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10 ways JackThreads buyers go to extremes to help you look good

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You can be friends with someone for years before realizing you only have a vague notion of what they do for a living. You’re pretty sure they’re good at it -- they seem to go on a lot of business trips, they live in a nice pad, and they never slow-play pulling out their wallet when the bar tab’s due -- but you’ve never actually talked about their day-to-day. Once you finally do, your first thought’s usually “I had no idea you knew so much about anything.” You start looking at them with a new level of respect, and wonder how they can be so high-functioning professionally while still racking up those massive bar tabs.

Because we work right next to them, we decided to have that talk with our brother site JackThreads. We walked away with far deeper appreciation of the complexity of their primary job: deciding exactly what gear their customers will be most inspired by -- a process some call “curation," but this was a conversation, not a #conversation. Anyway, in a nutshell, here’s how they manage to pull it off:

Find what you can, create the rest

JackThreads buyers hit pretty much every trade show and showroom around to find the good stuff. To make each season as complete as Tom Cruise thought he was at the beginning of Jerry Maguire but only really became at the end of Jerry Maguire, they also take two additional steps: their Private Label team either creates specific pieces themselves, or convinces brands to do it. Basically, they secure everything their customers might want, even if it doesn’t exist yet.

Travel the world, but only the places that matter

To get a sense of what’ll be huge a year from now, Tony Le, the Merchandise Manager for Private Label, goes to the far corners of the earth -- but not France. “Paris is too couture; our guys aren’t looking for those designers.” Instead, his number one stop is Tokyo, followed by Seoul and, more recently, Shanghai. Not because the style scenes there are bonkers, but because, believe it or not, those are the first places you’ll see trends that’ll eventually inform gear guys will actually wear.

Only choose the stuff that works

If a brand comes out with 40 new pieces for the season, JackThreads buyers might take 10 of them -- or they might only take 2 of them. No matter how much they love the brand, they’ll only choose the stuff that appeals to their guys. That means making a lot of painful decisions, some possibly involving tears, but better that than cram the site full of stuff that, while great for some people, JackThreads customers just don’t clamor for.

Never go with crap, even if it’s the kind of crap that flies off the shelves

“If you fill the site with low-quality, it won’t matter if you also have high-quality,” says buyer Al Raddock. “You’re going to turn more valued customers off before they have a chance to get turned on.”

Be a storyteller

The best brands have a story customers gravitate to, and JackThreads buyers make it a mission to align with them. Case in point: Grado, a 60yr-old, family-owned company that still handmakes audiophile-beloved wood-grain headphones in what used to be a Brooklyn fruit store. It’s not a hipster thing -- the family also ran the fruit store. Also, handmade isn’t just a buzzword:

Those are real hands, engaged in the crucial “getting the headphones totally hooked on heroin” stage of production. Or that might be glue.

Don’t equate “expensive” with "value"

Price should reflect what’s important to the customer. If that customer is a shallow dilettante whose brunch tabs are indistinguishable from Hollywood box office grosses, by all means offer him all the senselessly overpriced goods you can get your hands on. But if you’re trying to reach smart guys who want to look good without breaking the bank, give them options that reflect their values. Some guys want a beautiful watch that tells concentric retrograde minutes even when submerged in 2400-degree magma. Some guys just want a beautiful watch that tells time.

Listen to the numbers...

Like any serious business, JackThreads factors data heavily into every decision. “When I go to schools to talk to students, they think being a buyer is all about going to a showroom, picking merchandise, and then partying,” Senior Buyer Michael Vincent tells us. To be fair it is partly about those things, but it’s also about things like pivot tables, selling reports, and whatever the sprawling, dense, multi-colored spreadsheet Vincent holds up in front of our face to prove his point is (it might be a pivot table, who knows?).

… But trust your gut

At the same time, Senior Buyer Gabrielle Greco cautions that “while data is the window into your business, you have to take calculated risks -- not every decision ties back to a number.” For instance, if you’re trying to decide whether to offer the Saffiano Black Garment Weekender bag in brown or black, and all the data says “people like brown," but the bag just looks better in classic black, you’ve got to bet on black. It paid off -- the bag sold like very elegant hotcakes.

Take a lot of little chances…

For the guy who wants his look to terrify children and make dogs cry human tears, there’s Ed Hardy. For the guy who wants his every-day wardrobe to stand out more subtly, tweaked classics are the way to go. Michael Vincent, who’s brought everyone from Wolverine to John Varvatos into the JackThreads footwear fold,  also adds the option for understated dress-shoe flair via his in-house label Hillsboro. For Tony Le, the tweaks could be something as simple as adding drawstrings to your standby chinos, deftly making you a casually classy man with a lot of pull.

… And a few big ones

About two years ago, Director of Buying Alison Mangaroo decided joggers were going to become a thing. People thought she was crazy. She wasn’t. But her vision didn’t stop there: she saw a world where designer-quality joggers could be made from herringbone tweed. Then she made that happen. If you’ve ever asked the question, “Can I be a high-functioning professional and still wear joggers?”, there’s your answer.