With its 2020 Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the rearview mirror, Tailored Brands is testing and adopting new, consumer-friendly technologies to attract a younger customer base. The company’s four brands — Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, K&G Fashion Superstore and Moores Clothing — have more than 1,000 locations in North America.
One technology involves something dubbed Wedding Wingman, a digital wedding planner for grooms. Another is an AR smart mirror that’s being tested in one Men’s Wearhouse store. Just how far can new technologies take the company? NRF contributor Bruce Horovitz asked Chief Technology Officer Scott Vifquain about Tailored Brands’ plans.
Who is the Tailored Brands core customer?
It’s anyone who purchases men’s tailored apparel. It typically starts with the young man going to his first high school prom. Then, there’s that interview suit for the first job. It often evolves into grooms or groomsmen during the wedding season. And it, hopefully, continues as a lifetime engagement with our brands for all your tailored apparel needs.
The company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy during the pandemic in early 2020 but successfully emerged from it before that year ended, under private ownership. Is there a lot less demand for tailored clothes now?
There was some concern during the pandemic that there would be less demand for men’s tailored apparel, but there is still demand. The need for tailored clothing is back and it remains healthy.
How is business now?
It’s been very solid. Like all retail companies coming out of the pandemic, there are many different influences. Tailored Brands felt its pandemic bump in 2022. It was the year of the wedding. There was a nice tailwind for business last year.
How much of your business is online versus in-store?
We don’t share that number. But the digital part of technology is to provide customers with a seamless experience starting online and finishing in the store. In-store remains critical for us. We are one of the few stores staffed with professional tailors. Even then, we have to build solutions that support the customer journey.
What’s different about how you do business now and what role is technology playing?
The shopping habits of the younger generation have evolved significantly. Tech solutions are a big reason why we’ve been successful in engaging with the new generation.
What is your technology strategy?
We stand on three pillars: 1) customer obsessed; 2) driving retail revolution; and 3) instilling operational excellence. Technology is the foundational element of each of these.
What is your biggest technology challenge?
The challenge is to provide digital solutions for folks who don’t shop in-store that provide the same seamless journey. It’s a fun and exciting challenge.
What is your solution?
One solution that went nationwide last month is something we call Wedding Wingman. We interviewed and surveyed many existing and potential customers. The findings were eye-opening: Half of all grooms find wedding planning too difficult and too time-consuming. One year ago, we decided to fix that. Wedding Wingman takes them online before they get into the store. It asks the groom a checklist of questions about their wedding so they can spend less time in the store. The most popular feature is a “groom manager” that helps to manage the groomsmen and the wedding group from one single place. It gives the groom the ability to see where each groomsman is in the process and even gives you the chance to give them a friendly poke (online) if they are being laggards.
So they still have to come into the store, but it’s about saving time when they do?
You’re not required to go into the store, but we encourage it. Once in the store, you can engage with the tailor and bring up whatever looks you saved online which you can now try on and get fitted.
What about your Snapchat partnership?
We’ve had a partnership with them for years. You can go to any Men’s Wearhouse store and find a QR code on the mirrors for a Snapchat filter which you can scan. It overlays tuxedos or suits on top of you.
But that has to be done on your phone. What’s the new twist to your Snap partnership?
It’s a one-store test in Paramus, N.J., that we just launched. Snapchat had the idea of a smart mirror that is very interactive. When you stand in front of it, you can see eight different styles that are superimposed. That includes suits, ties and shoes superimposed over your image in the mirror. Customers are having a lot of fun with it for prom season.
Will that expand to all of your stores?
This is in a test phase and we are learning from it. There has been heavy engagement. Prom season is one month per year and we have to figure out the rest of the year. Wedding season is coming and we want to test that in the store next. We don’t know. This could be small or it could go chain-wide. We’ll see.
What technologies would you like to see that you don’t have yet?
Whatever they are, we want our technologies to enable our strategic roadmap.
But is there a particular technology that you’d like to expand?
We just implemented AI for managing our retail inventory. We had to build this with a partner. We want to find out how to optimize what we buy, where it’s placed and when to replenish it.
What did you learn during the pandemic that surprised or frustrated you?
We had to figure out how to do sizing online — or even in-store — without touching the customer. We played with solutions and learned a lot. One was a survey that asked three to four questions to get a good estimate of the size. The other was a photo app with photos that come back with your size. We played with both and backed out of both. But we’re still testing for a potentially pure online experience.
How do you decide which technologies to try?
They have to be aligned with our business strategy.
What’s the best tip that you can offer retail executives about technology?
Only apply technology in service of your strategy and your customer and not just for the tech’s sake. It’s very easy to be lured by the shiny object of the latest technology hype.
What most attracts you to purchase something in a store or online?
I’m a big fan of a good experience. Experience begets more experience. It’s about establishing trust based on a good experience — and then returning.