Monday, February 08, 2010

Fixing Living Planet

So I've been feeling a touch unwell the past couple of days, hence the lack of blogging. Slowly starting to come out the other end of it, which is nice. However, it has prevented me from really concentrating on a blog post for this evening. Fortunately, I remembered something from my time back in St. John's that I meant to blog about, but it slipped off the radar.

This might be more appropriate for I Shop and Tell, although this is more about quality than customer service.

When we were home we went to visit one of our favourite shops - Living Planet. For years they've put out high quality t-shirts with great designs on them. The "Free Nfld", "Accordion Revolution", and "I (club) Baby Seals" shirts. We each have several of their shirts from years back and they hold up really well.

I even bought two shirts when I was back home. A "Godzilla vs. Puffin" and one with a map explaining how you navigate around Rawlin's Cross, one of the more evil intersections in St. John's.

So what's the problem? Well, there are three problems. One of them is a touch silly, the other two less so.

The silly one first. Guys, it's a t-shirt shop. It's a very nice t-shirt shop and I understand wanting to diversify a bit, but let's not get delusions of grandeur here. So perhaps at a t-shirt shop you shouldn't be selling $125 dress shirts. Just a thought there, but hey, if it works, what do I know.

The second problem? The shop has always sold their t-shirts for $25 each. A touch pricey, but they were all original designs, done by local artists printed on high quality shirts. So I had no problem paying the extra money. And like I said, I have several shirts that are five or more years old and the damn things are still ticking and I've put them through heavy use.

This latest crop of shirts are, well, really cheap. The switched labels and if these shirts last two years, it'll be a miracle. The price? Still $25. So I'm paying the same amount of money for a significantly inferior product, which is not impressive. At all.

But the third point is the one that really drives us nuts. Cathy loves these shirts as much as I do, if not more. She has several that are starting to get a little long in the tooth so she was looking forward to picking up some new ones over Christmas. Except she can't buy any. Because Living Planet changed labels and the new one radically altered the size of their women's t-shirts.

Cathy is not, as she likes to refer to herself, a "skinny-minnie". She has curves, and thank God for it. But she used to be able to find shirts that could fit her, no problem. Now? Not even close. For that matter, I was talking to girls behind the counter and they were saying they wear extra larges. And folks, those were not large women. I would call them quite thin. And they're taking extra larges.

I have no idea why Living Planet would go and piss off so much of their client base. I'm sure Cathy is not alone in being frustrated by the sizing issue. It's actually quite insulting. And buying a men's size doesn't work. I tried and we returned it simply because the shirt didn't fit right on her. The shoulders were landing half way down her arms.

So, some suggestions for a t-shirt company that seems to have lost a bit of direction.
1. Drop the designer boutique crap and focus on what you do well....produce really cool, local t-shirts and hoodies.
2. Don't screw around with quality. It pisses off clients and will bite you on the ass eventually.
3. Do you really want to piss off women, especially the ones who aren't skinny little rakes, also known as most women? If so, keep it up with the crappy undersized t-shirts.

I like Living Planet. I remember when they first opened in the basement of a building, where you had to wander down a corridor and you could see them making the shirts behind the counter. I just think they're getting off-track right now and if they're not careful a really cool store is going to end up just another vacant space waiting to be filled by another fucking shoe store or coffee shop on Water Street.

Last Five
1. The prince - Madness
2. Back where you belong - .38 Special
3. Consequences - Grapes of Wrath
4. Ocean's end - The Trews
5. Jingle jangle - Hot Hot Heat*

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you may want to look south of the border, if you haven't heard of this Chicago company yet. Any artist(no matter where they are based) can submit designs to be judged by all for printing.
http://www.threadless.com/
I quite enjoy the designs...and I have a growing collection

soph

BayGirl said...

I had exactly the same problem! I love(d) their shirts too, but was significantly underwhelmed when I visited this past summer. Nothing fit me anymore, either, and I tried switching to men's with much the same results. They used to have two different women's cuts - one that fit like a classic T with a little room, which I (and Cathy, apparently) was all about, and one that fit like spandex. They chose to discontinue the comfy and flattering cut in favour of continuing with solely the unflattering-body-paint-esque one, which can only be worn by those of us without curves. Not only that, but a lot of the designs I had seen before were nowhere to be found when I sought them out this time around. I was soooo disappointed - and pissed. The staff told me to try going to this garage sale they were planning on having to sell off old stock, but I wasn't able to make it. I won't be wasting my time going back there unless they get their heads out of their butts and go back to the great product they used to produce. Tell Cathy she is not alone!

tanker belle said...

Yeah, last time I was in town I didn't quite get what they were doing and didn't buy anything.

I would take a guess that they are trying to get better margins on all their stock. I would take a second guess that this may partly be due to rents. Selling prices for real estate has shot through the roof in SJ, that normally raises rents because the new owners have to get more money out of the building.

Not that it excuses what they are doing, and not that it explains the skinny Ts, which I personally like, but I have the build of a 12 year old. They should find another location that's cheaper, even if it isn't as prominant, because everyone knows who they are anyway and your loyal buyers aren't the ones you should be pissing off, they are worth far more than the foot traffic. If they don't sell online, then they should because it's way cheaper to operate and so they could keep healthy margins without using cheap ill-fitting Ts supplier.

SRD said...

Haven't bought myself a shirt in a couple of years (although gave four as gifts this Christmas). I'm small, but usually get a women's medium or larger to fit decently, but then it is flappy and boxy at the bottom. SO, I actually really like the women's slim fit -- it doesn't have excess material around the waist, and looks neat, without being too tight on top. So, I don't know about the new suppliers, but I liked the old style - I had enough of wearing men's large t-shirts in the 80s/90s thank you very much. Nice to have women's shirts that fit women (or at least this woman).

Hans said...

Yay great post, and I'm glad others share my serious annoyance with the Living Planet shirts (not the designs, but the shirts). My problem is with the "American Apparel" shirts they print them on, which have really skewed sizing and also seem worse quality. Their former brands (Gildan etc) were much better. I had felt bad complaining though because my assumption is that they are trying to use fair trade shirts, and that's why they're making the choices they are (I don't know what it is, but apart from union t-shirts I've never found a fair trade t-shirt that I can stand the size or make of). Anyhow, great post and yes they should try to find better shirts! Besides from what I've been hearing lately American Apparel are actually not very fair trade / socially positive shirts anyhow.