Bonobos seeks to be the Zappos of pants

Bambi Francisco Roizen · September 8, 2009 · Short URL:

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

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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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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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 they don't want to hours in retail stores paying huge mark-ups on designer goods. Brian used the world's best fabrics to make pants that fit more flatteringly, and Andy had the idea to make the customer experience top-notch by selling online with ninja customer service. Bonobos now has customers in all 50 states and over 40 countries worldwide

Andy Dunn

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