Photo by Salt Water New England

Thursday, September 29, 2022

When/why do buy directly from the manufacturer vs. through a store?

A reader question:

The internet provides unparalleled access to stores all over the world, but also the manufacturers themselves.  So I am curious if people still prefer curated sources (stores) or to go right to source (manufacturers).  When do readers prefer one over the other?   

24 comments:

  1. This is a tough call. Some stalwarts have always been overwhelming majority mail order, as in LL Bean and Lands’ End, back when they were “really” Lands’ End. Today, everything is avail on line for the most part. But I try to shop locally as much as possible. I would hate to see a day with even more UPS and Amazon trucks barreling through my neighborhood - it is quite annoying already - and the only storefronts left being restaurants and medical offices. Long live the brick and mortar! JDV

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    1. Ironically, Lands' End has stores. There used to be an L.L. Bean store near where I live in Northern Virginia, but they closed a few months ago. Now, the closest one is too far away (by my standards). Supposedly, they are looking for another location around here.

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    2. Which L.L. Bean closed in NOVA?

      Thanks,

      SassyinClifton,VA

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    3. The L.L. Bean store in Tyson's Corner Mall closed. The closest one for us now is in North Bethesda, just off Rockville Pike. There is an R.E.I. store on the opposite corner. It looks like parking would be difficult. The Orvis store is still there at Tyson's, beyond the mall on down Rt. 7.

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  2. I rely much more on online ordering today than I did a decade ago. Many brick and mortar stores have limited inventory, and I may be a picky purchaser. Made to measure shirts wiped out visits to local stores, though Brooks Brothers' decline contributed. Ironically, I'm more apt to purchase from LL Bean in person due to the proximity of two good local stores; in my youth, Freeport was the only place to buy in-person.

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  3. andrew has a point about local availability, for example, Brooks selling the classic OCBD only online, until, of course, they solved that problem by no longer selling it period. Although, I did see a selection of the Madison ALPHA version must iron claiming to be Traditional and classic in their Detroit airport store on Monday night. JDV

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  4. I like ordering directly from small businesses who are also manufacturers when their products are of the sort I want to see endure. Examples are Mercer, Leather Man, Alden, Rancourt, Jack Donnelly, and so on.

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  5. While I enjoy local shopping, stores in town change quite often, such as Orvis moving on. I also appreciate online options where the merchant has a useful web page design and search filter. I expect that some high-end stores will become even more selective for bricks & mortar locations, as part of their efforts to reduce shoplifting losses.

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  6. The Failed AristocratSeptember 29, 2022 at 11:01 PM

    There is something indelibly pleasurable about walking into a store and feeling a well made piece of clothing that will never be replaced. Having said that, living in a place where the nearest Brooks Brothers, JCrew, Allen Edmunds and Ralph Lauren stores are 150 miles away, the ease of online shopping has been a God-send. There is a definite opportunity for cost savings ordering directly from the manufacturer can have its advantages. The online men's shoe and accessories manufacturer, Beckett and Simonon makes high quality shoes that are the equal to the afore mentioned Allen Edmonds for 1/2 the price.

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  7. My preference is for British brands who manufacture in the UK and have shops in central London. A few examples are Emma Willis shirts, Drake's OCBDs, Turnbull & Asser ties, Tricker's shoes Crockett & Jones loafers, Private White VC jackets, John Smedley knitwear, Sunspel (various) and Fred Perry polos. I enjoy the personal service and like being able try on garments to confirm the sizes. However, there are often factory and retail store bargains for those brands too. It's worth checking out the Anderson & Co and Jamieson's websites for genuine Shetland Island sweaters.

    I also buy from stores that sell classic clothing at reasonable prices, especially Cordings for twill, corduroy, moleskin and flannel trousers in the seasonal promotions. Cordings new range of coats is fantastic. John Simons' OCBD and Madras shirts (made in London) are good value too. It's impossible to get them from the manufacturer.

    I only shop in High Street stores at sale time for hot summer and holiday clothing. This year's half price bargains were more Gant Madras shirts, a few pairs of Timberland poplin shorts and lightweight Sebago boat shoes. I also miss Orvis, especially their Signature chinos and shorts which were superbly made.

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  8. If you don’t know well a manufacturer, it’s always a bit of a roll of the dice when you buy on line, concerning the proper size. Add to the gamble, if alterations are needed, seamstresses and tailors are increasingly difficult to locate.

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    1. I am doubly blessed to be an OTR 41/35 and to walk into Ace Tailors and have Vanessa say, "1 3/4" cuff and no break, right?"

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  9. I am not a fan of shopping in general, for anything. If I can cut out the middleman and go directly to the source, I'll do it. That being said, I am sure there are benefits to shopping out of an establishment...I just can't think of what they are right now. I do like shopping at farmers' markets though, but that sort of feels like going to the source, to me.

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  10. Because I like and respect this particular site, I never vent here... but this time I will make an exception.

    On FB, there were ads upon ads of some good looking Brooks Bros. stuff that I actually liked. I went to their website. NADA. I was in Atlanta a few weeks back--again NADA in their Lenox store. WTH? Why advertise (LIMITED) merchandise on social media sites and then not offer it actually for sale??? I am not interested in cattle calls or "getting there first" merchandising. If you are selling a product--at rip off prices--and I am willing to pay , STOCK THE STINKIN' PRODUCT! I don't need their product. I happened to like this or that. But if it's not actually for sale when I want it, i.e. you are selling it in sufficient numbers that it is available other than Friday after Thanksgiving and I have to trample someone to rip it out of someone else's hand, I am not interested, Brooks Bros. (rant done)

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  11. I prefer to buy from local retailers so that the stores remain open in my local area. I would hate for everything to become online and nothing else.

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  12. We love and support all our wonderful retail partners, but it's nice to have an online presence to reach those folks who don't happen to be able to shop in person. So my answer is shop both ways!

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  13. Still love to walk in a shop, and enjoy all that comes with the experience.

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    1. Seconded! Walking into a well-designed, nicely-stocked shop is sans pareil.

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  14. Best curated source out there is O'Connell's. I have heard the shop itself has to be visited in person to be believed although there is a nice short video here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHcKbnOQs2c). But I also love to buy directly from some of the individual brands such as Mercer or Alden.

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    1. I order from O'Connell's quite a bit, but I've never been to Buffalo. I'd like to visit sometime. It does seem like they're extremely well stocked.

      Even among the old school menswear stores, I've found that the increasingly have limited stock on hand.

      For example, last February or so I needed a new pair of grey flannels after blowing out my old ones. I went to my local menswear shop that's been around in one form or another for over 100 years, hoping to both try them on before buying, and contribute a bit to sustaining a local shop. No such luck. The salesman said they usually get one size run of flannels in the fall, and once they're gone, they're gone for the year. He couldn't even order me a pair if I paid in advance.

      Looking around, the racks that used to be stuffed with trousers and jackets are now sparsely populated by the "golf clothes" genre of apparel (shudder).

      It seems like O'Connell's is an increasingly rare bird of a menswear store that still has a good stock of classic clothing on hand.

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  15. Where I grew up in Yorkshire, it was very industrialised. There were multiple textile manufacturers all within a few miles drive and you could go to the actual factory shops or staff sales of Burberry, Jaeger, GB Clothing, Burton, P&B. It helped that my dad worked most of his life in textiles and knew where they all were and how to get in.

    It was a great experience to be able to smell the grease of the machines wafting in from the factory as you browsed the rails of garments, most of which could be anything up to half of the retail price.

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  16. Mary B. Rose of Lancaster University, a business historian now retired, has written extensively about the British textile industry. One very interesting project she was involved in was the Mallory Clothing Replica Project. The goal of the project was to recreate as far as possible the clothing worn by Mallory and possibly Irvine on their summit attempt on Everest in 1924. It was based on the fragments of clothing recovered when Mallory's body was discovered in 1999. They were able to produce a more or less exact copy of his entire outfit and concluded that he was adequately clothed for an Alpine-style climb to the summit, although there is no proof that they made it. One of the things they found was that most of his clothing was fairly advanced for the time and that also, most of it was custom made to measure. They had the assistance of several specialists in the textile industry, including Mike Parsons, also now retired, who was involved in the British outdoor trade industry for decades. The British textile industry isn't what it used to be, but neither is the American textile industry. But neither is dead yet.

    Viberg Boots, a Canadian company not directly involved in the project, nevertheless produced a copy of Mallory's boots.

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    1. I've read a bit about historical outdoor clothing. Mallory was far better clothed than those on the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition.

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    2. I don't think the Scott expedition failed because of clothing but for other reasons. Ultimately, it was a failure of leadership, even though Scott was considered a hero, if tragic. It is as though a failure of that sort requires a heroic tragedy. Technically, his expedition was a success in that he did actually reach the pole. And strictly speaking, the failure was in their failure to return alive, which has also been said of Mallory and Irvine if they had in fact summitted. However, the biggest failure to Scott and his companions probably was that they got there second. After all, who remembers who was the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic?

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