The Buckle Bucks the Recession
By Tom Ryan
April marked the 21st consecutive
month that The Buckle generated double-digit comparable store gains. The continued
outsized performance has many wondering how exactly the mall-based denim
chain from Kearney, Nebraska is doing it.
reason said to be partly responsible for the teen chain’s success is location. Often
found in rural communities in Texas and the Midwest, these regions have
generally faired better than those in other parts of the country.
Another is that national
brands make up 70 percent of its mix while many competitors carry only
their own labels. Big sellers currently include Big
Star, MEK, Lucky Brand, Silver Hurley, Billabong, Affliction, Roxy and
Ed Hardy. The national assortments are complemented
by lower-priced yet higher margin private label assortments.
Writing back in December
for the Motley Fool, Kristin Graham also believes the chain has
benefited from a sophisticated inventory management systems that enables
daily delivery of new inventory to continually freshen assortments.
Other analysts have touted
its customer service levels, including a layaway program for jeans. Despite
being around for 50 years, the 390-unit chain is also seen as having not overexpanded compared
to Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle.
Writing last week in The
Wall Street Journal, James Stewart noted his own problems understanding
the concept since no stores are in New York City. He decided to call
his niece, Maggie, at Franklin College outside of Indianapolis to get
some insight from her sorority members at Pi Beta Phi.
One sorority member said, "[The
salespeople] are always really attentive and friendly and they always end
up bringing you so many other cute jeans and shirts to try on … and then
you end up buying more than you planned on."
Another said, "I
shop there to buy Silver jeans. They are the only brand that fits me, and
last many years. I also like the type of clothing they have, which is different
from other places like AE [American Eagle Outfitters], Hollister, A&F
[Abercrombie & Fitch]…
I feel the clothes they sell are definitely worth the price."
Mr. Stewart concluded
that The Buckle’s appeal seems to be grounded in fit, selection and service
rather than a fashion fad, such as Crocs footwear.
isn’t cheap (the company says it sells ‘medium to better priced’ apparel)
but still represents value to customers. They end up buying more than they
planned on," wrote Mr. Stewart.
He notes that while The
Buckle will face increased competition as it heads into the Northeast –
its first New York store opened in Buffalo in February – the formula is working.
I wouldn’t go so far
as to call Buckle the next Wal-Mart of retailing, but it’s clearly on a
growth trajectory," wrote Mr. Stewart.
"If it can emerge from the recession with this kind of momentum, it
could be the retail success story of the decade."
Why do you think The Buckle has been to so successful? In what ways may
it be reinventing how teen apparel retailing should be done?
- A Retailer Bucks a Trend With Sales
Success in Its Jeans – The Wall Street Journal
- A Retail Play for 2009 – Motley