A Suit That Fits: Warren Bennett and David Hathiramani
How Warren Bennett and David Hathiramani have tailored a business that fits high-street and online retail models perfectly
An online tailor may not strike you as the most obvious business for an aeronautical engineering graduate and a computer scientist to set up, but A Suit That Fits is measuring up nicely.
Founders Warren Bennett and David Hathiramani spotted a gap in the market for selling hand-tailored suits on the web, at ready-to-wear prices, after Bennett had a beautiful woollen suit made while volunteering in Nepal.
On Bennett’s return to the UK, the pair went to Hampstead Market and displayed the olive green garment. Within minutes, they had taken two orders.
They knocked up a website in 24 hours, with a vision of customers ordering suits online that would then be made by the Nepalese tailors. However, it didn’t quite turn out that way.
“We discovered that customers preferred to be professionally measured for their first suit, and to feel the fabric,” Bennett recalls.
So, the pair rented an office on Hathiramani’s credit card. It was a gamble that paid off. They now sell 550 suits a month, have three permanent offices in London and eight part-time ‘tailor stop’ branches across the UK. Their tailors also visit companies.
“We opted for the online model first, because it’s extremely distributable. All you need in an office is a computer, an internet connection and a measuring tape,” Bennett says.
The website is the shop window and customers can still order online. In fact, most repeat business comes via the web. Using their engineering and software expertise, Bennett and Hathiramani have developed a style wizard, offering customers 40 billion design combinations.
Meanwhile, a measuring wizard helps people to measure themselves and get a suit that fits perfectly.
The site has rocketed up the Google rankings. “Being top in the UK for ‘hand-tailored suits’ is a big advantage for us,” says Bennett. “I think we’re top four in the world for ‘suits’.
“Google looks at what’s relevant, and at the links. We’re always talking about suits, have delivered over 17,000 and have lots of great customers who like to push traffic towards us, because they’re so enthusiastic about the service.”
Much business comes through referrals, and the suits often do the talking. “We get half of our new customers on the back of them being told by one of their friends where they bought their suit,” Bennett says.
Like all good ideas, A Suit That Fits has spawned several imitators, but Bennett views the likes of M&S as the real competition. “We’re taking business from the High Street, because we’re the same price” says Bennett. “Why buy a suit off the peg if you can get one handmade for the same price?”
In fact, he says the arrival of more online tailors could actually be a good thing, familiarising more people with the idea of buying a suit online.
Along with 20 employees in the UK, A Suit That Fits now has 70 tailors and 10 admin staff in Nepal. “We pay 50% over the local rate for our tailoring needs, which ensures our workers are well-treated, and we attract and retain the very best of Nepalese tailoring,” explains Bennett.
More branches across the UK are planned, starting with moving the West End office to larger premises, as it’s unable to service demand for walk-in appointments.
“We’re also going to grow the number of tailor stops, gradually covering the whole of the UK,” says Bennett. “It’s our quest to become Britain’s local tailor.”