MenCo thrives after style switch-up
You wouldn’t think a few blocks would make much of a difference in clientele, in a city as small as Hamilton.
But when Janika Fields moved her men’s clothing shop, MenCo from King Street to 15 Burnaby Street in 2017, her customers changed.
Previously she’d been seeing a young and hip crowd; closer to the city centre her customers were more corporate.
“I could have stuck with what I started out with as a business plan,” she said. “Or I could switch it up and meet the needs of the consumers and stay afloat and thrive.”
She chose the latter option, slowly, but surely offering more upscale and “classic” clothing.
“Trends change and consumers change,” she said. “No this is not what I thought of when I first opened up MenCo, but it is paying the bills and I am still enjoying it.”
So far, her formula seems to be working. On November 21 she celebrated five years in business with a special weeklong sale.
Speaking on a panel at the Pow [Her] Women’s Entrepreneurship Day conference held last month at the Hamilton Princess&Beach Club, her advice to women new to retail was don’t get too comfortable.
“A lot of times in business we see we are doing good,” Ms Fields said. “We are surviving, the bills are paid, and the business owners have a little bit of spending cash on the side. What happens is, when we get too comfortable, we often miss an opportunity to elevate ourselves.”
Initially, she studied graphic design and advertising, but when she graduated and came back to Bermuda the recession was hitting. There were no jobs in her field.
She decided to create her own opportunity, by starting her own retail business.
“I felt like we as women have a lot of stores,” she said. “Doing my research, I found the niche was menswear, so I figured why not.”
Seeing both men buying for themselves, and women buying for the man in their life, she has noticed some differences in the way men and women shop.
“Men shop for the moment,” she said. “If it is still quite warm, they are not going to buy a long sleeve shirt.”
But she has found that women will buy ahead of the season.
“Even if it is hot, they will still buy it and save it for when it gets cooler,” she said. “Our seasons haven’t been typical. Here we are in November and it is still pretty warm, so I have to make sure short sleeve shirts and lighter weight shirts are out to provide for the men. They wouldn’t go for anything heavier.”
In July, another men’s store, Banter&Steel, opened up around the corner from her. Ms Fields is not bothered.
“They have a whole different aesthetic than I do,” she said.
In fact, when she can’t meet a customer’s needs she will often send them to the other store.
“I would rather people stay shopping local, especially the smaller businesses,” she said.
Ms Fields considers her biggest competition to be online retailers.
“The biggest challenge is getting people to try to buy locally and not go online and bring things in,” she said.
The entrepreneur said this year, bold animal prints are trending in men’s fashion.
“You see a lot of leopard and zebra inspired prints,” she said. “You see a lot of space futuristic styles. The bubble vests are coming back in. How many times has that been in and out? They are coming in this year with bolder colours, metallic silvers, neons.”
She is proud to be able to employ four Bermudians.
“That is rewarding in itself knowing that I am making enough that I can support my fellow Bermudians,” she said.
In the future she might like to expand MenCo, but for now she is happy with the space she has.
“Once you start a store you always think I need more space,” Ms Fields said. “I bring in shoes, men’s accessories. You always need more space, but the reality is, could you really afford more space? We just make the space that we have work. This is where I will stay for awhile. There aren’t many openings in the city, as it is for expansion.”
• For more information, see MenCo on Facebook under @mencobda or call 295-5689
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