Men’s Store under a micro­scope!

By Fareeha Qay­oom

Mens Store

Mens Store

No time to fly to Italy this win­ter? No prob­lem. Just stop by any Men’s store for a lit­tle Ital­ian atti­tude. Begin­ning with a gala kick­off, the Lahore based retailer will stage its most ambi­tious pro­mo­tion to date. The in-store event will fea­ture cock­tail par­ties, sneak pre­views and pri­vate run­way shows, enter­tain­ment and exclu­sive goods. In addi­tion to pro­vid­ing cus­tomers with plenty of fun, all this round of fes­tiv­i­ties is sure to ignite double-digit sales.

Asim Buksh is the man behind Men’s store — the only upscale spe­cialty store in town that’s been around and some – “I got the ini­tial idea dur­ing one of my trav­els to Europe. I enjoy clothes. I saw these brands every­where. I began to won­der how come these brands are not in Pakistan…That’s how men’s store began. I started the store on the ground floor of HKB, in those days, the ground floor used to stock rolls of fab­ric,” he con­fides. The rest as they is his­tory. “In all fair­ness, even I wasn’t expect­ing the kind of suc­cess men’s store has achieved in the past twelve years. It’s way beyond my imag­i­na­tion,” he says.

Asim didn’t do any research into cus­tomer demo­graph­ics before start­ing out. “I just knew that there is a demand in Pak­istan too. Peo­ple are peo­ple every­where. Who doesn’t like lux­ury?” he com­ments. “We have moved from sell­ing high end mer­chan­dise to sell­ing life styles,” he con­tin­ues. “Our retail phi­los­o­phy is all about lifestyles.”

Explain­ing the term lifestyles, Asim says, “Well, men’s store can never be a gro­cery store. We will never sell Gap here. Shop­ping in Pak­istan is very need-oriented. It shouldn’t be a chore. It should be enjoy­able and excit­ing. We want to make it a fun expe­ri­ence for our cus­tomers. It’s about beau­ti­ful clothes, acces­sories, a cer­tain lifestyle. We stock a com­plete range of prod­ucts – you will never have a prob­lem with sizes or col­ors in our store,” he declares with a smile.

Asim takes the Men’s store very per­son­ally. “This is my baby. This place is every­thing to me. I enjoy what I do. Its not about cash flow – I want to have fun. If you tell me to sell Hyundai cars, I can never do that,” he says throw­ing up his hands in the air with hor­ror.

Men’s store boasts close ties with Italy. Many of its impor­tant resources are based there, includ­ing Armani, Gucci, Zegna; “well, why not? Every­one knows Ital­ian brands are the best in the world. The French Era is over. No one is bet­ter at fash­ion than the Ital­ians right now,” he asserts.

Mens Store

Mens Store

Being num­ber one and the only one doesn’t stop them from rais­ing the bar each year. Men’s store has big plans for its cus­tomers. After spend­ing close to God knows what on his new flag­ship store, Asim Bukhsh doesn’t stop there he has more in store for his staff and cus­tomers. He is rolling out the cus­tomer rela­tion­ship mod­ule (CRM) this year – his cus­tomers may not be ter­ri­bly inter­ested in what goes on behind the scenes at Men’s stores but they do know what they want to wear at the ‘party’ or the wed­ding they are going to tomor­row in Faisal­abad when they have noth­ing else to wear. All they have to do is call their friend Asim and he will arrange an Armani or Hugo Boss suit in their size in their favorite color right at their door step in Faisal­abad, dry cleaned and ready where they hap­pen to be for the wed­ding! That’s what all cus­tomers dream of – a per­son­al­ized ser­vice that puts their needs, likes and dis­likes first. Well, Asim Buksh’s sales strat­egy may be to pro­vide the best per­son­al­ized ser­vice to his exclu­sive clien­tele but even he has a hard time remem­ber­ing all his friends’ needs – so this year, he has ordered a data­base to keep the facts straight in his head and store. This will make his job eas­ier when he goes for run­way show­ings in Milan and Paris to order the mer­chan­dise for spring and sum­mer 2007. “Our ser­vices are prac­ti­cally unheard of in Pak­istan. We have taken retail­ing to a com­pletely new level. I want to take it to the point where our tar­geted cus­tomers can’t shop with­out think­ing of us first,” he declares.

“I buy what I like ninety-five per­cent of the time,” says Asim. “You have to have a feel for it. Ini­tially it was tough shop­ping for women, now its becom­ing eas­ier. We didn’t know what sizes to order for exam­ple, I had to go with my gut instincts. I go armed with store data each time, but there is no other way – you have to shop by instinct. Sev­enty per­cent of the col­lec­tion you see on the run­way is prac­ti­cally new! What can you do with your data in such a sit­u­a­tion? It doesn’t mean any­thing.”

Asim Buksh is a human dynamo accord­ing to his right hand, Sara Per­vez. She is the mar­ket­ing man­ager at Saeed Buksh Pvt. Ltd – the com­pany behind Men’s stores. “We have grown too fast in the last two years,” she says. “It’s all Asim’s work. He is the man dri­ving the change. You should see the atmos­phere when he is around. Every­one is charged up and ready to go. He is con­stantly on the move, here, there and every­where. Five out of the last six months, he is been trav­el­ing the globe look­ing to order the stock for 2007. I have a hard time keep­ing up with him.”

“At the rate we are grow­ing, we need ten more peo­ple in key posi­tions han­dling the processes of the store in the next year alone. We are also look­ing for a store shop­per for Men’s store this year, the store shop­per will pro­vide per­son­al­ized styl­ist ser­vices to our cus­tomers,” she says.

So, what’s the secret behind Men’s store’s suc­cess? “It’ quite sim­ple – bring top brands to Pak­istan and sell them here,” explains Shahid Irshad, the store man­ager. He has exten­sive brand, mer­chan­dise man­age­ment expe­ri­ence under his belt. Before men’s store, he man­aged a lux­ury store in Lon­don. “It’s socially accept­able to buy at our store, it’s us or Europe,” he declares.

“Our price points are com­pa­ra­ble to a Gucci or Fendi store in Europe. We only add the ship­ping and freight charges on top. The best thing for bar­gain hunters, we hold two pro­mo­tional sales each year, cus­tomers can find bar­gains at half the price. We also have a dis­count store at Sad­diq Trade Cen­ter where you can find orig­i­nal brands at lit­er­ally quar­ter of their orig­i­nal prices.”

Men’s store is plan­ning to change their name. “Our prod­uct mix is chang­ing. We are no longer a men’s store. We keep adding new brands to our port­fo­lio. This year, we are rolling out a new lin­gerie brand, we are also plan­ning on bring­ing a French brand to the floor this spring – Gucci con­tin­ues to be the best seller though we stock Hugo Boss, Orange and black labels, Armani Jeans and Armani Collezioni, Paciotti, and Diesel for the men’s lines. For women, we have Gucci, Fendi, D&G, YSL, Jimmy Choo, Chloe, and Empo­rio Armani, though again Gucci seems to be the favorite with the ladies too, with D&G run­ning a close sec­ond. We have huge wait­ing lists,” she says. “We are booked till Feb’06. It’s dif­fi­cult to jug­gle and keep the cus­tomer sen­si­tiv­i­ties too. For exam­ple, the Chloe bags have a huge wait­ing list. How­ever, we can’t order more than two sim­i­lar look­ing bags, it’s not the done thing to show up at the same party with iden­ti­cal look­ing bags or out­fits – it’s a social no, no,” she says with a smile. “It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t hap­pen. CRM is going to play a piv­otal role. We have no com­pe­ti­tion what­so­ever. I think that’s what’s slow­ing us down,” she says. “We need to develop a retail cul­ture where shop­ping should become the national activ­ity.”

“Yes, our shop has given a lot of peo­ple ideas – some are try­ing to get into the same busi­ness. You can copy some­body but you can’t take over their iden­tity. We have a twelve year head start on them, they will always be play­ing catch up,” com­ments Asim.

Mens Store

Mens Store

“We are the only autho­rized deal­ers for the brands we stock in our stores in Pak­istan,” says Sarah. “We have exclu­sive fran­chise rights. Lahore con­tin­ues to be the best sell­ing store. I think this is because Asim is based in Lahore. We don’t have a par­tic­u­lar sales strat­egy. What we have is per­son­al­ized rela­tion­ships with our cus­tomers. Most of our exclu­sive cus­tomers are Asim’s per­sonal friends. It’s more like friends going through his per­sonal boy col­lec­tion. I think that’s why we stock more Ital­ian brands – these are Asim’s per­sonal favorites. He likes Italy. He has a villa there, he can speak the lan­guage, he likes the food – he likes to spend the sum­mer there hav­ing a good time,” she says.

“Asim is very par­tic­u­lar about pleas­ing our cus­tomers. This year, we are plan­ning the CRM roll­out, then, we are plan­ning to build a six story build­ing and house a third ware­house store in Lahore. We are plan­ning to go com­pletely on-line and intro­duce e-commerce for our cus­tomers – our web­site is already in the works. Also plan­ning per­son­al­ized cus­tom deliv­ery to our select cus­tomers.”

“Our cus­tomers come from all sorts of back­grounds and life styles – what they have in com­mon is a busy social life with cou­ple of vaca­tions thrown in at the top fash­ion cap­i­tals of the world. They know exactly what the trends are and what they would like to wear to their social com­mit­ments. They are globe trot­ters who know the value of our brands. We are also think­ing of col­lab­o­rat­ing with a cou­ple of banks to offer spe­cial pro­mo­tional schemes, and are in the process of cre­at­ing a store credit card scheme exclu­sively for our cus­tomers.”

“We spend a lot on train­ing our staff and do a lot of work with brand­ing to cre­ate excite­ment. Our store is more in line with Saks Fifth Avenue, (Har­vey Nichols in Asim’s opin­ion!)” she says. “Our biggest prob­lem is find­ing good human resources. You can’t teach pro­fes­sional ethics. It’s in built. We spend time and money train­ing our staff, invest­ing a lot, if they get a bet­ter job offer (more money), they leave us flat with­out think­ing twice about it. We have the tech­nol­ogy, we are build­ing the sys­tems, our mid­dle man­age­ment is in place, we have a good cre­ative team, the only thing is to find and build strong human resources,” declares Sara.

If that is not enough, Men’s store has some­thing big in store that’s very hush, hush. They can’t speak about it yet. I won­der what the big secret is?

First pub­lished in the print edi­tion of The Knit-Xtyle Fash­ion Review, issue 13, 2006


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