Monday, 10 March 2008

To the people of Stanfield's Limited of Truro, Nova Scotia

My name is Adam Gorley. I am a young writer, editor, artist, and magazine publisher from Toronto. When it comes to underwear - briefs, trunks, boxers, and tees - I wear almost exclusively Stanfield's garments. A large part of the purpose of this letter is to thank you for making excellent products. They are comfortable, stylish, and competitively priced. And perhaps most importantly, they are made in Canada, by the hands of Canadians. Thank you Stanfield's!

It warms my heart and fills me with pride that a Canadian company chooses to maintain its local operations in the face of increasing competition from outsourced labour in other countries. That says to me that you respect your employees, your community, your customers, your country, and the world. It pleases me immensely to find a brand in stores that proudly displays a label: "Made in Canada" among the sadly more common labels of distant provenance. I try very hard to avoid products that are made in countries with suspicious labour and environmental practices, and where possible I buy Canadian goods. Indeed, I have actively boycotted companies who have removed their production from their traditional locales. Levi's, for example, who used to produce jeans in Canada and the U.S.A., now manufactures in Mexico for the North American market. (Except their premium labels, which are still made in the U.S. But I don't buy $200 jeans.)

This brings me to the second point of this letter. I offer some friendly unsolicited advice, completely without condition. It is borne from the pessimistic fear that some day, some factor might convince you to move your manufacturing to distant lands and cheap hands. (Though, your creed gives me hope that this would never happen.) I do not doubt that you have heard of a company called American Apparel, many of whose products compete with Stanfield's. They have expanded exponentially over the last several years based on two simple premises (as far as I can tell): moderately priced hip basics and fair wages and conditions for workers - in the U.S. That is, AA positions itself as hip, young, and socially conscious. I won't comment on the veracity of these claims or why it's so important that their Montréal-born owner chose to manufacture their products in southern California, but my point is, they promote themselves heavily as "Made in America", and it works. I shop there because I can feel comfortable that no worker was exploited to make the clothes that I buy. And the thing is, their products are of only average quality - much poorer than Stanfield's; and they're more expensive, too.

And so I wonder if there is not a great opportunity for Stanfield's to market itself similarly to the younger generations. Could Stanfield's products gain the coolness of American Apparel? And how might that happen? AA has retail outlets, and they do brisk wholesale business among artists and independent designers who want stylish and politically correct shirts to print on. Could Stanfield's open a flagship store outside Nova Scotia and staff it with hip young people decked out in your gear? Could you bring aboard a clothing designer to develop a line of youth-oriented basics to compete more directly against AA? Could “Made in Canada” be a label that consumers seek rather than consider a second thought?

I certainly don't claim to know that such a plan would be profitable, or if it is worthwhile at all. I am not really qualified to make such claims. Moreover, I'm certain that you have already a strong marketing and growth strategy, and frankly, I hope you don't find these comments presumptuous or, worse, offensive. The unchallenged dictum of our contemporary economy is surely, "Growth, Expansion, Ever-Increasing Profit, New Markets!", and while I am no fan of this oh-so-modern idea of unfettered growth, I understand that it is a powerful motive that has the capacity to drive innovation and job creation. If Stanfield’s was wondering where it might expand, I feel that the hip and savvy youth market is an area to consider.

In sum, thanks again, and I wish you and your company all the best in the future. I appreciate your time.


Adam Gorley


Yamin said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Adam Gorley said...

Thanks Lucy, I'm glad you like it! I look forward to seeing you around... the internet. :)

Creative Commons License
The New Dilettantes by Adam Gorley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.