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The evolution of Tip Top
The evolution of Tip Top
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Tip Top has updated its brand, including unveiling two new renovated concept stores this spring.

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The suit is having a moment. While the dress code for certain industries or events like weddings and graduations ensured it never disappeared, the suit has been overshadowed by casual sportswear for the past decade, especially among younger guys.

But while athleisure is still going strong, more guys are recognizing that nothing beats a suit for looking polished and confident. (The market research firm Euromonitor International reported that the Canadian menswear market saw robust growth in 2018, citing that younger and urban men are showing more interest in their physical appearance and fashion.) And today’s suit offerings and range of accessories give guys more options to look their best. Added to that, advances in fabric technology have upped the comfort factor so that men feel great, too.

While Tip Top, a Canadian brand that has been selling suits and related accessories for more than 100 years, is well poised for this new menswear era, the team behind it recognizes the challenges of attracting the next generation of customers, who may view it as their father’s store.

“We were a little out of step with where the world had gone,” says Lance Itkoff, President and CEO of Grafton Apparel Ltd., which owns Tip Top. He says the stores were starting to look a little too traditional and cluttered with merchandise, while other men’s retailers were embracing a lighter look and new technologies.

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Curated displays of merchandise will help customers create coordinated head-to-toe looks.

Itkoff joined Grafton in 2016 and, ever since, has been working to reinvigorate the brand, along with other Grafton-owned stores. “Tip Top has a wonderful history and a very strong foundation of business, but it just needed a lot of work,” Itkoff says.

Now, customers are starting to respond to the results of significant behind-the-scenes efforts. This spring, the company will unveil the first two renovated Tip Top stores at the Bramalea City Centre in Brampton, Ont., and the Southcentre Mall in Calgary, with more to follow throughout the year. The company has also revamped its merchandising and product selection at all 90 stores across the country.

At the newly designed concept stores, shoppers will see a cleaner and brighter look, with light wood accents and an overall airier feel. “We’re getting away from the dark and dingy,” says Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani La-croix Design of Toronto, which designed the new stores, as well as Tip Top’s in-store digital strategy.

The concept stores, which will serve as prototypes for any new stores or renovations across the chain, will also feature two digital walls running content — showcasing lifestyle stories relevant to real guys, such as commuting to work or attending a social function. The traditional bulky sales counter has been replaced with a coordinating table with a point-of-sale system discreetly built in. “It’s all about elevating the service and creating a better experience for customers,” Lacroix says.

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The concept stores will serve as prototypes for any new locations or renovations across the chain.

To that end, the new Tip Top stores will more prominently feature the in-house tailor. “They’ve always had an on-site tailor, but that wasn’t being leveraged. The tailor was always hidden in the backroom,” Lacroix says. The new design features larger change rooms that open onto the tailor’s work space, so men can be fitted and watch alterations in progress.

The new stores offer a significantly improved and uncluttered experience, with merchandise that is better curated and displayed. This streamlined, solutions-based approach helps customers not just pick out new pieces, but put them together so that they can create coordinated head-to-toe looks.

“The idea of buying a suit can be intimidating, walking in and wading through hundreds of suits in a random mix of colours, patterns, fits and prices,” says Tiffany Braund, Vice President of Merchandising for Tip Top. “We have made it easier.” The new approach at Tip Top organizes merchandise by brand and lifestyle, and offers a head-to-toe assortment of wardrobe solutions so a guy can put a look together quickly and with fewer decisions.

Finding the perfect fit is easier than ever for a simple reason: the company has focused on offering suits as separates. “A traditional nested suit — or a pant and jacket sold together — requires a lot of tailoring,” explains Braund. “Now you can shop for them separately, so you can buy your ideal size for your shoulder and waist, and even wear it to a wedding or other special event that same day. This allows him to best customize the fit to suit his body, style and comfort.”

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Change rooms now open onto the in-house tailor's work space, so customers can be fitted and watch alterations in progress.

Tip Top has focused considerably on evolving the quality of its merchandise, with technology-driven performance fabrics that are breathable and can repel stains, as well as providing a consistent fit. “There’s an older perception that a suit is stiff, however, with the influence of activewear and sportswear, all the technology and investment in comfort and stretch is now available in suits,” says Braund. Today’s suit is defined by a tailored sensibility that offers flexibility to move and more choices in fit, making it a cinch to find the ideal match for your body, budget and style.

“You could have a beautiful and expensive fabric for a suit, but if it’s not comfortable to wear, it won’t look good because it doesn’t feel good,” says Braund. New fabric blends inspired by the wearability of athleisure rival the look of traditional wools, but with better value. Braund advises reaching for this all-season fabric that can take you from a winter work party to a summer wedding.

Shoppers will also find international brands like Michael Kors, DKNY and Daniel Hechter Paris. For those also looking for casual options to complement their core suit lineups, Tip Top has introduced new sportswear product lines that incorporate more colour and pattern in its merchandise.

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These sweeping changes are being driven by a new philosophy: Tip Top is keenly focused on the idea that every man deserves to look and feel great, no matter his body, budget or lifestyle. “We did a lot of focus-group work, trying to understand what the pain points are for a guy when he buys a suit,” Itkoff says. “The new store experience and merchandising enhancements are designed to address that.”

That new mindset also inspired the company to evolve its marketing approach. In an effort to create relatable and emotional connections with real guys, Tip Top now captures ‘real’ moments of ‘real’ men in their clothes — showcasing the confidence men have when they look and feel great. The imagery is showcased in all in-store and digital marketing, including social media, as well as on its online store, www.tiptop.ca.

Itkoff says that every decision made at Tip Top is held up to the company’s core belief, that every man deserves to look great. “What better way than to show real people who look and feel great. We want every guy to be the best possible version of himself, not some aspirational version of someone else.”

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Content Studio, in consultation with an advertiser.
The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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