Q & A Sessions: Part I – With Mr. David Goldman, CEO by Zuzu Ramia
Catching a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a retail fashion brand can be tremendously rewarding, especially when it’s a globally recognized name. With this series of Q & A interview sessions we’ll be talking with the entrepreneurs behind the successful, family-owned and operated retail business of Boys’Co.
Let’s begin at the very top with the CEO, Mr. David Goldman. After being in the clothing business for 42 years, David has deservedly earned his respectful place amongst the industry’s royal elite. We caught up with the always-impeccably-dressed man to discuss the secret ingredients that make Boys’Co a prominent clothing landmark with men of style.
Q: Hi David. Thanks for chatting with us and congratulations on this, the 30 Year Anniversary of Boys’Co! To what do you attribute your overall success within the retail fashion industry?
A: Thank you. We work very hard to improve our business by staying up to date with related technologies; by maintaining a certain level of efficiency, by implementing compelling marketing campaigns and by improving our social media objectives. Retail fashion is my creative outlet. The stores, in my view, are the palates and the brands we carry are the colours we use to create the ‘artistic’ environment. Add to that our decor, music and our many wonderful sales and management associates and you have an ever-changing fashion picture.
Q: I like that. What keeps you motivated and excited about creating this masterpiece of yours?
A: While at a recent tradeshow in Vegas, a competitor saw me running around as usual, and stopped me to ask: “David, Why? Why are you still doing this after all these years?”
My simple response was “It’s still fun!”
This is an industry full of young-thinking, inspirational, creative people. These facets keep me motivated and allow me to remain excited to come to work everyday!
Q: If you weren’t in fashion, what would you be doing?
A: If I wasn’t in fashion, I think I would have enjoyed a career in either music or advertising.
Q: How do you go about choosing the brands or styles you carry?
A: We’re very focussed on slowly growing our brand list, but more importantly on improving each season by building stronger relationships with our existing fashion houses. We usually consider brands we’ve heard of or seen around the world… or sometimes designers simply contact us. Having said that, we’re also proud of our ‘adjacencies’, that is to say how well the brands we’ve chosen hang with each other. We also say its important as to which brands we don’t carry, as it is the ones we do. As such, we turn down many brands each season who would love to share in our retail environment.
Q: So what’s hot for you on the scene these days?
A: I enjoy a variety of styles from around the world; I’m especially influenced by Japanese and American designers right now. We try to find well valued, quality brands with a unique point of view. We tend to choose styles that are non-overlapping esthetically with the others we have. We sometimes choose the “diffusion” line of the more well-known luxury brands. For example, Alexander McQueen is a luxury brand that also has ‘McQ’ as its diffusion brand; “Comme des Garcons” is the luxury brand, while “PLAY – by Comme des Garcons” is the diffusion line that we have.
Q: How do you see the fashion landscape changing in the near future?
A: Vancouver is becoming more of an international city, with many companies such as Prada, Dior, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom arriving here. To me, that means there’s a sense of competitiveness but more so, an opportunity to attain an increasing piece of the market by putting our best foot forward as Vancouver attracts a more global audience. We have to be on the ball with all aspects of our operations, while staying within the parameters of a locally owned-and-operated family business. We’ll compete with the large brands in every aspect we can. As Vancouver grows, Boys’Co wishes to grow with it in terms of global brands.
Q: How did you get into this business?
A: I started as a teenager at 15 working in my dad’s store. After college I moved to London to work in a fashion store called ‘Sydney Smith Ltd’ on Kings Road in Chelsea. When I returned, I told my dad I wanted to give this a try and started as a regular employee – both learning and making mistakes along the way. Soon after I became a buyer, I started working in our then new jean shop, called Bus Stop For Jeans, which was a predecessor to my dad’s Ivy Room, which he started in the 1950’s, selling the ivy league looks of the day, like skinny Levi’s and oxford cloth sport shirts.
Q: And Boys’Co?
A: During the early 80’s we saw a huge revolution in menswear where designer names such as Giorgio Armani and Polo were mixing lifestyles with esthetics. We had signed a lease to open another Bus Stop store in the newly renovated Oakridge Mall and were set to name it “Boys’Co Bus Stop” as we had an updated component in it. The day after we opened, I realized how ‘not Bus Stop’ it was, and I changed the name by dropping the “Bus Stop”, and the pure Boys’Co designer fashion store was launched with much of our fashion coming from Paris and London.
Q: And the rest is history…
A: The history really began when my father launched Murray Goldman Menswear back in 1946. It’s still one of the oldest ongoing accounts here in Vancouver, with the Bank of Nova Scotia, still our bank to this day. He made this business fun; no one was better at selling or marketing. He worked for the Bay right after he got married in 1944, and one day decided that he could do it better, and he did. We’ve had three generations working here together at one point; my father, my son Sam who’s been here for over 15 years, and me of course.
Q: Would you like to see his great grandchildren carrying on this family business?
A: Only if they felt this is the right business; And who knows if this is right for them? I would recommend to anyone that’s young, to stay in school until they find what their best direction may be, maybe even see what they may be passionate about! This industry is all about change; you need to have the desire to keep pace with those changes and try to stay ahead of the market to survive and more so, evolve.
Q: Who influences (or has influenced) you in the industry?
A: I am blessed with having the need to travel for our business. It has taken me to all corners of the world and does so often. In any major city I can walk a district, fall into any number of stores and get inspiration from any kind of brand I may or may not be familiar with. The same could be said of the many fashion magazines I regularly read or art galleries I visit. Every touch-point is an influence, whether we realize it or not. Part of my job is to visit other stores. I’m often overwhelmed and yet impressed by Selfridges in London for both their visual and customer experience. In fact, London may be the greatest place in the world to get the best overview of Men’s fashion. I learned a lot from the stores I visited in Japan recently. And New York has so many shops and areas full of great retailers, especially some super independents like us, anywhere from Soho to Brooklyn. I also regard a great many of my competitors with a good deal of respect, some of whom are big chains right here in Canada, but I wouldn’t want to take on the critical mass required to operate them – and that’s as much a lifestyle decision as a business decision. After all, look where we live! At one time, we had 14 locations under 5 different trade names which meant more people and more responsibilies – and we even carried ladies wear as well. But we decided to “right-size” instead of “downsize” by sticking to menswear, and it was the right decision – and we’ve never looked back.
Q: Do you see yourself as a fashion or trend setter?
A: I strive to interpret the industry through my own eyes, which allows for a variety of influencers, and then we place our (Boys’Co) stamp or fingerprint on it and take advantage of the opportunities presented to us and adapt them accordingly. This takes us back to the brand adjacencies I spoke of earlier as just one example.
Q: What advice would you give a guy on how to dress?
A: It’s funny, because it doesn’t matter how much you pay for an item, it’s how well your “eye” can put an outfit together. We often get customers mixing and matching brands from different price points – its referred to as ‘high & low’ dressing. It’s all about how you make the clothes look together… of course you can (and should), always get the help of a sales associate – that’s what they’re trained to do, or pick up a fashion magazine and learn from the editorial content. We as retailers job is to educate the consumer, but they can educate themselves as well! We’re all exposed to the media with famous celebrities and musicians that influence the public. Guys are influenced by seeing other guys looking cool. There are some men who simply don’t care, but many are becoming more interested and caring about fashion. Guys have to want and desire to look good. More and more, there are fewer rules in the industry allowing everyone to “play” with fashion.
Q: What’s hot for this summer?
A: I’d say casual chic. Dressing up a bit more. Sport jackets, chino casual pants. Colour; mixing colours and patterns together. Floral shirts. Things to have fun with!
Q: What do you think constitutes a fashion statement?
A: Attitude and confidence go a long way. The other day I saw Pharrell Williams in an interview about his “Happy” song, and he came out in his trademark huge, funky hat and he absolutely nailed it.
Q: That’s a great song; I love it.
A: We do too! Every time it comes on, my wife and I just start dancing.
Q: Cool; it’s an infectious song. Any final words for us David?
A: Just that this business is about creating relationships with people. Both our customers and our fashion brand suppliers. And that makes me happy… providing a fun and happy environment for people when they’re shopping or trying on clothes. That’s what we do at Boys’Co… create and maintain an excellent customer experience – and we receive lots of excellent feedback doing that.
There you have it gentlemen; a short peek inside the mind of an inspirational, successful Vancouver entrepreneur. Thanks to Mr. David Goldman for sharing his time and thoughts with us.
Stay tuned for upcoming interview sessions with other key influences within the Boys’Co family masterpiece.
Zuzu J. Ramia is a contributing blogger, marketer and business development manager with the IT design firm Satel Creative. He’s a passionate writer, photographer, percussionist, speaker and radical environmentalist, constantly striving towards conscious personal development.