Charles Tyrwhitt was founded in the U.K. in 1986, but the U.S. is actually the brand’s largest market. So it makes sense that the executive who had been overseeing the American market would be charged with running the entire company as it works to expand its reach globally.
Luke Kingsnorth, who had served as president of North America, has been overseeing the division during a run of double-digit growth and the addition of eight retail stores. He was named to the top post in April after Michael Stanier resigned.
In July, Kingsnorth will move back across the pond, taking the success he achieved here and applying it to the corporation as a whole.
He will lean on his omnichannel expertise to expand the company’s e-commerce reach while continuing to exploit casualwear, add made-to-measure suits, offer a revamped trouser assortment with a new, more-modern fit, and develop a range of casual shirts with shorter tails so they can be worn untucked.
Additionally, Kingsnorth said the business is “exploring wholesaling in some core territories.”
Kingsnorth has been with Charles Tyrwhitt since 2010 when he left John Lewis Direct to join the company as e-commerce director. Two years later, he added marketing duties to his role before moving to the U.S. to run that division three years ago.
“The U.S. is the single largest market for Charles Tyrwhitt,” he said, “bigger than the U.K.” As a result, the corporation decided that in order to manage the business properly, one of the senior managers needed to relocate. And Kingsnorth was chosen. “I’ve spent the last three years developing the business here,” he said, “and not in the most favored climate.”
Charles Tyrwhitt was founded in 1986 by Nicholas Charles Tyrwhitt Wheeler, who continues to serve as chairman of the privately held brand. It has 28 stores in the U.K., including a flagship on Jermyn Street in London, as well as 13 stores in the U.S. including locations in New York, Washington and Chicago.
The company entered the U.S. market in 1998 with e-commerce only and opened its first store on Madison Avenue in 2001. Sales in the U.S. are now around $100 million, nearly one-third of the overall volume of $280 million.
Over the past two years, Kingsnorth said, the focus in the U.S. has been more on brick-and-mortar, with 80 percent of the division’s overall sales coming from its retail stores. For the company as a whole, 70 percent of sales come from retail.
In stores, 55 percent of sales come from shirts, 30 percent from suits and 15 percent from pants, knitwear and accessories, he said. Shirt sales are higher online where suits represent only 10 percent of sales.
In the U.S., he said the plan is to add more brick-and-mortar locations, but it will be a “considered” rollout, he said. No additional units are in the immediate plan.
Kingsnorth said the company expects to name a successor to him in the North American market, which “remains a key focus for us.”
Other areas for expansion include the existing markets of the U.K., Germany and Australia, as well as the “small but growing markets” of Canada and France. That growth will come through e-commerce and retail stores., he said.
Although Charles Tyrwhitt’s focus is primarily on dress shirts and suits, growth has been coming from “smart casual” pieces such as suit separates, casual pants and shirts that are worn without a tie. A seersucker jacket, unlined sport coats, polo shirts and even dressy shorts are helping customers move beyond their work uniforms.
Other updates to the assortment include more technical fabrics such as Tyrwhitt Cool Cotton, wrinkle-resistant linen and Lyocell that the brand has injected into its assortments of button-down shirts, jackets, pants and polos.
Stretch is also gaining in importance, he said, in suits, pants and shirts, and in fact, the company’s travel suits with crease recovery are the best-selling model.
Although custom shirts are popular with other brands, Charles Tyrwhitt doesn’t offer them — and that’s intentional. Because the company has four fits: extra slim, slim, classic and super slim, collar sizes that range from 14 to 20, and sleeve lengths in one-inch increments between 32 and 38, it feels it has all the bases covered. There are a variety of collar styles as well, everything from classic and super spread to button-down.
In terms of models, slim is the currently the most popular dress shirt, and super slim, which is targeted to an athletic man, was tested about a year ago and now represents nearly 10 percent of sales in store.
But Kingsnorth said while custom shirts are not being added, the company is planning to test a customization offering within the next 12 months, where guys can add personal detailing to their shirts.
The company is also famous for its sharp pricing — four shirts for $199 and suits starting at $399 — but it also has a high-end range, Charles Tyrwhitt Exclusive, with more luxurious fabrics and a higher price. A wool and cashmere suit made from Barberis fabric, for example, retails for $799, while luxury twill shirts are $139 and merino seamless sweaters are $169.
Kingsnorth said the company’s everyday low prices pit it against such competitors as Suitsupply, where suits sell for $399 and up, and shirts for $89.99. “They’re good competitors,” he said, but are “more edgy,” especially with their advertising.
Other competitors include Bonobos for the business casual range and Brooks Brothers, he said, as well as Thomas Pink in shirts.
Charles Tyrwhitt had tried women’s wear for a time around five years ago, but it was “a very small range of shirts and knits,” he said, and the company decided not to continue with it. “We stand behind men’s because we feel like it’s the best product in the market, but we didn’t feel the same way about women’s, so we said, let’s walk away.”