Tailor Store’s Stylish Journey to Market Leadership

A smooth website like TailorStore.com doesn't just happen, it’s the product of vision. After starting out in 2004 selling tailored men’s shirts online, Tailor Store grew into the leading web shop of its kind in Sweden.

CEO Jan Höjman has seen many of his competitors go bust over the years. Although personalization is an important trend in eCommerce, it’s not one that’s been proven easy to ride.

To buy tailored clothing online, web visitors have to take the effort of entering their sizes, making User Experience the critical element for success. And while tailored clothing is far cheaper online than offline, non-tailored clothing will always be the cheapest option.

How did newcomer Tailor Store manage not only to survive, but to thrive and become Sweden's market leader? Jan Höjman talks about the nuts and bolts of starting an innovative online shop and pushing it to success. He explains how a focus of continuous improvement guided their journey from newcomer to leader.

Starting out

The idea behind Tailor Store saw the light when co-founder Magnus was on a working scholarship in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The idea struck him as he was sitting in his office, enjoying the silky fit of a brand new - yet cheap - tailored shirt.

In the following months he developed the first concept of what would turn into Tailor Store. Back in Sweden he convinced his friend Mats Ola to take the plunge and start an online shop selling tailored shirts from Sri Lanka.

Magnus and Mats got Jan on board as the third owner and CEO to focus on the business side while they did website design and marketing. They started with the name ‘Tailor Shirts’, but quickly expanded their product line to chino’s, polo shirts, suits and more. To communicate this wider range of products, they rebranded to ‘Tailor Store’. Jan: “We weren’t the first of this category in Sweden, but we were the first successful one.”

Photo by Mats Ola Ström

They’ve been selling internationally from the start. “After Sweden our most important markets are the UK, Swiss, and Germany, but we’ve sold to over 70 countries worldwide. In May 2015 we changed from shipping from a distribution center in Sweden to shipping straight from Sri Lanka to our destination markets, which made our international shipments much more efficient.”

A hugely important factor in Tailor Store’s success was their decision to take control of production:

“This has given us a huge advantage over our competitors. With our own production plant we gained full control over quality and have the power to optimize. Without your own production you depend on parties from the region, which may be difficult to work with and which might not share the same moral codes when it comes to doing business. We can now guarantee the labor conditions of the people producing the clothes and we’re happy to offer good prospects to each of them. We are also striving for an environmentally sustainable way of doing business, which this move has made possible as well.”

Overview of the factory's shirt section (photo by Annika Salomonsson)

Although it turned out to be the right decision, it was definitely not an easy one. “Setting up production in Sri Lanka was one of the most exciting, as well as one of the most stressful, undertakings in my life. We were making a huge investment and taking a big risk. It wasn’t easy to convince the local municipality and banks to back our plans. It took a lot of talking and a lot, a lot of Chai…”

No room for complacency

For the web visitor the core concept has stayed the same: Design, Measure, Order. Everything else did change. This is a recurring theme in our interview; the need to always be moving forward, to never be complacent with what you have. It comes back in all of Tailor Store’s activities, from marketing to website development and company culture.

Quality audit with Jan and product assistant Sofi in the background (photo by Annika Salomonsson)

Tailor Store uses a wide mix of marketing activities. “Our main focus has been on SEO and SEM: optimizing the website content, continuously analyzing the terms people search on and adjusting Adwords accordingly.” But they also do a lot of other things, such as display marketing, a bit of print, and even a TV commercial. But this didn’t prove to be cost effective.

“That’s part of always looking forward and never sitting still. You try out a lot of things and adjust quickly when it doesn’t work out. One fun thing we tried out recently that worked surprisingly well is radio advertisements. With radio it’s quite convenient to reach your target groups, in our case young/middle aged males. The day you stop experimenting is the day you start losing.”

Also the website has been in a continuous state of development from the start. “One of the most important things in online fashion is the display of your products, which should be done in a way that is both realistic and appealing. With our business we have the extra effort of managing a highly usable customization process. I’ve been lucky with my companions Magnus and Mats; they’ve turned themselves into experts in these fields. They’ve always been on top of things to make use of the latest technologies that could help us improve.”

And you can see that those efforts paid off. If you are looking for some web design inspiration, I urge you to take a look at the website, pick a shirt, and experience the customization process yourself. A note of caution: When testing this I actually ended up buying, being pretty impressed with the shirt that I had just created.

The display of the clothing is crucial in the website's customization process

Some advice from a seasoned eCommerce professional

Like any entrepreneur that's been in business for many years, Jan has developed some strong ideas about the fundamentals of success: “Like I said, I think the most important thing is to never sit still, to never be complacent. In my eyes, that's what got our competitors killed. Stay hungry to improve in whatever area possible, stay on top of things."

"It helps when everyone in your company clearly understands the direction that you're going. At Tailor Store we all share the desire of continuous improvement and know our vision of 'dressing the world in custom-made clothing". That’s what we go to work for and why we improve ourselves. We support this culture by talking a lot about it, showing leadership, giving our employees the room and resources to develop themselves, and rewarding them for sharing their ideas."

There you go, some tailor-made advice for you.