I’ve decided to do a case study on UnderU4Men, an apparel store located in Portland, OR, that caters specifically to connoisseurs of--wait for it--underwear! When I originally happened upon this store, I thought “what a silly idea”, but after multiple trips and purchases, I can say with confidence that their store was not a silly idea at all.
About: Steven Lien, the founder of UnderU4Men, grew up in Oregon where he fell in love with the outdoors and the many activities it offered, but was soon whisked away to Sweden where he began a lucrative career in technology. While in Sweden, he discovered that Western Europeans do not only obsess over fashion that we can see, but also fashion that we cannot see: underwear. With an untapped market here, he retired from the technology sector and moved back to the United states where he eventually started his business. Founded in 2006, Underu4Men has become the largest independent retailer of men’s underwear.
There are currently two locations; they have their “flagship” in downtown Portland where they do most of their business and their boutique in Seattle where they focus their look and feel on that of a more tradition European shop. Although there are differences between the two’s atmosphere, they both attempt to exude a laid back, approachable feel. All employees are knowledgeable with the different brands and what purpose each pair serves. A lot of men don’t know this, but not all underwear is the same! It helps greatly to have someone present who is well versed on the materials, fit, and purpose of the garment. Not only are the employees helpful, but the way that they have structured their inventory displays makes choosing purchases that much simpler. Underwear is laid out on display tables and dressed on mannequins making it very easy to feel the material and estimate body fit; their current inventory includes over 100 brands!
Apart from their primary source of revenue, they also offer a few different “bonus” services and inventory items. Other than underwear, they also carry athleticwear and swimwear. Furthermore, trying to connect with the hipster movement sweeping through Portland, they have also set up a barbershop and apothecary that sells beard related products. And my favorite bonus of all? Live underwear models every Saturday at 2pm (if you’re like me and into that kind of thing).
Value Proposition and Demographics: Their value proposition is pretty obvious: They provide the largest inventory of quality men’s underwear in the entire united states. But who wants to buy underwear? It sounds like a niche market, but it is huge within the gay community which makes up the majority of their demographic. Being located in downtown Portland (which is well known for their LGBT community), they have positioned themselves quite well. Although I have never seen Women make any purchases there, it is quite likely that they also make up a good portion of their demographic.
Marketing: Considering how limited they are with the nature of their business, they focus their advertisements heavily on social media. With a well-polished website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, they have done well to capture their piece of today’s market. My only concern is that they have pushed promotion pretty hard on some of them which to me comes off like a hard sell. For instance, they should be using Instagram to market and build their brand, not post pictures of the words “20% off discount”. That sort of stuff should be advertised on Facebook or their website. I also think that they could improve their marketing plan by taking out a late-night advertisement on local channels.
Opinion: My opinion is sprinkled throughout this piece, but just to reiterate, I think this store is awesome! I really like what they are doing and if they were to work on their marketing just a little bit more they could really capture a larger segment of the population. Other than that, I don’t think that they should change anything. If you are interested in picking up a nice pair of quality underwear (no Hanes here, yuck!), please check them out; it is well worth the money!