Retailer Feature: Boys'Co | Vancouver, BC
Since Boys’Co first opened their landmark retail space at Oakridge Centre over three decades ago, the store has always been a paramount source for the latest in men's contemporary sportswear in Vancouver.
Now with 4 brick and mortar locations spread across the lower mainland as well as a new e-commerce website, the merging of both established and rising designers in a fresh and modern way continues to feel effortless for this historically family owned business.
Boys'Co Robson Street
We recently had a chance to catch up with David Goldman, the founder and president of Boys’Co stores, to talk about the retail scene in Vancouver right now and what it takes to build up a retail legacy like he has with Boys’Co.
Hi David, Please introduce yourself.
I am the founder and president of BOYS’CO Stores and we are a part of a three generation local family business started by my dad Murray, exactly 70 years ago this year. This is my 45th year with our company.
Boys’Co itself is just over 30 years old now. Congratulations! What elements would you say have attributed to the longevity of Boys’Co thus far?
We’re actually now in our 32nd year and it has been incredible. I would have to say some of the ingredients for our success and longevity are being small, flexible - and absolutely loving what we do. This is a fun business and we truly have a keen eye for fashion and a desire to keep our stores current while focussing on improving the customer experience at every touchpoint we can.
Of course it cannot go without saying our success also has a lot to do with our people - and that includes my son Sam, who I’ve worked alongside for almost 20 years, our GM Michael Roley, who has been with us 30 years - and our 4 managers, all of whom have been with us for almost over 20 years!
What is like to be a retailer in Vancouver? Rents must be expensive.
We happen to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and get to compare ourselves to other major markets that we travel to. Yes, rents are relatively expensive, but only as a function of the traffic each location brings us. We’ve had the opportunity to work closely with our various landlords over the years, and as a result, we have been able to create lease terms together that allows us to share in the risk which helps both of us build our businesses within each location.
Boys'Co Robson Street
Tell us about the company tagline, “It’s a guy thing.” Is there a specific meaning or story behind it?
We felt that as a “guys store” with an eye to being a little irreverent in our marketing, we could project a little humour, cheekiness, and fun within the various types of marketing we do; both electronically and traditionally. Being a fashion leader is a state of mind so it’s not always just about the fashion, but rather an attitude. We feel that our tagline helps express that attitude.
What brands and/or products are you doing really well with right now?
We’ve really found our customers responding well to the very modern silhouettes from brands such as Y-3, Vitaly, and Cahill, but there are many brands that have been in the stores for a number of seasons that do well all the time.
How would you say your brand mix has evolved over the past 30 years? How has it stayed the same?
Our brand mix can expand or decrease based on trends of course, but it has evolved as we see the prevalence of those trends which allows us to mix it up, try new things and eliminate brands that stagnate.
Our stores are small and that means we have to be nimble in our choices. It’s a little bit of a juggling act, but that’s where our experience comes in. It also keeps us on our toes. What we do, however, is stay true to our core values of what it is we do and how we do it.
You launched an e-commerce site last year. How has the first year been? What have you learned?
We were very happy with our first year, as it taught us a lot about what it takes to succeed and the components necessary to build the BOYS’CO business online. We have a great team overseeing that for us, and have worked with some great outside professionals that are helping us get to a point where it becomes a serious business for us. We’re happy to say that it’s going in the right direction!
Buying for both physical and online stores must take up a lot of time. What does buying season look like for you? What cities or trade shows do you usually hit?
Over the past many years, buying used to be a “seasonal business” in that we’d “go to market” less than a handful of times a year. Today we practically buy on a daily basis, whether it’s finding new brands, filling in our core programs, meeting with our suppliers to catch up, or just trolling the internet to see what is happening with trends.
I get to travel often and am committed to visiting various major markets every year (Europe and North America) to not only buy, but also to go into other stores to see what they’re doing, what brands they have, what brands are hanging with what, and compare them to us. I’m happy to say we can stand alongside the best retailers in our category - and that motivates us every season.
What would you say you’ll be focusing on developing more this year? Physical in store sales or e-commerce sales?
While we are absolutely committed to making our e-commerce store a “real business,” we cannot take our eye off of the ball with our physical stores. As it is - and always will be - they are the backbone of our business and the true future of ongoing retail. It’s always going to be a work in progress with each platform we’re working on; a little give and take.
We first interviewed you close to 10 years ago. Have you thought about when the next 10 years will look like for Boys’Co?
As much as the last 10 years has been a period of change with regard to fashion and especially technology, I think we can expect more of the same but at an even faster pace. This may be a young person’s industry, such as fashion is, but it is even more a young-thinking person’s industry.
As such, one has to think fast, think big, surround yourself with the best people, and try to be the best you can be in your chosen category. I feel like we’ve done that as a young men’s multi-brand retailer, but that’s only as of today. We continue to plan for our tomorrows, each and every day.