Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
A powerful compliment magnet
This week, one simple conversation that made me a devoted long-term customer.
And how that approach has helped a business owner not only survive but do well, in an area that’s experienced total carnage in recent years.
I’m not a luxury living guy, prestige brands are not my vibe. But nice shirts and shoes are important to me. If I’m out, random people will say, I love that shirt.
The green shirt below, for instance, is a powerful compliment magnet. Last Saturday it got unsolicited positive reviews from a wide cross-section of society. The nice trans kid at the hairdressers. A nan near me at the supermarket checkout. A café waiter. It feels good, and that’s of legitimate value to me as an otherwise generic dad-looking guy.
I get most of them from a shop in Sydney’s Paddington owned by a guy cooler than me, the suitably-named Fasha. He has better shirts than you’ll find elsewhere. They come in a range of prices, from expensive to really expensive.
I went back to Fasha’s store for the first time since 2019, after two scungy Zoom years of living in hoodies and so on. And the austerity of earning no money with shut-down businesses doesn’t lend itself to dropping a pile of money on shirts. It felt good to go back and indulge.
You are not buying that shirt
Fasha remembered my name after nearly four years, one of the most difficult yet most essential business skills.
But the main reason I go there, and will always go there, is because of the first time I ever set foot in the shop.
Walking past, I’d seen a shirt in the window and thought: I will look like a cool motherfucker in that. I went in and tried it on. Fasha looked at me with a slight sideways tilt of the head, and said:
“You are not buying that shirt. It isn’t good on you.”
Whoah! I’ve been to a lot of clothes shops, and the guys who work there all follow a rigid template.
First, there’s their deep interest in your plans for the weekend. Once through that, you try literally anything on and they go “you look GREAT in that!”. Even though the fit is sketchy and the fabric feels kinda flammable.
They will say “that’s a nice pant on you”, the creepiest singular word ever. Everything is the best, in the same way that real estate agents always go on the TV news to report that right now is the best time to buy or sell.
Sales vs Advice
Everything does not look great or even ok. There’s a narrow spectrum of colours that work on white indoorsy types like me. Stuff that looks great on a cool Insta person will come across like a sad cry for attention on me.
This unexpected act of non-sales suggested that Fasha was more advisor than salesman. If it’s wrong, he will call it. Like Jeeves in the ancient PG Wodehouse books I read as a kid, he was there as the final line of defence against inadvisable shirts and regrettable jackets. And it’s good to have someone whose taste I rate help me choose between two options.
Fasha has protected me from autumn-toned clothes that look stunning on melanin-fortunate people, but make me look like a small child’s craft project.
Discounting can kill your business
The once-great fashion precinct of Oxford St has been a graveyard of retail dreams in the last decade, for lots of reasons. In a crowded field, it features some of Australia’s most unpleasant commercial landlords.
From boutiques to global brands, few stores have survived there long term. Apart from frank advice, there’s one other thing Fasha does that’s helped him do well.
Unlike most clothing brands, he has never had a sale, or done discounts. They are really good shirts, and you must pay for them. It shows his belief in the value of the product.
There are other fashion brands I will only buy on sale, because twice a year they halve their prices. And I’m too old to need exactly this season’s thing right now. If you rely on sales, you train your customers to only buy when there’s a deal on.
It’s not just clothes. There are plenty of products that are on sale so frequently that the idea of paying full price is offensive. Looking at you, Lindt chocolate blocks and all brands of dishwasher tablets.
I can’t believe how many business owners and salespeople think, say, a 25% discount means 25% less profit. Rather than the difference between profit and a loss.
Call it how it is
It’s a good business model to aspire to. Not everyone can do it.
Fasha’s uncompromising approach is backed up by really good product. It’s much harder to do if you’re selling the same cheap-ass stuff as everyone else.
And you can’t give people tough-love advice if you clearly have no experience. If a junior shop assistant tried it, you’d go: I’ll make my own decisions thank you. But that credibility is something to work towards.
In every field, there are a million sales reps willing to kiss your arse.
Fewer willing to tell you what you need to be told.
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