Zirkel Trading tinkering with inventory 1 year into business
November 8, 2009
Steamboat Springs — You're a guy. You've got a special event coming up — a friend's wedding, a nice date, a business mixer. You look into your closet and see, to your dismay, nothing but drab.
That's when Steve and Denise Hitchcock hope you'll think of Zirkel Trading, their upscale men's clothing store in the Howelsen Place development, on Seventh Street next to Urbane.
"I think most guys have a couple of shirts in their closet that are their go-to shirts," Steve Hitchcock said last week. He said Zirkel Trading is targeted toward men looking to dress for a special occasion, or men who prefer to dress a little above the norm on a daily basis.
It's a field he knows well.
Hitchcock, also the owner of Soda Creek Pizza, has more than 20 years' experience in the apparel industry, including high-level positions at Patagonia and Marmot. He and his wife opened Zirkel Trading about a year ago to meet what they thought was an unmet need.
"We didn't think there was a place for men to shop in Steamboat," Denise Hitchcock said.
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So the Hitchcocks set out to fill their store with high-quality brands produced by small, personal companies — known for having somebody's name, rather than a slogan — including Scott Barber, Tori Richard, Nat Nast and Jhane Barnes.
"I like that relationship with a person," Steve Hitchcock said about the brand choices. "And it's not that common in the apparel industry anymore."
He acknowledged that the personal touch brings a higher-than-average cost to some items at Zirkel Trading. A Filson flannel shirt, for example, is on display for $80.
But Steve Hitchcock said those flannel shirts were some of his top sellers.
"In a 2,000-square-foot store, you can't be all things to all people," he said. "If you buy a piece of Filson outerwear and you wear it for 10 to 20 years, and you enjoy it, who cares what you paid for it? Are you going to remember the price?"
Steve and Denise Hitchcock said the recession, and downtown construction this fall, has made it a challenging time to sell customers on the idea of buying special-occasion clothing.
"I think everybody is aware that it's a tough year to open a new business," Steve said, before citing an example of one line of inventory that sat on the shelves. "We imported some absolutely spectacular high-end leathers from Italy. … But last winter, people weren't treating themselves."
During the past year, the Hitchcocks have adjusted their inventory to find the right blend of products. They've added — and had success with — items including cufflinks, ties, sport coats, reading glasses, wallets and gloves.
But they're not quite ready to add women's apparel, Denise Hitchcock said.
"It's a possibility," she said. "It would require a couple extra trade shows for us. Right now, it's under discussion."
The Hitchcocks already have plenty on their hands — they have two teenagers in Steamboat schools in addition to keeping an eye on Soda Creek Pizza.
"It's all-encompassing," Denise Hitchcock said about the juggling act. "It seems like life is very busy for us right now."
And, like all retailers in Steamboat Springs, they are gearing up for the winter shopping season.
"Winter is tremendously important," Steve Hitchcock said. "I would say, like most retailers, December is the most important month for us."
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