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Business is business - For Stradel’s, time and committed teams are two key ingredients of product personalization

Extract from the book Business is business, published by Malpaso and Diabolocom

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Can we choose to address a particular client without knowing their preferences or needs?

Made-to-measure is all the rage. The Holy Grail of customer experience may be summed up in three words: simple, smooth and personalized. How do tailors go about attaining this goal? What sort of special service do they provide to their unique clientele? For Ludovic Kamgué, founder of Stradel’s, time and honesty are vital for anyone hoping to survive and thrive in this line of business.

Located at 65 avenue Bosquet, at the heart of the city’s wealthy 7th arrondissement where rich families and people of power and influence live side by side, Stradel’s service can be described in three words: know-how, time and discretion. After spending a few years working for large couture houses supplying prestigious brands, Ludovic Kamgué, a young textile engineer, took the plunge and opened his first store 18 years ago, in the 7th arrondissement, on rue du Champ de Mars.

“My job? Consultant dresser. I create the quality clothing worn by our customers or have it made to measure. Not many people spend more than 800€ on a suit. At this sort of price, quality is obviously important, and so is the customer relationship. What made-to-measure needs most is time: time to take measurements and to convince a man to wear something different to their normal clothes. You know, the sort of customer who’s looking for something new but feels reluctant to put on anything other than the clothes he’s been wearing for the last 33 years.”

Adapting schedules and even the layout of the store also turn out to be essential. The store has a room with a settee for spouses, who often have to wait around during fittings. A computer and books are also available to customers to pass the time or work during a pause in the fitting.

“Some of our customers call me at the very last minute, when they arrive in France, or when they have a window and want to refresh their wardrobe. Their last visit may have been two years ago, but it’s like picking up a conversation where we left off. As well as being available, you also need to know your customer really well, even if we don’t use specialist software to do that. We can’t store everything we know and learn about them over the course of our relationship, which can sometimes stretch back many years. So, what do we store? Their measurements and just the information we need.”

Does he simply believe in a technology-enabled customer experience? Might it not help him to industrialise the concept?

“I don’t really see how it can in our line of business, because each situation is different: time and committed employees are the only two essential elements, I think.” The time in question is the years it took to establish his vision and to be recognized for it: “This store on avenue Bosquet has been open for eighteen years. People know that if you manage to survive in our business and in this neighbourhood for long enough, it means you are serious about what you do. You can’t hurry these things, even if you’d like to work faster sometimes. You need time to recruit people as well, because finding a team of sales advisors who are sufficiently committed and honest is becoming more and more difficult. Because of the sort of clientele we have, we can take tens of thousands of euros at the till on certain days: if money makes you lose your mind, and if the discretion you need to do this job is not part of your values, we can’t work together.”

The desire to remain faithful to the company’s values is greater than the desire for growth at any price. In fact, when we talk about certain competitors who operate in the same niche, the word “usurper” comes to the lips of Stradel’s founder. Still as passionate about the product and the tailoring profession as twenty years ago, he is not willing to lower his level of service.

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 Extract from the book Business is business, published by Malpaso and Diabolocom, in April 2019. Author Manuel Jacquinet. http://www.malpaso.org/publications/