For Dick Avard, helping customers find the right suit runs in the family. His grandfather opened the first men’s clothing store in downtown Nashua in 1929, his father owned a clothing store downtown, and Avard opened Dick Avard’s Haberdashery (a fun synonym for an outfitter of men’s clothing) on Main Street in 1981.
Since, Avard has seen the times and the trends change.
“It’s in our blood,” Avard said. “When I first opened up back in ‘81, the guys that all worked downtown were all wearing suits. Now, times have changed and dress-down Fridays happened. Now it’s dress-down every day of the week.”
Dennis Labbe, salesperson at George’s Apparel in Manchester agrees.
“The men’s suit business is not what it used to be,” Labbe said.
Though local independent men’s retailers are far and few between as they compete with corporate men’s apparel stores, retailers like Dick Avard’s, George’s and Britches of Concord find that their customers are shopping local — and loving it — for a few reasons.
Get to know your suit guy
Chances are when shopping at a box store, you won’t be fitted by the same salesperson that helped you the last time (and he probably won’t remember what your kids were doing last time you met either).
“I don’t think a day goes by that we don’t have someone say, ‘I’m bringing my son in for the first time. My dad brought me here, his dad brought him here,’” George’s Apparel salesman Paul Dwyer said. “So, you have generations of shoppers. It’s not just a regular base, but we have a new base that’s being introduced by the regular base.”
Labbe said he will often see a son of a regular customer come in for high school prom, then for the suit for his first job interview, followed by his whole party of groomsmen for his wedding.
Dwyer, Avard and Ray Boucher, owner of Britches in Concord, all agree that shopping local allows customers to establish a relationship (sometimes even a life-long relationship) with one salesperson and, in many instances, the owner.
“He is also there after the sale to handle any and all issues with the purchase,” Boucher said. “He also keeps track of your size and lets you know via e-mail, phone, or postcard of upcoming store events and promotions. The person at the chain store may not be there the next time you are in the market to make a purchase.”
“I think you lose that in a big box store,” Dwyer said. “People come here for the experienced sales staff.”
Custom made attire is trending in men’s wear. At Dick Avard’s Haberdashery there’s an array of swatches with colors and fabrics for suits and dress shirts allowing men to design their own outfit.
“There is definitely a trend in custom clothing for men,” Boucher said. “Guys are looking for ‘old world’ tailoring in suits and sportcoats with special styles, linings and and button treatments. It becomes very personal with a garment that is made just for them. This is especially good for the hard to fit who cannot buy ‘off -the-rack’ suits or jackets.”
And with newer clientele also comes new fashion trends.
“One of the main trends right now in menswear is the move toward a slimmer silhouette in everything,” Boucher said. “Shirts, suits, sport coats and outerwear are designed to hug the body much more.”
The staff at George’s Apparel tailor shop were used to taking sides in and closing the vents, Labbe said, but now younger men are asking for tight, slim tailoring and request the vents at the bottom of the coat open.
“They’re looking for something more classic,” Avard said. “They realize what the benefits are by looking better.”
As seen in the February 13, 2014 issue of the Hippo.