Here’s how Sitt succeeded:
- Through market research, Sitt uncovered a gaping hole in urban retail: women’s apparel. Urban working women couldn’t find a nice suit and blouse, and they especially couldn’t find them in fuller sizes.
- He invented a brand, Ashley Stewart, to exploit the market’s need. Those nice suits and blouses come in sizes 14 to 26.
- He puts on up to 350 fashion shows a year to raise money for local charities in the 16 inner cities where his stores are based. Sitt pays nothing for them; he simply gives out discount coupons, which women love and which drives business back into the store. The fashion shows generate lots of free advertising and good will.
- When Sitt saw old-fashioned brands coming back—like Adidas and Izod—he realized that brands exist in real estate, too. His next stops: Coney Island in New York and the Palmer House hotel in Chicago.
But “back then,” he says, “I was considered a crazy man.”
—Adapted form “Transforming urban shopping, one skeptical town at a time,” Joe Sitt with Sasha Issenberg, Inc.