Kitting Best Menswear for omnichannel

Marking 75 years in business, Best Menswear is developing a tailormade retail strategy that stitches physical stores seamlessly with digital commerce.

Best Menswear managing director John Smith smiles broadly when I tell him that I bought my wedding suit in one of his outlets. “When we reopened at the end of the pandemic, suits were our best performing category because everybody was getting married and going to weddings.”

Smith has worked in Best Menswear for most of his working life and bought the business in the early 2000s. Prior to this, his father was also a managing director of the menswear business for much of his own working life.

“We want to build a lasting connection with our customers. There is a huge amount of change happening in the fashion retail industry online and offline”

Trading from 11 locations nationwide Best is Ireland’s largest independent menswear retailer, stocking some of the world’s premium menswear brands such as Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Armani, to name a few.

Suits you!

Best hit the 75-year milestone this year and the business has excelled down through the decades by providing the quintessential menswear experience. It is fundamental to Smith and his colleagues that when customers leave the store they are delighted with their purchase having enjoyed a quality experience so good that they will return again.

The business worked with Bank of Ireland this year to fund the growth of the business and strengthen its position in the Irish clothing retail market.

In particular the bank has worked with Best to help it align its strategy with the omnichannel future of retail where customers will seek the same quality experience both in-store and online.

“We want to build a lasting connection with our customers,” Smith explains. “It’s about the human connection. At the same time there is a huge amount of change happening in the fashion retail industry online and offline. It will suit some men to buy a suit or casual clothing in the store because they like to browse and try items on. For others it could be about stocking up on staples like work shirts or for others they might like to just click and collect. Fundamentally it is about giving that choice without losing the personal touch.”

Smith began working at Best Menswear when he left school and worked his way up through the business. With a partner he engaged in a management buyout of the business in 2001. The business at the time had six stores and it grew to the present 11 store network. The retail expertise that had been built up was sought after by brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Best Menswear has helped such brands establish their physical presence in Ireland. As well as this Best Menswear is the Official Clothing Partner of Leinster Rugby.

“The opportunity we have now is to do a health check on the business and plan for what the business will look like in three years, five years and even 10 years. We are formulating a strategy that will bring the company to the next level.”

A key aspect of Best’s relationship with Bank of Ireland has been the ability to access the expertise of the bank’s head of Retail Sector Owen Clifford. “He’s incredibly knowledgeable and gave us great insights into where retail is going,” Smith said. “He grasped the fundamentals of our business in a way no one else has. So we’re absolutely looking forward to what the future holds in terms of our banking relationship.”

Pat Purcell, senior manager at Bank of Ireland’s Business Banking Origination Team, said that the expansion of Best Menswear’s physical and online channels is key to the sustainability of the business.

“Bank of Ireland is committed to the retail sector and we are constantly seeking out opportunities to support businesses such as Best Menswear.

“In particular we are delighted to support a leading Irish clothing brand in their continued growth ambitions for the business. From our  meetings with the team, it is clear that the customer experience is at the heart of every decision that Best makes, and this is reflected in their continued success.”

Owen Clifford, head of Retail, added: “It is a privilege to partner with the progressive team in Best Menswear as they celebrate their 75th year in business In Bank of Ireland, we recognise the importance of Irish retailers in generating employment/sustaining vibrant communities and will continue to proactively engage with this pivotal sector nationwide.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.