Gloucestershire business offering old school tailoring for internet prices
By James Young | 5th August 2019
Old school tailoring is making a comeback thanks to the enterprising efforts of a Gloucestershire businessman.
Keith Graham first entered the tailoring business in 2008 after spotting a gap in the market in the county.
He opened a suit hire company that complemented the bridal outfitters run by his wife Viktoriya.
Two-years ago he noticed how trends were changing and decided to make another change.
He branched into retail, launching his own range of specially-designed and tailored suits under the brand Morgan DeVere.
Now Mr Graham is further expanding his business by launching into what he calls "semi-bespoke" tailoring after agreeing to become the exclusive Gloucestershire outlet for a range called Etch.
The retail side of his business is now going so well that the company's Northgate Street premises are scheduled for a major overhaul.
More space will be given over to the retail operation with the hire side being put into previously unused space at the back of the store.
And so far, the gamble appears to be paying off with orders flooding in for both of his signature ranges.
Mr Graham said: "We have been providing people with wedding suits since 2008 and it's been a hard slog.
"Gloucester is a small place and there are two other independent hire-wear stores in the city.
"It's unusual to have three independent outlets in such a small place and we've been fighting for that same business. Despite that all we've been doing well.
"But in the last few years the wedding business has changed. Whereas once everyone went for the formal hire with black, grey or navy tailcoats, that's no longer the case.
"Suppliers started introducing lounge suits, they proved popular and people didn't want that traditional look.
"So, instead of competing with other hire places, we were then competing with a whole host of other High Street stores. And the more competition there is, the more you have to compete on price.
"I always felt that with better quality I would get more business, but I didn't appreciate that to a lot of customers it's not a case of what you get that matters, it's what you pay."
Having noticed those trends, Mr Graham decided to press ahead with his retail enterprise and focus on investing in the best products he could.
He agreed an exclusive deal with Etch that made him the only Gloucestershire-based outfitter to provide the made-to-order suits.
Customers can now decide the colours and style of their suit from a list of options with Mr Graham supplying the measuring expertise.
"I do all the measuring and it really is a made-to-order suit, like how it used to be back in the day," he said.
"It's not full tailoring, but It's not off the rail either, it's what we call semi-bespoke and it's all delivered within a five-week period.
"You end up with a measured suit, where you chose your cloth, your linings and all the fittings from £299, which is really outstanding value.
"We start with a one-hour consultation to do all the measuring and discuss the style the customer wants.
"I am going to start offering booked appointments to customers to ensure that personal service is guaranteed.
"It's all about making it look special without breaking the bank. It's complete old-style tailoring and a personal service for internet off-the-shelf prices."
As well as the Etch range, Mr Graham is also expanding the range of suits he has for purchase under his Morgan DeVere label.
A range of his own exclusive tweed suits in numerous colours have been sourced and designed to his own specifications and will be available off the shelf.
A three-piece tweed suit will cost a touch less than £200 with Mr Graham taking control of the supply chain by ordering all the styles and sizes he needs.
He plans to completely change the look of the store, complete with billiard table, aged leather seats and an old-school Open All Hours style cash register, to meet the changes of his business.
"I didn't want to be at a supplier's beck and call, where they can take a popular range out of stock and not be able to sell that to a customer," he said.
"So, I've taken control of my own supply. It's an investment that I've made but, so far, it's proving worth it as the customers are loving what we are offering.
"We offer a full tailoring service for our off-the-rail suits to ensure customers enjoy wearing a well-fitted suit that looks great.
"Our motto is to provide quality suits with a personal service at internet prices. Our unique selling point is the range of styles and sizes we stock, up to size 60 chest.
"We had set modest targets for both the ranges but so far we've been hitting three or four times that target in sales.
"I took my time before making the change, visiting trade shows and researching the best products before deciding to jump in and it has worked.
"The reason is the quality of the brands that we are selling and the personal service everyone talks about, but very few actually deliver."
In an age where independent retailers are vanishing from the High Street at a worrying pace, it's heartening to see a skilled tradesman bucking the trend - and the customers following suit.
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