Instagram: Has Micro-Retailing Hit The Menswear Market?

November 15, 2012 BY CAPSULESNEWS

WWD reported earlier this week that “Social media is not only starting to dictate trends, it also influenced the accessories that buyers purchased for spring…Instagram is even becoming a powerful selling tool for retailers.” WATM checked in with several menswear retailers in our community to talk about their social media activity and how Instagram is shaping their businesses. “Social least for us, now includes Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and our blog and Pinterest and Svpply to lesser degrees,” says Don Weir, of Stag, (@stagaustin) a menswear boutique in Austin Texas. “It’s difficult to measure in terms of how many sales they drive exactly, but in terms of staying in front of the customer and helping spread and maintain the "voice" of our brand, we find them incredibly important,” he says.

Ian Paley, of London concept shop The Garbstore (@garbstore) still prefers that his customers come in and actually touch and try the clothes, but he has a distinct strategy for using social media to sell, as well. He uses Facebook to promote store news, Twitter for small news bites, and Instagram for behind the scenes images of the store’s team at work.

So where does Instagram fit in? Kevin Hansen, the buyer for Badowers, (@badowers) an independent menswear shop in Iowa, uses Instagram to pique consumer interest. “We try to take as many pictures as possible during market to show what we do there. I am a big advocate of selling before the items hit the sales floor. There are usually a dozen or so items that really stand out from our buy that I want customers to know about months in advance,” he says, adding that he recently sold out of a Barbour x Tokito Camo Sapper Jacket shortly after putting the item up on the store’s Instagram feed.

Garbstore’s Paley uses Instagram to push new items, as well. “We do find it the best medium to show and preview stuff. It’s more about the moment when we open our deliveries and for an instant we become fans and our own customer…It's a nice way to share that,” Paley notes. Hansen of Badowers agrees. “We definitely like to get shots of new items on Instagram to entice people to buy.” For Gabriel Ricioppo, owner of Need Supply (@NeedSupply) in Richmond VA, Instagram is not about selling, although “it can be fun to post an image to see how much love it gets. We usually post things we're excited about, but it isn't just to sell the product”

There are still others who prefer to do business the old-fashioned way. “Though Instagram is a useful tool to gauge customers’ interest in a particular brand or item, that doesn't necessarily equate to sales. So we stick to the buying method that we have developed for the store,” says Richard Nishitani, owner of Threads and Needles (@trdsandndles) in Torrance, CA.

Image via Threads and Needles Instagram.

Liam Coleman, manager of the Men’s Department (@thedeptstore) in Auckland, NZ uses Instagram as a method of communication. “We trust our taste as we think we're pretty good at gauging our customers,” he explains. “We don't use Instagram to sell, but to start a conversation."

Stag’s Weir prefers blogs and Twitter for research and news. “We found some new shave brushes just this morning from checking Valet,” he says. As for Instagram, “we might take some teaser shots at market that feature patterns or close-ups of goods, but I, for one, don't like to show pieces in their entirety until they're closer to hitting the sales floor,” he adds.

Jacopo Pozzati, of Bottega Back Door (@backdoorbottega) in Bologna Italy says he prefers in-person communication with his customers, “but I can do that with the social networks virtually as well,” he adds.

Image via Bottega Back Door Instagram.

Will Instagramming from the runways ever impact menswear like it has in women’s? Kevin Hansen of Badowers doesn’t think so. “Men are really trying to buy quality pieces right now. Women might buy a pair of shoes for every outfit. Men really only need 4-6 really well-made pairs of shoes or boots … Even for a guy like me who obviously likes clothes and the business, runway shows are more theater than opportunity.”

For the Men’s Department’s Coleman, men’s retail is still all about experience and relationships. “Social media is just another channel we use to stay in touch with our wider community. For us it's always been relational, person-to-person. We work harder now than ever on one on one relationships with our clients.”