Bonobos seeks to be the Zappos of pants

CEO Andy Dunn introduces polo shirt line and says the retailer is on track to hit $5-$6 mln in sales

Entrepreneur interview by Bambi Francisco Roizen
September 8, 2009 | Comments (6)
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In the old days (or pre-commercialization of the Internet), the idea of buying clothes, particularly pants, without the tactile experience of trying them on probably seemed a tough concept to grasp. But that's slowly changing.

Bonobos, a two-year-old Manhattan-based designer and retailer of casual and dress trousers for men is proving that buying pants online is something men really enjoy doing. After all, they're not exactly the type that like to go to malls. The trick was coming up with trousers with a great fit. The pants have been selling so well (12,000 in the first year of operation), the company this week is launching its new Polo line of shirts selling for $69.

But the signature items at Bonobos are the fabulously-fitted pants for men that price between $80 and $200. The average price is $113. Bonobos, with 15,000 customers and $3 million in venture funding, believes it has come up with a secret sauce for making mens' trousers look better on the average man. "The magic is in the fit," said Andy Dunn, Bonobos CEO, in a recent three-part interview with me. Andy founded Bonobos with Brian Spaly, both Stanford M.B.A.s.

The Bonobos pant is angled at the waist, which, according to Andy, has never been done before. The result is a nice-looking backside for men. 

The idea behind Bonobos was to create a new line of pants between the lower-end price points of Banana Republic and J. Crew and the upper-end price points of Paul Smith. 

Despite the downturn in the economy, the pants are selling well. Andy said the company is  track to generate up to $5 to $6 million in net sales, up from $1.6 million last year. (Net sales excludes returns).

In this interview, Andy also talks about the company's current gross margins and where he sees that going. He also touches on the company's generous refund policy, which is to to accept any returns. "Zappos has 360-day returns," said Andy. "[At Bonobos], you can return whenever you want. You can wash it, dry it, hem it and run a muddy-buddy in it. The power is in your hands."

With that policy, Andy and his team are focusing on becoming super focused on customer service, much like Zappos, which incidentally is one of Andy's role model online retailers. Zappos, the online footwear retailer, sold to Amazon in July 2009 for $850 million.

Watch this first-part interview for more about Bonobos. 


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Description: Bonobos was founded in 2007 by Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly to solve a major problem in men's fashion: Men want better-fitting trousers, but...
Andy Dunn


Ezra Roizen, on September 8, 2009

I like the concept of extending trust to the consumer through the very friendly return policy - it's a great way to bridge the online gap for highly personal purchases online and moves me from "probably not" to "hmm maybe." Naturally it's tough to launch a new clothing line: - also Bambi - it looks like you need to make a trip to Zappos yourself...for me bonobos and propercloth could take me to the next level...hmm...maybe an all online getup for the next vator box...

Bambi Francisco Roizen, on September 8, 2009

Ezra: I was wearing very thin, form-fitting, skin-toned sandals.

John Smith, on September 8, 2009

Curved waist makes complete sense! I just realized that all of my belts are curved just as Andy mentioned. I really like classic, yet original style. Plus, there is nothing to lose with amazing return policy (free shipping both ways). Also props for having discounts for public servants. I'd love to try one of their pants, but I am afraid my thighs might be too big.

Alex Roizen, on September 9, 2009

Sounds like a proper cloth for the lower half of the body. The question is; will the polo shirts make my pecs look larger? Price seems reasonable. I'm curious to see how the return policy will work out- definitely comforting for someone who is not use to shopping online. I like it.

Rene M
Rene M, on September 11, 2009


I just visit the website. Their clothing line is very sophisticated. The downside is that there are no women clothing line. Are they planning to expand in women apparel? That will be a disadvantage. Women are the major force in consumer brand and purchase.

Mike Darnell, on September 12, 2009

Hi Bambi,

Thanks for interviewing Andy.
I just took Bonobos for a spin - What a beautiful website!
Personally I have a soft spot for entrepreneurs that succeed due to their ability to bring a new twist to an established business idea.

I'm curious as to why Bonobos haven't integrated more video into their catalog. There's a good body of case studies proving that integrating even automated videos (see into an online fashion retailer has a VERY beneficial affect on sales (anywhere from 30%-200% increases according to

: )

Bambi Francisco Roizen, on September 13, 2009

Renee: Shhh. Andy tells me that they're working on mini-skirts for women. I've asked Andy to work on shorts. But I think we can expect mini-skirts for sure. I think it'll be out later this fall.

Bambi Francisco Roizen, on September 13, 2009

Alex: I'm sure Andy and team have taken your question into consideration.

Rene M
Rene M, on September 14, 2009

cool. I am curious to see the women apparel. Thanks Bambi for the FYI!

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