Learn How A Small Retailer Destroys The Big Department Stores, Patrick Johnson Shows How You Can Too
We sat down with Patrick Johnson, of P.Johnson Tailors in Paddington. With a huge fan base of followers on social networks like tumblr and a long list of celebrity clients, Patrick has fast become a well known figure in the fashion world.
In these tough retail times, where most small retail businesses are complaining of low sales and shutting up shop, Patrick is flourishing and continuing to grow. So what’s the secret to his success?
In this video Patrick discusses his tips on sales, the importance of good customer service, the key fundamentals to running a successful business, knowing your market and how to set yourself apart from the competition.
I had a chance meeting with a tailor, I was on the way to a pub to apply for a job I had a mate work there, every Aussie in London works in a pub at one stage. I walked past this guys tailoring shop, he pretty much grabbed my CV, he saw that I knew a lot about wine and he wanted to learn more about wine. He said if you teach me about wine, ill teach you about tailoring pretty much. And started from there and I worked for him for eight and a half years, he’s an amazing guy, a guy called Robert Emmet and I learnt everything from him. With tailoring it’s really about a pace, you’re not a salesman, you cant, it’s not about selling suits. In a way it’s the last thing on your mind. It’s really about – someone comes to you and you’ve got to really work out what they want and if you’re the right person for them. Cause the relationships last forever, they last for life.
There’s not many options for men in Australia, I think that’s one thing, there really aren’t. I mean if you are a young guy and want to go out and dress well here its very hard to dress in a more formal way, quite well. I think there aren’t as many role models dressing well here, there are a few definitely there’s some very well dressed men, there aren’t as many and the culture isn’t here, but that’s changing with the internet, and I see a lot, I get a lot of young guys coming in here, they come in wearing jeans and a t-shirt and you make their first suit, maybe a casual one, they love it, they’re just into it, they’re like yeah this is good. They get compliments. There’s a bit of a tall poppy thing as well, so if someone dresses up a bit, people always give them a bit, you’ve got to ignore that in anything and say whatever. That’s fine, I like that part of the Australian culture, I used to really dislike it, as long as your happy to ignore it, your just like whatever. So I think it’s changing, but it requires people to change it. Its not a matter of going, well people don’t dress well in Australia, well it’s like why? Where would I go and buy clothes here, its hard, very hard. There’s a few good operators but very few.
Its all about someone finding their own path, there isn’t a right or wrong way. When you see – well not necessary tailors, cause a good tailor would never do it. But when you see menswear people say ‘you have to wear it like this’ it’s absolutely not true at all. It’s about finding your own path. That’s why I work with the clients and I get clients that come in the first time, this is what they want and you think ok I don’t think this is necessarily right but you guide them in the right direction and the next time they go a little bit further and the next time a little bit further. Finally they get exactly what they want. But if I came out straight away saying ‘this is what you want’ they would be like no no no ! Not only that, you’re getting pushy and forcing yourself onto someone so you get a pace and that’s important, not being in a rush.
I think with business planning and all these kind of things you cant really know beyond 6 months, you can try and pretend, I think anyone who says they’ve got a 5 year plan and a vision, they’re a genius but I don’t think that’s real, in small business, it changes so much every day what your doing. You just have to focus on the fundamentals all the time. So there wasn’t a huge plan, but overall when I came back to Australia from the UK, I wanted to help Australian men dress better and have more options. But with a good value for money and all these kind of things. That’s really what I wanted to do and everything else was trying to sort of get there. I think the fundamentals of it and what I learnt from Rob who taught me a lot, and my dad and I’ve got a guy who sort of mentors me as well, which is very important by the way, getting a lot of people around you, you can have as a network, when you get in trouble you can talk to. And I’m very lucky to have some family members, some people outside my family, some clients as well. I think the fundamental thing; businesses never ever fail if there is cash in the bank. Simple as that. If you’ve got money in the bank, you can’t fail. It’s all about cash. Cash is number one. That’s one fundamental.
A lot of businesses, we’ve seen it in Australia, in clothing – they think they’ve got to get their volumes up to buy another store. No no, you need to do what you can right now to build your customer base, positive cash flow. There’s no loss leaders, there’s no catching up later. You can’t predict the future, that’s one thing.
The other thing is knowing what your customer wants, delivering to them really good service, really good value for money, knowing what they want, they’re number one. Without the customer you have nothing. Without the customer you don’t have a business. So customer service, those basic customer service things, I learnt them from a very young age. Stacking shelves in the 7 day supermarket when I was like 13 years old. You learn those basic things. You just learn the customer is always right, you don’t back chat. I’ve got an ego you’ve got to put it on your shelf every day. It’s not about you, it’s about them. That’s the other thing and I also think doing something, its important to do something that you have a passion for. I would never be able to do a business that was all about making money. I would lose interest very quickly. You see where your interest and your skills intersect. And you work out, is there a market for this? And be very realistic about that, a lot of people kid themselves into thinking there’s a market for this when there’s not. Be very realistic, so keep your overheads low, quality and value for money. To be honest if there were a lot of people doing what I was doing in the market for the same price, offering the same service, i wouldn’t do it, there’s no point. You’re offering something that’s already there, why would you go and copy someone else. Another one of the big challenges in my business is keeping it fresh.
I genuinely believe in never looking at your competitors, never even thinking about them. Never trying to compete with them and never trying to compare yourself with them ever. And I never do, that’s very important, I learnt that early on. Why would you? You’re you, they’re them, and you’re all different. I know a lot of people that do, we’ve had situations where we’ve had whole marketing campaigns copied from us. It’s incredibly flattering, I mean its disappointing in a way cause the industry we’re in, fundamentally that’s about innovation, about being different – then someone copies? You think come on guys.
I think some people have five or six shops and have a marketing team behind them to get clients through the door. But I think the best things is word of mouth. I always have and if you want ten shops then yeah you need all that. I can’t have value for money in the product if you’re employing a marketing manager, you’re paying rent on 6 shops, you’re paying for the fit out. You’re doing all this, how can you have a competitive edge? How can they? I love suits too much and I love the quality side of things too much to even consider doing that.
I think the fundamentals are that it’s very much about wearing clothes that look like they belong to you, that’s one thing. So you have to find your own style in your own way. I think comforts very important; some people go too far in that, like Americans like massive suits. Something can’t be luxurious if it’s uncomfortable. Finding your own way, finding your own style I think. I like the subtleties; I like the subtle little things. I don’t think it’s necessarily about being a peacock but if that’s your personality – yeah roll with it. Not being impatient, it takes time, it’s no wonder why the best dressed men in the world are in their 60’s and 70’s, they are, they’ve got there in the long way, they look great. The pace of their style and being comfortable with it.
The things that I think are mistakes are imitation. I’ve got guys that come in with pictures and not that they shouldn’t do this, cause guys come in with pictures and say ‘I like this’ and it’s very helpful for me to see what elements that they like. But you go onto the internet and see guys in their 30’s dressing like 80 year old Italian men with pocket watches and fob chains. And its like are you joking? That’s not you? Its not about dressing up its about dressing. And suits are a very relevant part of modern dress. It does frustrate me a little bit when you get people going, ‘oh you’re wearing a suit, you’re a dandy, you’re dressing in the old way’. It’s like, well come on – people wear suits now, why can’t they be relevant? Just being relevant to now, slowly working with it, working with your lifestyle, working with your tailor and finding a suit for you.
Every one is different; every suit I’ve made for everyone is different. Everyone’s different, subtle differences but they are different. How can I say you’re a 46, how can I say you put this suit on. No ones a 46, it doesn’t fit them. Everyones different. You like your lapel in that direction, you like your shoulder like that. You like that like that, that’s for you, you’ve worked that out. You can’t go into a store and buy that off the rack. Or you’re very very lucky if you can – it doesn’t work.
Well Patrick thank you very much for spending some time with us.