Rudy Budhdeo is something of a denim industry cult figure, with fingers in many pies. He's a seasoned brand and management consultant, as well as the owner of London-based denim store Son of a Stag. This 16-year-old multibrand retailer specializes in selvedge men’s denim and carries brands such as Oni, Spellbound, Tellason and Warehouse & Co. Budhdeo opened a second store in 2017-a denim repair and upcycling shop called Soldier Blue, and there are plans for a third (and possibly fourth) store. Here, Budhdeo shares his retail expertise.
What’s your recipe for retail success?
There are many layers to my definition of a perfect store. One ofthe most important is to offer a great choice of ethically made, quality product. And with choice we don’t mean a good selection of washes and fits, but also sizes. There are so many different body types and leg-lengths, but surprisingly few are catered for in a typical shop. Our shelves might be brimming, but we only display some 10% of what we have in stock. We work closely with our brand partners, many of which are Japanese, to rejig products to get a good span of sizes and fits that suit our customers.
How do you best work with brands in a way that benefits both parties?
Figuring out what works in your particular store benefits both brand and retailer. We even have an accountant whose sole role is to establish how well a brand is doing in-store, weighing in every aspect to get an accurate picture. You then need to sit down and discuss how you can develop appealing product together. I don't believe in insisting on brand exclusivity as that's not fair on the brand, but it might be necessary to create a product unique to Son of aa Stag. Brands ask for an upcharge and request that we buy a certain minimum-Id rather pay a little extra for the right product than less for the wrong one.
What's your definition of good in-store service?
Providing a warm, welcoming environment is as important as having in-depth knowledge that matches or exceeds that of your average denimhead consumer. Not being able to provide information, or even worse-giving the wrong information-is a retail sin. We spend on average 45 minutes per sold jean, helping customers to get the right fit and informing them how a certain jean will fade over time, for instance. And we do this for our online customers as well.
What else have you learned about service over the past decade and a half?
You must be able to “read” a customer-if someone comes in wearing a pair of skinnies asking for a baggy pair, then it's more likely the shopper wants a slim jean rather than a genuine baggy. You learn from every customer encounter, and we regularly sit down to discuss experiences, analyzing what we could have done better to improve our service and how we interact with consumers.
Tell us about your after-sales service-what can customers expect?
We were the first UK denim retailer to offer an in-store chain stitch hemming service, and we also have a laundry service. In this case I do the washes myself. If the customer wants to learn how to do it, !Il teach him. As for Soldier Blue-our standalone repair and upcycling store-it’s an eco-friendly form of retail that doubles as a stable for some of my Union Special machines.
Please note: This story is also published in our current magazine #290, 'The Best of Denim' issue.