By Mario Toneguzzi
For about a decade, Andrew’s Milano has brought a touch of Italy to Toronto with its affordable, high-quality menswear and accessories.
The store, which opened in 2009 in downtown Toronto at Bay Street and Adelaide Street in the ‘Richmond Adelaide Centre’, had a setback in January when the restaurant above it in the PATH flooded and caused the fashion retailer to close down.
“We have rebuilt the store with a brand new, fresh look,” said Sam Moses, owner of the 800-square-foot store. “We wanted to take the model and kind of make it a little bit more modern and a little bit more fresher but to stick to the core principles. Selling the neckwear, which is our main product. Selling the socks.
“We stick to our product but it’s a little bit more modern. We’re kind of upscaling, not only upscaling but modernizing a concept that started in Italy in the 1990s.”
The store is a chain from Italy carrying Made in Italy neckties, pocket squares, socks, bowties, shirts.
“All the accessories that a man would need to go to work in a professional environment and to go to formal events. We do quite a bit of weddings. Custom wedding orders. We do black tie events. Our number one seller is still the black tie,” said Moses.
“We service the business crowd. We've grown over the years and are now a destination for executives looking for high-quality Italian products at a fair price and people looking for great gift ideas.”
Over time, Moses said he noticed the Canadian market is very different than the Italian market. It was then that the Toronto store started to get into the socks business.
“And the colourful socks trend is what we really jumped onto. We added the socks and we brought them in from Italy and we bring them in from China as well - a more economical line. And the socks now make up 30 per cent of our business,” said Moses.
“And the sock line that we came up with that we sell in the store that we own is our concept called Sockrates and it’s a play on the philosopher Socrates.”
The store’s location at the Richmond-Adelaide Centre lends itself to a professional, executive crowd - young and senior executives.
“The socks have really provided us an opportunity to cater to more people. Not just people wearing ties or pocket squares or formal white shirts but also to just every person - from the secretary to the cleaning staff to the CEO. It’s unbelievable. The sock has really opened up our world that we see a lot more different types of people in the store,” said Moses.
He said the store also does a lot of business with women buying for men and because of that when the store re-opens it will sell high-quality scarves to women.
“Over nine years of seeing women come into my store it took me nine years but I figured out maybe I should be selling stuff to women as well,” he quipped. “We do a lot of business with women. I’d say 40 per cent of our business is ladies buying for men whether it’s their son or their husband or their boyfriend. I would say some of our top customers are ladies.”
Part of the store’s expansion over the years has been online sales but also B2B as it sells to other menswear stores.
“We do quite a bit of business in B2B corporate sales meaning if a company wants to brand neckwear and scarves to give away to their clients,” he said. “You just can’t wait for customers. We kind of went out and got our own customers. We got the corporate clients.
CONTRAST: The 3 photos above are the ‘before’ shots of the store prior to the flood. The new design reflects a more modern aesthetic.
“The address of 120 Adelaide is a very powerful address. So the retail store is one thing but the B2B is really where we’re focusing now because we’re doing a lot of corporate products - socks, neckwear, scarves. And we’ve really streamlined our process.”
Moses said the company has thought of expanding to other locations but he’s hesitated because the current location has a specific niche market.
It has however opened up Sockrates pop-up locations throughout the city during the holiday season.
“The response to the socks has been tremendous,” he said.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org