Suitsupply aims to bring creativity and great pricing to men's fashion.
SuitSupply follows rigorous staff training methods, such as 'Suit School,' where employees learn the fundamentals about suits, fabrics and etiquette. — Ryan Plett

Nish de Gruiter looks pretty much like what you’d expect someone working in fashion to look like. From his perfectly tousled hair to his impeccably tailored suit, de Gruiter embodies sartorial chic. Yet engage him in conversation and it quickly becomes apparent that he’s as entrepreneurial as he is fashionable.

Since 2011, de Gruiter has been a vice president and partner at menswear company Suitsupply. Seizing on what they saw as a huge opportunity in the U.S. menswear industry, de Gruiter and his colleagues launched Suitsupply to fill a void in what they believed had effectively become a bifurcated market, with ultra-expensive retailers on one end, and discount, low-quality stores on the other.

The company did not necessarily set out to expand so rapidly in the U.S., de Gruiter says, but instead worked to meet increasing demand from consumers, the majority of whom learn of the company by word of mouth.

Indeed, customer satisfaction is the foundation on which Suitsupply is built. The company does not advertise in the traditional sense, de Gruiter says, but rather relies on various social media platforms — its Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts — and, most importantly, customer referrals to drive business.

Saving on advertising, among other tactics, enables the retailer to offer premier fabrics and a luxury shopping experience at a significantly lower price point than its competitors. “We are a vertically integrated retailer, meaning we buy all our fabric in Italy at high-end Italian mills, we run our own factories, and from the factory it goes straight to our stores so there’s no middleman in between,” de Gruiter explains.

“Normally, when you buy a suit at retail institutions, it’s a brand name. So before you’ve stepped foot in the store, a few people in between have already taken a profit on that suit. And the final retailer doubles that profit a few times to pay for their expensive rent,” he argues. “In our retail model, we are on the second or third floors of buildings and we’re a little off-site as a destination, meaning we don’t pay sky-high rents and we don’t have to pass that cost off to the consumer. We also don’t put expensive ads in magazines and we don’t hire consultants to tell us how to market our products.”

The ultimate beneficiaries of these cost-saving measures, de Gruiter says, are Suitsupply’s customers. Though their competitors can charge upward of $5,000 for suits made from the same kinds of Italian fabrics Suitsupply uses, many of its suits retail for $469, with the majority of its suiting merchandise priced between $400-$800.

Besides its appealing price point, Suitsupply has also won over customers by investing heavily in building an educated, helpful, and customer-focused workforce. All of its employees, de Gruiter points out, are required to attend a several-weeks-long training program. Their compensation system, moreover, is set up so that salespeople are incentivized to improve customer service ratings instead of increasing sales volume. “All of our employees go to a program called 'Suit School,'” de Gruiter says.

“It’s internal training that takes between six and eight weeks and everybody learns the fundamentals about suits and the basics of fabrics. We give our employees knowledge for everything about tailoring as well as etiquette, how to tie a tie, and what to do and what not to do in formal settings. When our customers are sitting in front of our employees, they know they’re in good hands because our employees know what they’re talking about. It’s not a sales pitch, and it’s this kind of knowledge that gains trust in customers. We put a lot of effort into training our staff and finding people who have energy and are willing to work hard.”

It’s an amalgam of all of these factors, de Gruiter says, that has fueled the company’s torrid growth and is helping it to lure customers from competitors. At its core, Suitsupply is offering its own unique take on what it means to provide a luxury shopping experience — something de Gruiter stresses isn’t necessarily related to price.

“People will say they’re luxury retailers or that they sell luxury products and I’ll ask them, ‘What does it mean to you to be a luxury retailer?’” he says. “To me, a luxury retailer is comfortable and clean, offers you a bottle of water and a cup of coffee, and employs people who help you out and are knowledgeable. That to me is luxury — and not a price tag. We try to make shopping for a suit an experience. We want our customers to have the feeling that they’ve been taken care of.”

With Suitsupply poised to continue expanding, de Gruiter and his team are working hard to ensure that the business doesn’t become a victim of its own success. Maintaining this momentum shouldn’t prove too challenging for de Gruiter, who still plays a hands-on role in the day-to-day of his retailer’s stores, visiting them on weekends and talking with customers. Though he concedes there will be obstacles the company will have to overcome, de Gruiter remains bullish on the future.

“I think that if you work in the fashion industry and you can’t come up with creative ideas, then you’re in the wrong industry,” he says.

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