NEW YORK — Untuckit is an old-fashioned feel-good American success story.
Two business school buddies with not a stitch of fashion industry experience started a company in 2011 to provide a solution to a problem they saw in the men’s apparel market: button-down shirts that looked and fit properly when worn untucked.
The business launched as strictly an online play with just the one signature product and financed with $150,000 raised from friends and family. They came up with a signature sail insignia for the tail of the shirts and it was off to the races.
By last June, Untuckit had attracted the attention of California venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, which invested $30 million to fund the company’s growth.
Since its founding, Chris Riccobono, executive chairman, and his partner Aaron Sanandres, chief executive officer, have expanded into a range of men’s categories including polos, sweaters, sweatshirts, shorts and even sport coats as well as women’s wear and shoes. And Untuckit also operates 18 stores around the country.
Today, the brand will introduce its children’s collection, followed by men’s pants on Nov. 14. And by the first week in December, the company will increase its owned store count to 25, including three more units in Manhattan. The New York stores, which will all open on Nov. 18, will be located at Madison Avenue and 52nd Street, 17th Street and Fifth Avenue and Brookfield Place and will join the two-year-old SoHo store on Prince Street.
Other units will open this year on Michigan Avenue in Chicago as well as Oak Brook, Ill., as well as in Aventura, Fla., and San Diego.
“We started the year with five stores,” Riccobono said. “And by next year we will have 50, including our first international store in Canada.”
Sanandres said that although retail has been challenging for most companies of late, Untuckit is having a different experience. “All of our stores are profitable and have a quick payback, within 12 months and sometime quicker. We’re bucking the trend.”
Riccobono said the company’s story is pretty simple: “We literally couldn’t find a shirt that fit right when it was untucked,” he said. He surveyed friends and found the problem was universal. So he enlisted the help of Sanandres and they set out to create a shirt that would fall to the middle of the pant fly, with a tailored fit and contoured hemline. They both had full-time jobs at the time at GE Healthcare (Riccobono) and PWC (Sanandres) and worked on Untuckit on the side.
They found factories overseas that could produce shirts to their distinct specifications and they were in business.
From Day One, Riccobono said, the company was profitable as its unique offering found a niche. They advertised first on radio, followed by airline magazines, newspapers across the country and digitally.
And before they knew it, their shirts, which retail from $78 to $99, were selling faster than they could be produced. As the product developed a following, Untuckit increased its production, expanded its offering and began looking at other categories.
Some 45 percent of the brand’s customers are women so they decided to test the waters with a women’s line earlier this year. The untucked women’s shirts sold so well that the offering will be broadened next year.
Customer feedback also led to the launch of the children’s collection.
“Our core demographic is 30 to 65,” Sanandres said, “so they’re either having kids, have kids or have grandkids.” These customers kept asking the company to expand into children’s wear since kids all wear their shirts untucked and generally look too big and sloppy.
The children’s collection will include mainly button-downs with a few pique polos and will retail for $35 to $48.
The pants collection that will be launched on Nov. 14 comes as a result of the success the brand had with shorts this summer.
Untuckit’s business is still 75 percent button-down shirts, with the rest of the product accounting for the remainder.
E-commerce still represents 80 percent of sales, but as the retail stores continue to roll out, they’re expecting that percentage to shift to 70 percent e-commerce, 30 percent retail by 2018.
There are no plans to launch wholesale, although the partners admit that they did consider it. “We didn’t think we needed them with our large and loud marketing and our own stores,” Sanandres said. But he did admit that entertaining the thought of partnering with a larger retailer for in-store shops, for instance, can quickly bring Untuckit to even larger scale.
Going public is also just a fleeting thought at this point.
“We don’t need the capital,” Sanandres said. “And we’re focused on building what we hope will be the next great American brand.”