Meet Your Clothiers
Question: Please tell us a little bit about what you sell, where your products are made and who buys them.
We sell upscale, high quality, progressive, modern menswear, sportswear, footwear. Mostly made in Europe; some made domestically. Most of our lines are made in Italy, or elsewhere in Europe, and designed there as well.
Question: What goes into your buying decisions when you go to these areas?
We want to make sure that we’re dealing with the best vendors when we’re doing the buying season. We want to make sure we have product lines that are unique to our clients so that they’re not seeing the same clothes up and down the street. They have to meet the criteria we establish, which is:
- Good construction
- Good fabrication
- Good design
Question: You’re second generation – you must be proud of the work you do, what you’ve accomplished, and the tradition you’re upholding.
Well, I think my father was very idealistic and had a commitment to good quality product, great service, great environment. That was how he founded this company. That’s how I grew up when I was working part-time – under that indoctrination. It’s the only thing I’ve known and what I’m happy to follow.
Question: So, tell us a little bit more about what it is like to be a kid in this environment and who you might have seen walk through the door.
Well, when I was very young, 13-14-15 years old, I worked part time at the store cleaning and I used to watch my father as he waited on his clients. They were all upper-management people, business owners. At that time, Schneider’s was a very big company in town. He dealt with a lot of the CFO’s and CEO’s of companies like that. I got to see a lot of high profile, local, successful business people because that’s type of people attracted to our type of product and service.
Question: How did that affect you personally do you think?
It motivates me to keep the level of the company’s product and service very, very high. Because that is the only way you can maintain your business with people who are that successful. Those type of people are very demanding and should be.
Question: Did your father have any advice for you when he handed over the keys to the front door?
No, he had worked with me for a long enough period of time that he knew that I understood his philosophy and there was nothing further to say. He shook my hand and wished me luck.
Question: How do you celebrate the Paul Puncher tradition?
The basic philosophy: everyday we come in determined to provide an environment that creates an incredible experience for people who walk through the door. It is about the product and the experience. We celebrate that everyday. We’re committed to it. It’s our passion.
Question: Would you say you are always firing at 110%?
We aspire to, absolutely. If you don’t aspire to 120%, you get 80% and 80% doesn’t work in our business.
Question: What do you need to succeed in this type of business?
You have to have excellent staff in place, a great venue, a great building, good parking. Once you have those things, you have to execute them with incredible service – the 120% we just talked about all the time.
Question: How do you maintain your industry knowledge?
We’re connected with the top vendors in the world. Houses like Armani, Pal Zileri, and even Zegna and Hugo Boss. Those companies tend to have incredible research and foresight. They have so many tools at their disposal that we can glean from. They are always modern and up-to-date. We can learn a lot just from the vendors we deal with. And then from those vendors we can find new product lines. For example, our one of our reps told us “you’ve gotta look at this new denim line” – they brought us Jacob Cohën jeans. Our existing vendors are so good, they give us new leads – we don’t have to attend trade shows.
Question: You also apparently have incredible relationships. You’ve talked about your vendors as being friends.
Absolutely. Most of our best vendors we’ve been dealing with for such a long time. They understand our business and they will help us when they think we need their help. They will give us suggestions, before we ask for them.
Question: In terms of technical support, in your business, what is that comprised of?
It is the same as the other half of our business. You need to meet great people. Tailoring, for instance. When you sell a $2500 suit, you need great people to tailor it and those people are harder and harder to find. We’re fortunate to have two excellent tailors right now, European-based and trained. Going forward, that would be a challenge: to continue to find those professional craftsman to give the technical support – the tailoring – to properly meld that garment to the client. That is a concern of ours going forward, to have those craftspeople.
Question: That speaks to planning. Is there anything else you need to give that kind of forward-thinking to?
There is always planning, more marketing now. We are not strong marketers. We have a strong brand but we need to increase our presence in the local community.
Question: How do you see yourselves in the eyes of the community?
I think we are viewed as a very nice, expensive, high-end, luxury shop. We need to improve our community involvement. We do a lot of it but we need to do more and make people aware of it.
Question: How do you like to give back currently?
We tend to do a lot of smaller dollar value supports for fundraising, like silent auctions, gift cards, etc – Hope Spring Cancer Support Centre, Kidsability, the Hospital Foundation – to help them with items like gift cards to help them raise funds. Guelph Children’s Foundation and the Guelph Hospital Foundation are big ones for us – we have a lot of clients from Guelph. But we need to expand our presence locally.
Question: You inherited this location. What do you think of it?
We couldn’t’t ask for a better location. We have a great historical building with high vaulted ceilings. We have a lot of accessible parking right on-site. People walk in here still say “wow, what an incredible building this is”. With the addition, there is nothing we need or are wanting for right now. We built a beautiful facility to house our product and service our clients. Now it is just a matter of continuing to expand our market and improve on the things we talked about.
Question: So, you’ve been in this business for a while, what do you think are some of the benefits of owning a men’s clothing store, particularly in Waterloo?
This is a very progressive, affluent community and a very diverse community. It’s a fun community to work in. You meet a diverse group of people from the tech sector, the insurance sector, the educational sector. There is a very unique variety of businesses here, which makes our job a lot more interesting. Every minute the door opens, you don’t know who you’re going to see but they are usually interesting.
Question: How do you feel the new store enhances your business?
In the previous location, the casual store was a hundred feet from the main store so you had to put on your coat and walk over. It was smaller, darker, tired looking. The new addition is three times the size of retail space; it has better lighting, better change rooms, better shelving. It has allowed us to show our product much better. Many of our clients think we have doubled our inventory – we really haven’t – we’ve increased it but not as much as the space. We’ve simply distributed it better so the client has a better experience viewing it. It has been much better for our clients to see the products and find what they need. It is a much better venue in which to work with them to do that.
Question: Where do you see the store going in the future?
I see us doing a lot of the same things we are doing now. We will continue to find new niche lines – better products for our clients. Every year, we will do something to freshen the appearance of the store. For example, right now, we are adding a new piece of artwork to the new addition because we have a blank wall. When our clients walk in, we want them to see some new things, along with the things they are used to. We will always keep the main lines but add new things to keep it exciting. But, the philosophy will remain the same, based on our founding traditions of quality products and exceptional service – that is Paul Puncher.
Question: How did you come to Paul Puncher?
I discovered at a pretty early age what I wanted to do in my life. I was always aware of Paul Puncher. I had many years in retail in a step down from this from a quality perspective. I always knew the great reputation Paul Puncher had and thought, well, if I’m going to be in this life-long, then I want to be selling at this level, the type of product that we have here.
Question: What did you know of their reputation?
They’ve just always had a very good reputation, from service, quality, that I knew about. I used to go into Paul Puncher when I was still working at another store to check things out and I had met Paul. I had conversations with Paul over the years.
Question: So it was the overall perception?
Yes, this business is very much driven by relationships.
Question: Now that you are a key member of the team, what do you bring to the atmosphere?
I build the relationship. I bring a passion to the store. I’ve always been very passionate about clothes. I knew from a young age that’s what I wanted to do.
Question: How does the store remodelling better the store and service?
It allows the consumer’s experience to be more efficient – everything is now under one roof. It is truly one-stop shopping now. We can mix a sport coat with a great pair of jeans. It is truly integrated.
Question: What do you want the general population to think when they think “Paul Puncher” today, particularly when the come to the store?
Aside from, obviously, the quality of the products and the exclusivity that we have, the service and the overall experience. We offer an experience that is very different from a lot of other retailers.
Question: Do you think that experience takes into account slowing down and appreciating life through the clothes we buy?
Yes, I think so, absolutely. You should have a sense of pride in what you wear and clothes do make you feel that way. How you’re dressed and how you’re groomed is a reflection on yourself really.
Question: It’s not just empowering, it’s peace of mind?
Oh yah, I get to wear these clothes everyday but you feel good when you put something on that’s fresh and new.
Question: How should people feel leaving the store?
I want them to feel good about their purchase. I want them to feel good about themselves, how they feel in the clothing. And I hope they leave saying “that was a great experience”. It’s not just about coming in to buy a shirt or tie, it’s about the whole experience – we want to build on relationships. We want to see you again.
Question: It’s not about volume?
No, our style and quality of clothing is about investment – it’s an investment in yourself and we really stress that. I don’t think many people get that yet. Maybe until they come in and experience that, that may make them change their mind.
Question: Where do you yourself look for men’s fashion?
I get it from a lot of different places. I love magazines. But, we often get the fashions from when we go to buy – we’re always about a year out so when we buy, we’re seeing where our designers are taking us next. I’m also always surfing, seeing what the designers are showing us.
Question: Are there any key magazines you would point to?
GQ is very good.
Question: What should men know about made-to-measure? It’s fallen out of the norm but what is a made-to-measure suit – how is it different?
Made-to-measure is really an experience. You come in, you may or may not have something in mind. When you choose made-to-measure, your selection increases by ten-fold because you’re choosing from bolts of fabric. We all have different body types so standard stock suits do a pretty good job of fitting most men and we have a lot of different models in our collections but nothing is like made-to-measure where it has actually been measured to fit every part of your frame and you choose fabrics. And there are other things you can do with extra buttons, etc. I would describe it myself, as a guy who always bought off-the-rack, then buying a made-to-measure…there is nothing like the way it feels.
Question: That speaks to customization. When you complete your yearly purchases, you see different styles. I assume that you take into account catering to different body types?
Yes, absolutely, we’re a clothier. For example, with Giorgio Armani, we have three different fits or models, as they refer to them, that we buy for that very reason.
Question: So, really, you’re men’s clothing consultants.
Question: Suits can be perceived as something that doesn’t change a lot. Can you talk about where you see men’s clothing going?
We’ve seen men move away from the suit a little bit. But, I now see a change. When you go into some of the big markets – we’re in Toronto quite a lot – you still see a ton of guys wearing great suits. And, more so, guys getting back to wearing ties. We had gotten away from ties a bit. But, ties have always been a way to stand out. If you have twenty navy suits in a room, the way for you to stand out is always with your accessories – shirts, ties, shoes. I think, as a society, we were going too casual. A shirt, tie, suit is always a very professional way to represent yourself and I think we’re going to move back to that.
Question: So, the suit today is less about what someone may deem as empowerment but more about distinction?
Question: So, outside of a great suit, how do you believe your classic “Paul Puncher man” would feel about his wardrobe – what is he about, what is he looking for?
I think, first, they want quality, and second, they want fit. And they want to look professional when they represent themselves. They don’t necessarily want a Giorgio Armani suit, they want a good suit that is going to feel good.
Question: What more can we expect of Paul Puncher?
To really keep going with what we’re doing. We’ve just completed an expansion. We’re always looking for new, fresh ideas, from new brands to exclusive products.
Question: Why do you think the Paul Puncher tradition still thrives in this community today?
I think it’s our service, from our level of taste and ability to select the right things, to the fit – we have very talented tailors. Paul Puncher has been around for a long time but I think we’ve kept up the tradition of bringing exclusive products and exceptional service to our region – and we look forward to continuing that for years to come.