We’d like to introduce you to Hucklebury, a vertically-integrated online retailer selling better fitting, high quality men’s shirts at reasonable prices. Learn how they are using Spree and what marketing techniques they are using to build their brand. We sat down with Parag, co-founder of Hucklebury, to learn more about their business model and how they leverage Spree to target their customers’ needs.
How did the Hucklebury business get started?
The idea for Hucklebury.com originated during a trip I took to London in 2009. During that week I visited a friend who worked at Savile Row, a place where the best tailors in the industry are located and the craftsmanship of tailoring got started. I was amazed at the details and the time that goes into the construction of a single shirt. It was at my friend’s store that I met my Hucklebury co-founder, Dhawal. Dhawal and I discussed how we were both unable to find tailored shirts of the same quality at home. We felt that the mass produced shirts they sell at the large retailers didn’t do the average man justice. The fabric used to create these shirts was poor quality and the fit was horrible. There was always so much extra fabric in the chest, arm hole, and back. We saw a business opportunity to solve this issue and offer a high quality, tailored shirt at a reasonable price. With this concept in mind we self-funded Hucklebury in 2011 and launched the brand in September 2012.
Do you have a background in fashion?
Yes, my mother operated a 75-person garment factory with 60+ sewing machines when I was growing up. At the factory, they designed, manufactured and exported scarves, chiffon, shorts, and white shirts to brands like Marks & Spencer in the United Kingdom. Later on, I pursued a Masters in Engineering and learned how to remove inefficiencies in manufacturing using six-sigma. Now I apply my engineering learnings as well as the creative skills from my mother at Hucklebury.
Dhawal, my co-founder, has a background in technology. He got his first taste of programming at age 8 with QBasic. Since then, he has been playing with computers, robotics and web development. Dhawal fell into entrepreneurship when he was 18 and led his team to create the ‘Push-up Pal’ for a class – a product that was later featured in The New Paper (Singapore). He also worked at Qik in 2008 where he did web development and was their 5th employee. Qik was later acquired by Skype. His passion for programming and entrepreneurship led him to the opportunity to co-found Hucklebury.
What makes your shirts different from those available at large retailers?
Most large retailers sell mass produced shirts that are really boxy. We’ve reduced the fabric around the chest, sides, and back to get a more tailored and fitted look. On top of that we also made subtle improvements in other areas like the collar to improve the fit. Most collars collapse after a few washings. Our collars have a special interlining that helps them remain standing for almost the entire life of the shirt. Even after multiple washes the collar won’t collapse and fall down. Another innovation we’ve made is to the second button. Some men like to keep their second buttons open. But, most shirts on the market have the button too high or too low for this look. We’ve adjusted the location of the second button to make the fit just right if you leave it open.
We are also unique because we’ve eliminated the middleman, work directly with the factory, and bring the product directly to consumers. Most retail stores mark up their prices a lot because of the middlemen involved. As a result things get quite expensive. Skipping the brick and mortar retailers and offering our shirts directly to consumers online allows us to provide high quality products at reasonable prices.
Who is the target audience for Hucklebury?
Our demographic is men between ages 25 – 45 for whom appearance is important as well as a high quality shirt that fits them well. We offer two different fits for this demographic – slim fit for men who are athletic and regular fit for the average man. We are focused on the U.S. market but we do ship internationally. We’ve shipped as far away as Australia, India, and Singapore.
How do you market the Hucklebury brand?
We’re taking the grass roots approach. We did a soft launch of the brand through social media and blogs focused on menswear to see what the response was to our product. We were trying to understand what our target market thought about the shirt design. Did they like it? What could we improve? The result was a very positive response regarding the features and qualities we are focused on. We also run contests every month on our Facebook page and use other media channels like online and offline print media.
How did you find out about Spree?
I have to give the credit for finding Spree to my technical co-founder. Dhawal is highly focused on the technical side. We were looking for an open source platform that was easy to customize, responsive, and the design looks great. As a start-up we didn’t want to spend a lot of money up front not knowing how our business model would work out. We liked that Spree was built on Ruby on Rails because Dhawal was familiar with this technology and really liked it.
What do you like most about the Spree platform?
We love the level of control Spree gives us over our store. Any add-on feature we need is usually available in the Spree extension library and if it isn’t then the Ruby on Rails framework makes it very easy to add. The rapid pace of Spree upgrades gives us peace of mind that the platform is here to stay. On top of that Spree has a growing and extremely helpful community. Whenever we run into a roadblock there’s always someone available to help.
What’s next for Hucklebury?
Technically, we’re going to continue to expand our product line. Now we offer 18 different colors. In the next two to three months you will see twice as many colors and fits and styles. We are also actively collaborating with other media outlets in terms of partnership efforts. We continue to refine our marketing based on our learnings, SEO, content strategy, and retargeting efforts.