclothed now does a tie-in with Moet Hennessy and Glenmorangie whereby a bottle of either is slipped into your clothes box.
Hats off, ladies: Just watch out world, because if they ever go into womenswear it’ll be epic.
PCMS is a global provider of IT software and services for the retail industry. PCMS offers a full-range of integrated commerce solutions across selling touch points and also provides turnkey managed services and cloud hosting. Its client list includes John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Whole Foods, as well as Walgreens in the US and fashion brands including Prada and Ferragamo across Europe.