Don’t be surprised if you walk out of the fitting room at Jim’s Clothes Closet and store manager Mark Baker doesn’t look impressed.
Baker freely admits that he is going to be honest in his opinion. After all, for the staff at Jim’s, it’s about helping you look your best.
If that means not selling you that shirt that makes you look frumpy, so be it.
“Because we’re not on commission,” Baker says, “we can just be all about making you look good. That’s what’s important to us.”
And it seems to be working.
The Campbell River location of the franchise – the third location in the chain which began in Port Alberni before opening a second store in Courtenay – is only three years old, and they already have two Reader’s Choice awards through the Mirror and have been nominated twice for Business of the Year through the Chamber of Commerce.
Some might say they have the advantage of being one of very few – if not the only – dedicated menswear retailers in town, but Baker says that’s actually more of a disadvantage in some ways. It may seem counterintuitive, but they would very much like some more local competition.
“When people are sitting at home and they need something, they might think, ‘well, Jim’s is the only store in town, so I’ll go to Nanaimo, because there are more options down there,’” Baker says. “We would really benefit from having more menswear stores here so we can keep more of that money within the community.”
Drew Bradley, general manager of all three Jim’s Clothes Closet locations, agrees.
“If they head down to Nanaimo, that’s extra money in gas – not to mention people’s time, which is getting more and more precious these days – and then they go for dinner, maybe,” Bradley says. “That’s money leaving the community, and we want to see more of that money staying here,” he says, even if it’s not going into their till.
They already send people elsewhere within the community on the rare occasion Jim’s doesn’t have what they need. Because it’s what’s best for the community and the customer.
“There’s enough business that as long as we all help each other, we will all flourish,” Bradley says. “We make it our problem that you can’t find what you need, and we think our customers appreciate it, so the odd time that someone comes here and we don’t have what they need, we’ll know who does, and we’ll pick up the phone. We’re not in the clothing industry, we’re in the service industry, so we’ll do whatever we can to provide that service for people, even if it means sending them somewhere else.”
Most of the time they don’t need to, however. One of the advantages of not specializing in one specific type of clothing, but specializing in menswear in general, is that they can bring in a bit of everything.
“What Jim’s has done is make sure that we carry multiple different types of clothing to make sure we can answer the needs of the community – from shorts and t-shirts to workwear to casual dress to business dress to formal dress,” Baker says. “Same thing with shoes. So the advantage that we have over a lot of stores is that we have such a variety that anyone can find something here that serves their need, whatever that need may be.”
And the model is working so well they’re about to expand again. They are opening their first off-Island location this fall.
Prince George, Bradley says, “has roughly 100,000 people with double that in drawing area as the hub of the northern Interior, and they don’t have a single independent menswear store.”
They do have a Moores and a Tip Top Tailors, but both of those stores are “about half the size of the ones in Nanaimo,” Bradley says, so he feels the region is underserved and their brand of service-based, boutique-style menswear retailing will thrive there as it has on the Island.
“We look at it as a huge opportunity. A lot of guys up there will go without for six months a year and then get their clothes when they fly out to Edmonton or Vancouver. It’s not that they don’t want to support local, it’s just there’s nobody there to support.”
If that location works out – and Bradley says they are confident that it will – “there’s no telling in the next 10 years where the company will end up.”
No matter how much they grow, however, they’ll never become a corporate, big-box-style retailer.
That’s just not something they are interested in.
“We just don’t have the corporate mentality,” Bradley shrugs. “That’s not what our business model is built on. Even if we got to 10 stores, for example, we’re still going to support the local communities that they are in, because that’s how we got to 10 stores.”
For now, Jim’s will keep being all about each store making the community it is in look its best, even if that’s just the three – soon to be four – of them.