Stitch It sews up another Edmonton location
National alterations chain finds a silver lining in the recession
BY BILL MAH, EDMONTON JOURNAL AUGUST 11, 2009 8:24 AM
Business may be only sew-sew for Alain Baird, but his national alterations chain just keeps growing.
The former owner of three clothing stores in southern Ontario switched to just offering alterations instead of selling clothes in the 1980s when he noticed recession-battered customers stopped buying clothes and asked instead to mend items they already owned.
One Stitch It store in 1989 in Mississauga has grown to 99 outlets in Canada and three states: Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana.
The Burlington, Ont.-based chain just opened its fourth Edmonton store at West Edmonton Mall, following locations at Mayfield Common, Southgate Centre and Kingsway Garden Mall.
Another store is opening in Balzac’s new Cross Iron Mills mega-mall to be the Calgary area’s third location and he wants to be in at least two other Calgary malls, too.
The owner and founder of the alterations empire credits the growth to customers wanting what his business model offers: standardized pricing and quality of work, quick turnarounds — the goal is half of the work should be done within 24 hours and all of it in 48 hours–convenient locations and a guarantee to fix mistakes at no charge or pay for the clothes.
He came up with the model back in the 1980s, when his clothing store customers were coming to him to fix their old clothes. “Why aren’t they going to a tailor shop or a seamstress shop?” Baird wondered.
He drove around and found many independent shops were hard to find or get to, offered varying prices for different customers and took up to two weeks to alter clothes, Baird said.
“I really saw a void in the marketplace for professional service that would be located in malls where the people are and have a standard price list and ensure the alterations were done when the customers needed them.”
Stitch It employs 652 workers doing a trade that fewer people are learning.
“It’s tough, but it’s word of mouth and people stay with us. Our full-time turnover rate is one or two per cent,” Baird said.
Stitch It sewed up $26 million in sales last year and the company born in a recession is coping with another one. “Right now, we’re pretty much flat to last year, which is pretty good considering what’s happening in retail.”