G2000 banks on technology and laser-sharp focus for growth
After 35 years trading, Hong Kong-headquartered menswear retailer G2000 already has 800 stores in 10 markets across Asia and the Middle East.
Now, the company is looking to leading-edge retail technology alongside its highly disciplined brand positioning to expand even further – and with its stunning three-story, 7000sqft flagship store on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, the brand’s future is on display for all to see.
G2000 is unique in that by definition it has no immediate, direct competitors. It focuses on a market it defines as ‘career wear’ – primarily targeting men, it sells suits, collared shirts, ties and accessories.
“We want to be the place where a man comes to buy his first suit and we want to cater to him for as long as he wants to grow as a gentleman,” explains G2000 Group CEO Damien Ko in an exclusive interview with Inside Retail Hong Kong at the new Kowloon store. “We are there for every part of his career.”
The second unique selling point of G2000 is its fit. It focuses on the Asian body shape – although Westerners will find clothes to suit in the company’s stores. By contrast, large, high-profile menswear retailers, like Uniqlo, H&M or Inditex’s global chains, have ranges spanning casual clothing, sportswear, formal attire and everything in between; and sizes are created for customers from all corners of the world.
G2000’s women’s wear range is similarly focused on suits and clothing suited more to the office than nightclub forays.
Ko believes G2000 is unique for concentrating on value, design and a predominantly Asian clientele. Some of its products, he contends, are of sufficient quality and style to attract customers who might shop at high-end brands like Prada or Dunhill – but are sold at a far lower price point.
“I believe that there are not really too many natural competitors for G2000, especially at our kind of scale. All the international brands … are really hurting themselves because every time when you buy their product you have to do too many alterations, because the fit is not really tailored to Asian people.”
Prominently mounted above the new Kowloon store’s entrance is the Blaack logo, the company’s new premium label, which occupies most of the middle (entry level) floor. Blaack aims to provide a more sophisticated, higher-quality design and material to the standard G2000 offer, its double-A spelling a reference to ‘alpha male’ and ‘ace’ – as in the playing card.
The new Blaack is a relaunch of the G2000’s decade-old Black sub brand. With its new logo and repositioning at the higher end, Blaack and G2000 are now targeting men who are quite different.
“Men from 20-something to the more mature gentleman can all be our clients,” explains Ko. “[With Blaack] we want to focus on the alpha male segment. They have their own character, confidence, tastes, interests, personal life and career – and their own way they want to dress as well. We do not believe there are a lot of other brands that serve them well.”
Made to measure
On the Blaack floor of the Nathan Road store, discreetly located behind a shaded glass door, you will find a made-to-measure space. Inside stands a technical innovation G2000 is hoping will help boost its reputation and sales in the years ahead: a 3D body scanner.
The scanner uses infrared beams to map 2 million points on a person’s body. It does not take photographs; instead it uses hundreds of dots to create a rotatable shape on a screen before software calculates the correct measurements for 20 different points to recommend a perfectly fitting suit or tailor-made shirt.
Group IT director with G2000 Andy Wong says the 3D-scanning process is far more accurate than a tailor’s manual measurements, and the information is stored on a database so every time the customer returns to the store – or shops online – their details are on hand, along with the right size options for suit or shirt.
The results of the scan are never the final arbiter of the fit, however: G2000’s staff can adjust the suit’s cut should the customer prefer it to be looser across the chest, for example, or feature broader shoulders.
“So with the current process for the made-to-measure service, we have really combined the best of both together. When you walk into the digital scanner, in less than 30 seconds, the infrared technology can take over 200 points of measurement. But people might prefer something which fits differently to the ‘ideal’ recommendation of the machine,” says Ko.
“We can customise a sleeve width by just 0.2 of an inch. That is the kind of precision we like to work towards. We are trying to provide even more customised products and services to our clients.”
Ko sees the made-to-measure service as a key point of difference for the company moving forward, in time becoming one of the brand’s core services. He describes it as “part of the innovation-disruptive journey” G2000 is embarking on.
But he doesn’t believe in introducing technology for the sake of it – while the body-scanning and big-data functions will allow customers to shop remotely, G2000 is committed to meeting customers’ preferences, not channelling them online. Rather, technology will help bridge the gap between online and offline, giving the customer more choice where and when to shop.
“If the client is saying ‘I have to come into your store every time because I want to have the personal touch and because I like personal service,’ then we let the client choose,” says Ko. “If the client says ‘Okay, my time is limited, I have been there a few times already, I would prefer to be ordering through some type of application,’ we will respect that client’s wish.”
Recognising the customer
In the Nathan Road flagship, 3D imaging is not the only form of new-generation technology G2000 is testing to build customer engagement and service.
Facial-recognition cameras strategically located around the store are connected to software in the company’s head office to track the in-store journeys of customers. While the cameras can differentiate between gender, they do not record facial features in detail. For now, their use is restricted to helping target visual merchandising and where and how stock is placed to optimise sales, but in the future it will likely be connected to the company’s loyalty program, a step towards personalising a shopper’s in-store experience.
After a tentative start, G2000 is now expanding its e-commerce offer, but Ko says the company understands one solution does not fit all across its core Asian market.
“We know we need to understand what customers want and not just push onto them what we want to sell,” he explains.
“For example, most Chinese prefer to shop multi-brand sites instead of shopping on a single brand’s site, because they feel they get a better choice.” For that reason, the company is working with e-commerce platforms like Alibaba on the mainland, and has different solutions in other markets.
Offline, the company sees no need to expand beyond Asia and the Middle East, because of the large population and growing incomes there, especially in Mainland China, where it already has about 450 stores, accounting for more than half its total network. In Thailand, where G2000 has local retail goliath Central Group as its partner, it has 100 stores; in Taiwan about 70; in Hong Kong and Macau about 45; and the balance are spread around Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, along with Middle Eastern markets, the UAE, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The next countries on the company’s radar are Myanmar along with Asean countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where the populations’ income levels are rising, along with India and the Middle East. There are no plans for Japan or Korea “for the time being”.
“I think we will continue to try to stay pretty focused on Asia Pacific, but that includes the Middle East,” says Ko.
Japan is a country G2000 has explored before, but Ko believes the market is already well served by local brands and to venture there it would need a suitable partner.
“Australia is also a very interesting country that we will continue to keep an eye on. But Australia has a population of less than 30 million, when just the city of Shanghai alone has 38 million… and then you have to consider the difference in seasons. So I think Australia is a country that we can keep an eye on, but it may not be a high priority for the time being.”
The focus on Mainland China is already paying off, with the company claiming a 5-per-cent share of the crowded formal-shirt market. “In a place where there are so many brands … our market share is pretty strong.”
Besides Blaack and the core G2000 Men and Women brands, the company has two other diffusion brands: Anagram, a female-focused label very focused on premium ladieswear and career wear, and 2020, focusing on millennials and younger generations.
All will play their role in expanding the brand across the region as it heads towards 1000 stores. And all feature prominently in the company’s newest flagship in Kowloon.
This feature originally appeared in Inside Retail Hong Kong’s magazine edition, available by subscription in digital or print versions.