If there’s one marquee brand whose fate I’ve worried about during the pandemic (in addition to those in the obviously hard-hit intimate industries like hospitality, travel, and salon services), it’s UNTUCKit, the casual clothing brand for men.
As a customer experience consultant and subject matter expert, I worried that UNTUCKit’s founding premise—that you can look good enough for work and socializing with your shirt untucked—might seem suddenly irrelevant in a world of Zoom calls shot (Jeffrey Toobin’s mortifying experience aside) almost entirely above the belt.
My fears for the brand, while not unfounded, have been overblown, UNTUCKit co-founder Chris Riccobono tells me. Sales did dip in 2020, and the UNTUCKit product mix did indeed change, with their flagship button-down shirts giving up share to tees and polos and henleys (shirts with a scoop neck and a short row of buttons), but already the company’s 2021 sales have risen above even its biggest pre-Covid year, according to Riccobono.
With the incipient reopening of brick-and-mortar retail, UNTUCKit is now counting on the in-store experience at its 85 stores to bring continued distinction to the brand.
UNTUCKit’s research about their demographic—overwhelmingly male but quite diverse in age, ranging for the most part from 25 to 70 years of age—led them to design and build out their stores quite differently from what is expected.
“A lot of these brands—the Polos of the world, the Ted Bakers—spend tons of money on buildouts of beautiful-looking stores. But what we’ve determined is that most men care more about having a successful shopping experience, and getting in and out, versus most women shoppers, who do gravitate to an upscale, luxurious feel within a store. So we decided to do simpler stores, which is also great because our build-out costs are lower.”
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The approach for creating the UNTUCKit in-store experience, Riccobono tells me, flows from the original impetus for creating the shirts themselves. “The original problem [that gave rise to UNTUCKit] was I couldn’t find a shirt that looked good untucked. The biggest part of [solving] that was getting the fit just right. [So]what we do is when you come in, we have “try-on shirts” against the wall in the back. You come in, an associate greet you, you try on a shirt, you get your right size, the associate helps you with a second opinion, and then—the best part—once you have your UNTUCKit fit, all of our shirts will fit you the same—perfectly.”
“Ours are not the typical store with a huge footprint and 40 of every shirt in a package and you pick one up and bring it to the register. In our case, you walk around with the associate, they have an iPad, they already know your size from the try-on shirt experience—let’s say it’s “large”—you point to the five “larges” you like, they ring them up, someone brings them out from the back, and you’re on your way. It’s very efficient and people really enjoy it.”
In case efficiency and a perfect and repeatable fit aren’t enough to make shopping enjoyable, each UNTUCKit store gilds the lily via a little lounge area where they pour Scotch. “It’s actually a sociable time—men talking about their UNTUCKit purchases and having a glass of Scotch and giving the lie to the cliché that men don’t enjoy shopping.”
I had to ask: “Boy, the insurance-minded in me wonders, should you perhaps be employing a licensed bartender to make sure nobody overdoes it before they drive back home?”
Riccobono responded: “No, because you’re only allowed to have one. And it’s a little glass.”
Which makes perfect sense for a brand that wants the experience to be untucked, but never sloppy.