Interview by Lorenzo Molina
One of the few pearls that Frankfurt’s retail landscape treasures is The Listener, a concept store like no other in town. Store manager Michael Munz was involved since the beginning, being befriended with one of the store founders and having worked previously at German menswear multibrand retailer Anson’s.
Opened in September 2013, The Listener is rooted at the former premises of the Diamantenbörse, a revamped building from the middle of the 20th century. Despite its close location to Frankfurt’s main shopping street Zeil, the footfall is lower on this point of the city center. “A lot of people don’t know the store yet. In the last two years though, we built up a customer base for our business: Not the typical Frankfurt audience that usually buys clothes in the Goethe Street –Frankfurt’s shopping street for high-end luxury brands–. We see us as a kind of specialist for handcrafted goods, from clothing to accessories and beauty products.” Munz stresses, though the fact that potential clients discover the shop when searching for POS of a certain labels in online tools like The Label Finder.
In terms of style, Munz has very clear ideas of what his customers are: “We [Germans] don’t dress too classy like in France or heritage-driven like in the UK. We aren’t as crazy in terms of style as the Italians neither. Germany is always kind of in-between all these countries, depending on what region of Germany you live in: Berliners are very inspired by Scandi-styles; Munichers look at Italian fashion while Frankfurters do it more the French way.”
The brand selection comprehends a mix of international denim brands, luxury outerwear and designer labels like Stone Island, AG, Ami, Calvin Klein, G-Lab, Edwin, Joseph, Naked & Famous denim, Woolrich, Alpha Industries or Baracuta, among others.
While having a drink in the store’s bar, Munz explains further details about the daily business of this gem hard to find anywhere else in Frankfurt and surroundings.
Which brands out of your assortment are working better for you?
Our core identity is everything that is denim-inspired. For the ladies, brands like Citizens of Humanity, A.P.C., Kenzo and Alexander Wang. The gents’ bestsellers tend to be more casual names such as A.P.C. again, Ami, Stone Island –everything that is easy to combine with jeans. To round it up, a matching pair of sneakers from Filling Pieces or Common Projects. The womenswear assortment is more trend-driven; while men give more value to the fabrication-side of products and their durability.
Are there any recent additions to the list of brands available at The Listener?
New T by Alexander Wang and 3.1 Phillip Lim for women. We usually modify 2-3 labels per season by men and 5-10 times by women. In addition, there are certain brands which we only buy in winter or summer time, thereby the assortment appears to be different each season.
In brand terms, you can’t reinvent the wheel. The trends are for all the same. Every buyer checks the same products, brands, colors, style direction and so on. You have to know very clear what your core assortment is and what pieces nourish your range. Those brands who are delivering great trend products faster facilitate us to settle them down in store as soon as possible.
Still, I’d say all brands make similar products out of the same ideas: think of turtlenecks, oversized coat in beige, wool knitwear…
Who are your customers?
We have a super mixed base in terms of age: from 18 until the end of their fifties. Clients are usually interested and ask for material qualities on products. Frankfurt’s business suit people come here to get equipped for their spare time with casual staples. International consumers are mostly Asian and American.
How is the communication with the customer base? Do you use social media?
We use Instagram intensively, which is the most important channel for us, and Facebook a bit, but the last is actually not that important for us.
Do you use Instagram as a selling tool to promote products that are available in-store?
No, as we don’t have an online shop. BUT it is in the works and we’ll launch by fall 2016. Once it’s there and we could connect the e-shop with our social media channels, we’ll do it. Until now, Instagram and Facebook are communication tools like whenever you page through a beautiful magazine or check out a shop window.
How important are non-fashion products for The Listener?
We don’t see us as a classic fashion store, but rather as a way of living. Part of it are coffee, music, magazines, flowers, bicycles and hand creams…
But in terms of sales, do these other products bring in important revenue?
These extra gadgets do not bring the most revenues to our store. We just value the potential that they might have, once the German consumer is ready for the concept.
Tell me more about the upcoming e-shop.
The platform is conceived as an information source for products available in the physical store: materials, colors available… This way, potentials clients could see a pre-selection of items that waits for them in-store. For the assortment that we are carrying, it’s hard to forecast if the tool will reach out to international shoppers, as the products are very special and sometimes essential to try on before purchasing, like most of our jeans.
60313 Frankfurt am Main