One day in 2010, Chris Riccobono looked at himself in the mirror and realized something was wrong. He was wearing a dress shirt, and he wanted to leave the shirttail hanging out rather than tucking it in, but it wasn’t giving the effect he wanted. The shirttail was too long, and it was the wrong shape, somehow. There’s a line between stylishly casual and sloppy, and this ensemble was on the wrong side of it.
Worse, it applied to almost all the other shirts he owned. He wanted to look cool in a way that involved leaving his shirttail untucked, and his wardrobe was not cooperating. Most men would have seen this situation as just one of those annoyances that come along in life, but Riccobono — a Columbia MBA who’d done some time in the GE sales training program — saw an unexploited market niche. He surveyed 500 people and discovered they — or at least an encouraging plurality of them — also thought there should be a way to leave a shirttail out and look neat at the same time.
So Riccobono decided to go into business as a manufacturer and distributor of men’s dress shirts with short, rounded, visually attractive tails. In 2011, Riccobono and his friend and Columbia classmate Aaron Sanandres, at the time an employee of PwC, raised some money and launched Untuckit. They ran it as a sideline for three years — initially out of a spare bedroom in Riccobono’s apartment in Hoboken, N.J. — until in 2014, sales sextupled, and Riccobono was able to leave GE and devote himself to the venture full-time.
DIGITS AND MORTAR
Untuckit opened its first store in New York in 2015. In 2016, Sanandres left PwC to become Untuckit’s CEO. (Riccobono holds the title of executive chairman.) That same year, the company opened bricks-and-mortar stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, Texas. It opened an additional 20 stores in 2017, including three additional locations in New York. As of September 2018, the company had a total of about 35 stores in the United States and one in Canada, with plans to open another 20 within the next year.
This makes Untuckit part of a growing list of brands that were launched as online-only companies — often with much talk of “disintermediating” whatever category they happened to be in — that have since become retail store chains with an active ecommerce channel.
It’s a point worth remembering in this statistics-happy, I-see-the-future age that it has become very, very difficult to make even halfway accurate predictions about the retail industry. As recently as five years ago, around the time most of these companies were founded, it was widely being said that stores were doomed. Ecommerce was simpler and cheaper and allowed people to shop in their underwear, and it would take over everything.
For reasons that are still being debated, that didn’t happen. In some ways, the opposite has happened. Casper, which debuted online in 2014 and now operates 18 temporary stores, announced plans in August to open 200 mattress stores in the next three years. Warby Parker opened online in 2013 and now has 75 locations selling eyeglasses and counting; Bonobos has 56 menswear stores; Indochino has 31 showrooms for its tailored suits.
And there are more. Outdoor Voices has eight activewear stores and counting; Everlane — whose founder and CEO swore he would never open a physical store — has men’s and women’s clothing stores; and footwear startup darling Allbirds has a store on Jackson Square in San Francisco and just opened a 4,800-square-foot flagship in New York City.
EMPHASIS ON CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Why? Because, at least for now, stores are where the money is. The amount of U.S. retail sales that take place through ecommerce, according to the Department of Commerce, is just 9 percent; that means 90 percent of the buying still takes place in stores.
Stores themselves, meanwhile, are changing significantly. The ideal, as articulated by retailers ranging from multi-billion dollar global operations to tiny specialty outfits, is to combine the visual and tactile pleasures of being in the store with the convenience of sitting at home and ordering via computer or phone.
One of the good things about the at-home-on-the-couch scenario, of course, is that the website usually knows who shoppers are. It knows what they’ve bought before, and it stands ready to be helpful about what they might want to buy next.
To give the customers who come into today’s stores what they want, associates need both autonomy and access to a lot of information. Once they have it and have acted on it — giving the customers exactly what they want, plus maybe a few accessories and upsells — they need to be able to consummate the transaction and speed the customers on their way. For associates at Untuckit, access to those capabilities comes through an integrated Adyen system that handles online, in-store and mobile payments; the associate channels everything through a handheld iPad.
Both to protect the iPads and to maximize ease of use, design firm Studio Proper worked with Adyen to provide three accessories: an iPad mobile point-of-sale adapter featuring an X-lock secure quick release system to connect Untuckit’s iPads to Verifone e355 terminals; a slim, lightweight, scratchproof case with an X-lock system to align with the adapter; and a rugged drop-proof silicone bumper for added durability.
“The first generation of iPad was very heavy, making it difficult to hold,” says Studio Proper founder and CEO Alon Tamir, “so I sought a solution.” This led to the founding of Studio Proper in 2010. Speaking of this particular retail application, he says, “We worked alongside Adyen and Untuckit to deliver our mobility solution during the first rollout. This validated a key data point that we focus on at Proper. Even the best-intentioned technologies cannot function without the support of hardware to deliver the interaction between users.”
“We’re always sure to keep an eye out for innovative tools that fit our brand’s culture and help us be a success — something we’d advise for any digitally native brand,” says Jason Lerman, director of operations at Untuckit. “Our customers understand the value of a seamless experience. By investing in innovative tools like Studio Proper’s, we’re able to make their entire shopping experience with us as quick and smooth as it can be.”
Peter Johnston, a freelance writer and editor in the New York City area, can be reached at email@example.com.