The lure of setting up shop in Derry’s own wedding hub was just too good an opportunity for suit hire specialist Lorcan Doherty to turn down.
The new proprietor of The Suit Lounge in Great James’ Street had a decade of industry experience behind him when the opportunity to base himself there presented itself last year.
With the support of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Go For It programme and Enterprise North West he seized his chance.
The programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.
“I knew all about selling suits having worked in Tomorrows Bridal and Menswear in the Diamond for ten years so I had plenty of experience in the day to day aspects of suit hire such as customer service, merchandising, stock control and ordering,” he explained.
“I had absolutely no idea about business registration, rates and all the other paperwork involved in starting a limited company though.
“I made contact with the Council about the Go For It programme and they were a huge help. They put me in touch with Carrie McCafferty at Enterprise North West and she brilliantly mentored me on how to prepare a Business Plan and what documents I needed to source before making my presentation for an ENI Start Up loan.
“It meant I was able to focus on what I was good at, the practical aspects of making the business work, while the Go For It advisers looked after all the necessary red tape of set-up.
“That gave me great peace of mind and greatly eased the pressure of start-up.
“The personal customer service we offer can be very labour intensive, it can take over an hour to look after one customer’s needs and if you have five or six customers the day is done.
“Designing a business plan and collating all the documentation would have taken me weeks but Enterprise North West were able to come and tell me what they needed and came back with everything done.”
Situated in the same unit as Amore Bridal Wear, Lorcan has already experienced the benefit of passing trade from one of the best known bridal stockists in the town.
With a hairdresser, makeup artist and florist all on the same street the area offers a ‘one stop shop’ for wedding retail.
“Amore decided to focus on the women’s side of things so that created the opportunity for me to take over their men’s wear,” Lorcan said.
“The opportunity to base myself here was just too good to turn down, with Amore and other bridal stockists nearby it is already a specialised area of the town for weddings and other functions.
“Brides can be preparing for weddings for up to two years so when they look upstairs and see us it plants the seed in their minds, it might be a year down the line before the grooms come to us but they know we exist.”
It has become increasingly difficult for independent retailers to compete with high street giants in recent years but Lorcan firmly believes a niche still exists for suit hire and the personal touch they offer.
“Suits aren’t cheap if you want one that looks really well, the average price is around £375,” he noted.
“A lot of people only wear it for one event so it’s a lot to pay when we can offer them a full suit for hire for £75 and without the costs of cleaning and a new shirt and tie for each event.
“Young men are very fashion conscious these days and if they have a few events to go to in a year they want a different suit for each one.
“Once people have hired with us once we have their measurements on file so we can quickly accommodate them in the future
“I know of a father and son who went to a High Street store and they couldn’t even offer them a measuring tape, 20 minutes later they came to me and I was able to get them suits that matched their body shape and they appreciated that personal service.”
Having successfully got up and running with the support of Go For It, Lorcan is keen to improve and expand the business in the future but he is equally conscious that the personal aspect of his service isn’t lost.
“I would love to expand my space to create a better customer experience by adding a lounge and offering more lines, the space above me is free so there is the possibility of that in the future.
“Whatever we do in the future it will be important that we continue to offer a personal service and do the small things well because that is the main ethos of what we do and it won’t work otherwise.” For more information register at: http://www.goforitni.com