Nordstrom’s Trunk Club acquisition a success for Men’s Style Lab’s growth

It's no small news for ecommerce companies that luxury retail giant Nordstrom acquired Chicago-based Trunk Club for a reported $350 million earlier this week. But for one Des Moines startup, the acquisition validates a business idea that's less than two years old. Men's Style Lab, often billed as "Trunk Club for everyone else," offers online


Men’s Style Lab is the Trunk Club for “everyone else,” offering a similar service at a lower price point. 

It’s no small news for ecommerce companies that luxury retail giant Nordstrom acquired Chicago-based Trunk Club for a reported $350 million earlier this week.

But for one Des Moines startup, the acquisition validates a business idea that’s less than two years old.

Men’s Style Lab, often billed as “Trunk Club for everyone else,” offers online concierge clothing services for guys in need of a style upgrade, and following Trunk Club’s acquisition founder Derian Baugh says he’s even more confident that his company is filling a growing need.

“I’m asked a lot if I’m ever concerned that Trunk Club would enter our space from a price standpoint, and I’m not because they’ve been very outspoken about the fact that they’re for a certain type of upper-class person so it’d go against their brand,” Baugh told SPN.

“I think Nordstrom is a great fit (for Trunk Club) in terms of customer demographic. Nordstrom is known for having personal shoppers so there’s this nice symbiotic relationship there, but at the same time, it absolutely validates exactly what we’re doing with Men’s Style Lab.”

While ecommerce is nothing new, Baugh stresses that ecurated or assisted commerce sites like Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club and StitchFix, the female equivalent to Men’s Style Lab, are only increasing in popularity. And the validation of Nordstrom taking interest in arguably the first and most successful of those companies is something Baugh says will be invaluable as he continues to grow Men’s Style Lab.

“As a part of our executive summary, there’s a dedicated summary about other companies in our relatively similar space and the amount they were acquired for and so on,” he said. “Well now there’s a dead even comparison (with Trunk Club).”

The acquisition also has Baugh seriously considering what retail partners could be possible down the road for Men’s Style Lab. For now though, he says it’s still too early to tell.

Baugh launched a public beta of Men’s Style Lab last June and has since seen a high demand for the service’s offerings, quickly shipping more than 100 boxes each month. Then earlier this year the startup was accepted to gener8tor, a Madison, Wisc.-based 90-day accelerator.

The Men’s Style Lab team returned to Des Moines in late April, ready to continue their growth and on pace to break $1 million in sales by the end of 2014.

Post-accelerator, a more streamlined Men’s Style Lab emerges

Since returning from gener8tor, Baugh says Men’s Style Lab has made a number of notable changes to its process and how the startup interacts with its customers.

First, the company consolidated the packages it offers, previously at eight different price points, into three: a Basic Style Upgrade, Essential Style Upgrade and Premium Style Upgrade. 

“What we found was guys were drawn to about three prices anyways,” Baugh (right) said. “So what that’s done for us on the front-end is made the process simpler. But what we’re noticing on the back-end is that guys are keeping more clothes.”

Baugh attributes this shift to a change in marketing and customer mentality when it comes to the clothes Men’s Style Lab sends out.

“We’ve approached it more from the aspect of we’re not just sending or trying to sell you one or two shirts, we’re creating outfit combinations,” he said.

Second, Men’s Style Lab has expedited its shipping process to get customers their new duds quicker. In the past, the company shipped out clothing boxes monthly, meaning a customer would essentially pre-order a box for the following month and then wait four to six weeks for their shipment.

“Guys don’t like to wait that long for a pre-ordered box, they want it turned around right away so we’ve cushioned our inventory a bit to make that possible,” Baugh said. “We’re now able to get boxes out within 24 to 48 hours and, being in the middle of the country, we can get (boxes) to either coast in three days.

“It makes for a lot better convenience factor for our customers.”

The company also dropped its $25 styling fee for customers who decide to return all of their items without purchasing anything from Men’s Style Lab.

“If they don’t like the clothes in their box, that’s on us, not them,” Baugh said. “And we felt that ultimately it was a barrier to entry.”


Credits: Men’s Style Lab photo from Facebook. Derian Baugh photo courtesy of Baugh. 


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