It’s many years ago now, but once upon a time the United Kingdom was one of the world’s foremost locations for shirt-making. It could be again, argues Christopher Zanardi-Landi, a man on a mission:
We're a small group of obsessive people who started off two years ago to try to rebuild a British icon. One of the things we wanted to do was to bring English shirt-making back to England. So we decided to open our own workshop, here in London, and we have done that in Vauxhall so we are now making shirts back in the UK...In our workshop we're offering a fully bespoke service in a way that actually hasn't been in the UK for quite a long time. It used to be here, but we've gone back to making full pattern, bespoke [products] for clients, but doing it in a way that's actually much more accessible.
That British icon? Previously known as Thomas Pink, the retailer, founded in 1984, has undergone a re-brand to Pink Shirtmaker London, part of luxury group LVMH whose other brands include the likes of Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Benefit Cosmetics, Givenchy and Tag Heuer.
But while the name above the door has changed, the ethos of the firm itself has not. It remains built around customer centricity, personalization, sustainability and a quality approach to shirt-making. Shirts are regarded not just as an item of clothing, but as an expression of individuality with the intention that every customer should be seen as - and feel like - an individual.
In tech terms, that means delivering relevant customer experiences via every channel. While bespoke shirt-making might be thought of as primarily an in-store activity, involving measuring up and fitting in a physical environment, there is also today an online, e-commerce aspect to be factored in. Overall, a single view of the customer is needed, the Holy Grail of CRM across the decades.
What that means for Pink, to give one example, is that once a customer has measurements taken, a customer profile can be created and then accessed in-store or remotely. So a customer can then visit the Pink website, browse new collections and order, using sizing data stored in his or her profile. That data can be updated if follow-up fittings find that the size has changed.
It’s about making the customer feel special, says CEO Zanardi-Landi:
The client is absolutely at the heart of what we do and one of the things the things that we wanted to be very sure of was that, beyond making extremely good products, was that we would bring a very good experience to the store. Now that starts with people first. We’ve made a very big investment in making sure that we have the right people in our stores who are able to bring an extraordinary experience…Clearly one of the most important things that's happening in our world right now is everything around customization and the client wanting something that fits exactly that.
Underpinning these goals is Salesforce. Zanardi-Landi explains:
In past lives that I’ve had, I’d worked with Salesforce before. When I started at Pink, Salesforce was one of the first people I stepped up to, to say, ‘Look, I’d really like to repeat what we’ve done before’. We have found the Salesforce app to be transforming in our ability to bring an extraordinary client experience to our stores. We work with Salesforce all over the world to do that. We can see the difference that it makes to transforming the experience that our clients have. It has a huge impact on our ability to bring the client exactly what they want.
From the point of view of a retailer, really the pleasure of using Salesforce is that you don't have to be particularly a tech wizard to be able to operate on it. From a client advisor point of view, one of the things that has worked very well for us is that actually, you do need very little training to be able to just dive in and get into the apps and to be able to follow your clients. As a user, it certainly has the benefit of being very, very simple to operate.
The Pink re-invention is rolling out at a time when the retail landscape is littered with victims and the ‘death of the high street’ is an all-too-common meme. Zanardi-Landi is an omni-channel champion and someone who gets the need to love the store, not just the website:
Clearly everybody is quite aware of what's happening in the transformation of retail. There’s very much a sense that there isn't a life for bricks-and-mortar left in the world. I happen to completely disagree with that. I think it serves its place. What we find works extraordinarily well is when we're able to fuse the two together in the sense of being able to have a human interaction with people in our stores, supported by technology such as Salesforce, that that helps us be able to understand and offer a better service to that client.
And then for them to be able to follow up online, particularly from a convenience perspective. A lot of our business is around re-order and the loyalty of our clients. So the two together work very closely hand in hand. I think when you do that there is still, that's still very much a place for bricks-and-mortar retail. It'll be a sad world if we end up where all of our high streets are completely empty. I'm hoping that we will not end up there, but it's incumbent on retailers such as ourselves, to bring an experience that is appealing enough for people to still want to, come into our stores.
And once in the stores, it’s all about continuing to engage and extend a quality customer experience, he adds:
From a technology point of view, [it’s about] the ability to be able to actually take a customer through that journey, not just from what used to be taking an order and then the sort of long silence until hopefully your shirts show up. It is to be able to continue to engage. You can actually even come and watch your shirt being made if you want to. You can come to Vauxhall and the workshop is actually open for people to come see what we're doing there. It is to be able to remain engaged with your client through the whole experience, which were we using the Salesforce technologies to be able to do.
At a time of retail carnage elsewhere and the existential crisis of confidence that Brexit has brought in its wake in so many areas of the UK national consciousness, it’s difficult not to raise a cheer for the plucky ambitions of Pink Shirtmaker London. As Zanardi-Landi says:
We're a small little company trying to do things right and very very well. In a world where a lot of corners are being cut, we started with a philosophy of, 'Well, we're not going to do that. We're going to take what we do in the UK today and start to take that slowly around the world’.