Northwest News

Men's clothing sales go mobile with Pursuit on Wheels

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Haberdashery is "following in the footsteps of food trucks," according to Nate DeMars.

The Northwest Side resident, whose plans for a temporary men's clothing store morphed into a six-day-a-week retail operation at 1572 N. High St. across from the campus of Ohio State University, has taken his act on the road after all.

In addition to Pursuit the store, DeMars is now the owner of Pursuit on Wheels, an 18-foot former Cape Cod potato chip delivery truck.

"Strategically, what we're most excited about is to bring that store to customers," DeMars said.

"We see that as office buildings where there's a group of younger guys who may need to dress up frequently," he said.

"We see that as frat houses where guys need suits for various events."

And, he added, the mobile version of the store will enable him to better serve an underestimated slice of the potential market for fashionable young men's clothing -- high school students.

When spring arrives, DeMars said, he hopes to be able to take the truck to locations where boys looking for something to wear to the prom might opt for a suit rather than rent a tuxedo "they will probably be embarrassed about the photos of 20 years down the road."

DeMars opened Pursuit in late 2012 as a pop-up store, a modern twist on retailing that's only intended to be around for a short while.

"The original idea always had some kind of mobile component to it because a big chunk of our audience was going to be students," he said.

"Fortunately we found that the store had broad appeal here in Columbus."

Instead of Pursuit being open for two months and then perhaps moving to other campus areas around the state, DeMars said repeat customers and word of mouth spreading to young professionals forced him to rethink his business plan and create a permanent store.

"We had done a few events at fraternities, kind of to test out the pop-up model," DeMars said.

But the logistics of hauling suits, ties, shirts and shoes in and out of a rental truck then setting up in a frat house were cumbersome at best, he found. Nevertheless, mobile marketing seemed to be all the rage at trade shows DeMars attended in Las Vegas and on the streets of New York City and Los Angeles.

Once the idea of going mobile took hold, DeMars said the real challenge was settling on a vehicle of just the right size. Suits are pretty bulky and have to be tried on, so space was needed for not only the merchandise but a changing room.

DeMars also didn't want customers "to feel like they're in the back of a truck."

Buses and recreational vehicles certainly fit the space bill, but not -- for the most part -- parking spaces.

"We figured the best bet was the step-van approach, like the ones FedEx and UPS use," DeMars said. "If they can drive all over and fit into tight spaces, that was probably our best bet."

The store on wheels set up on a recent weekend at a wedding show and at a Columbus Young Professionals charity fundraiser in the Arena District.

DeMars, who has two full-time employees, three part-timers and 10 "interns and ambassadors" working for him, admitted he went into suit-selling without know very much at all about the business.

"I've certainly learned a lot," he said. "It's been pretty awesome. All the things that I've had to learn makes what we do have an educational component to it."

While some of Pursuit's clientele are regular readers of GQ, DeMars added, the majority need a suit for some important event but don't know the first thing about buying one.

In fact, the owner said he and his employees frequently have to teach a young guy how to tie a tie.

"If this works out the way we hope, I see this being something that we replicate on maybe a regional level," DeMars said.

More information is available at www.pursuityourself. com.

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