Stitch Fix has built a big business quickly by mixing technology with a human touch to help style women nationwide. Soon it plans to try the same recipe on men.
The San Francisco-based online retailer, which sends customers clothing and accessories styled to their tastes to try on at home, has started selling men’s clothing to a few thousand customers in a closed beta test, company executives told Re/code. This new men’s business will launch widely sometime in the fall.
“Since Day 1, people have told me you should have started with men,” founder and CEO Katrina Lake said in an interview. “People perceive men should be easier, that men will love the convenience of this. … I’m proud we did women first because we learned a ton, and are better for it. It’s the right time to invest in men.”
The new business will be run by Mike Smith, formerly the company’s chief operations officer and a longtime veteran of Walmart. In an interview, he said he imagines the core pieces of the women’s business will transfer over to men: Customers pay a $20 “styling fee” for a delivery of five items of clothing and accessories, and can use that money toward a purchase of one or more of the items in their package. The fee is non-refundable.
But the company is expecting that feedback from its male beta customers may lead to some changes in the women’s business, whether it be the cadence of scheduled deliveries men prefer, or how much of the men’s selection is comprised of private-label brands that Stitch Fix creates versus clothing from brands created by outside designers and companies. Private-label brands can help create affordable alternatives to outsider brands since Stitch Fix is cutting out a costly middle man, allowing for lower prices. That will be crucial to being able to offer nice stuff to a broad range of customer types with varying budgets.
“We don’t want this to just be a coastal brand for men’s clothing,” Smith said, perhaps alluding to competitor Trunk Club, which is owned by Nordstrom and sells higher-priced apparel targeted to men with a lot of disposable income. “We also want to serve the guy in Kentucky.”
Another difference between the two companies is how a given selection of clothing is chosen. Stitch Fix prides itself on its technology team that has built an algorithm that the company says helps whittle down inventory choices for a stylist to select for a given customer. But Stitch Fix doesn’t guarantee a customer the same stylist, nor does it allow for in-person consultations — both of which Trunk Club does.
Lake insinuated in a follow-up email that she think there’s room for both models. “[W]e see companies like ourselves and Trunk Club as being at the forefront of disrupting traditional retail, which has become an increasingly terrible experience for customers.”
A big question with the new business is whether Stitch Fix can convert men who try the service into repeat buyers at the same rate as women. Re/code reported last year that Stitch Fix, which was valued at around $300 million in a 2014 investment, was expecting revenue of more than $200 million in 2015. Lake declined to comment on the company’s financials, and a spokeswoman would only say that the company has sent out “millions” of “fixes” over its five-year history.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.