A (sharp-dressed) British invasion

For about 14 years, London-based Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts has been outfitting English men and women in its native country through catalogs – and for the past three years, online as well. Clearly a success on the home front, the $22 million shirts cataloger is now setting its sights further, planning an invasion of the U.S. market.

Inspired by a flurry of online purchases from American customers, the company opened a U.S. office in San Francisco this past March and test-mailed 8,000 catalogs (with prices in U.S. dollars) stateside in June. In September, the company will mail another 42,000 catalogs to several rented lists.

“I conducted a survey of 250 of our U.S. customers in January and found that, without exception, they would buy from us again and were satisfied with a 10-day average delivery time from the U.K.,” says James Stewart, Tyrwhitt’s vice president of marketing. “The results gave us the confidence that we were doing the right thing.”

Prior to the June launch, Tyrwhitt had been mailing its U.S. customers the British catalog, with prices in British pounds. Despite this, “it still had a reasonable response,” says Stewart.

For the time being, all fulfillment will be handed from Tyrwhitt’s U.K. distribution center, although the company does plan to open a small customer service center in the States to handle returns later this year. Once Tyrwhitt’s catalog sales in the U.S. match those in the U.K, Stewart says, the company will open a U.S. fulfillment center.

Multichannel, multinational

Tyrwhitt does 14% of its overall sales over the Internet, although a much higher percentage of its U.S. customers vs. its U.K. clients shop online. Tyrwhitt also recently showcased a few shirts on Dotdeals.com, a Redmond, WA-based portal of consumer-catalog discount offers.

In addition to its home country and the U.S., Tyrwhitt is actively marketing in other parts of Europe. For the past three years, Tyrwhitt has been mailing catalogs in Germany and France in their native languages and currencies. The company also has a store in London and plans to open a store here in the States in the near future.