With Need Supply Co., Chris Bossola has created both supply and demand.
When Chris Bossola first opened Need Supply Co., he sold vintage Levi’s jeans, mostly to local college girls who liked the low-rise, broken-in denim. However, this wasn’t his original career intention: after working in finance (and hating it), he and his wife traveled cross country to San Diego, where they discovered this vintage Levi’s craze. When they got back to Richmond, Bossola opened a tiny 250 sq. ft. store that sold these rare jeans. Within a year or so, the supply dried up and Bossola expanded into his current model of selling branded merchandise.Bossola attributes the store’s success to a strong mix in a broad price range. “A guy can come in and spend $500 on a blazer, but he can also find something for $100. Our sales staff is very friendly and accessible as well.” Their buying strategy (which he does with his business partner and creative director Gabriel Ricioppo, and men’s buyer Chris Green) is heavily focused on the edit. “Our mix is unique because we carry classic contemporary and streetwear brands. We spend a lot of time in the market taking tons of notes and pictures. The real work is done when we get back and throw everything on the conference room table to figure out what’s going to make the cut. It’s important to have a point of view. Especially with the internet today, so many of the bigger guys carry everything, but I think that waters things down.” Hot now: printed wovens, printed pants and shorts, shoes and accessories. A surprise spring ’13 hit was men’s jewelry, like bracelets from Miansai. Bossola says that while denim is still important (brands like APC and Baldwin), the trend has moved to non-denim bottoms. Bossola adds, “The whole screen-printed T-shirt thing has completely died on us; I think guys have grown up and want to wear collared shirts. We touch on tailored a little bit, but don’t buy it as a category. We brought in Brooklyn Tailors this season, which has done well, and we’ll buy tailored pieces from APC.”
The store’s “Meet the Maker” events have become highly anticipated. “We started this series two years ago and have had nine installments since. It’s kind of like a trunk show, but more interactive. It’s a way to educate our customers and for our vendors to share their brand story and sell product. Our last one was with Shea and Raan Parton from Apolis. We had a great turnout because Apolis has a big fan base. People drove from North Carolina and Washington D.C. to meet them.”
E-commerce, which launched at the end of 2008, is a major part of Need Supply Co.’s business (half of total volume). “They complement each other,” Bossola asserts. “And [in today’s market], you have to have both. Everything in the store is sold online and vice versa. It might not all be on the floor, but it’s all available to people who come in. However, my dad always tells me to ‘watch my overhead.’ And that’s the trick to longevity. You have to keep things fresh, but you have to watch your overhead.” Might he give the same advice to his two sons one day? He laughs and says they’re too young to even think about entering the business (9 and 11 years old), so for now they’re happy riding bikes and going to the beach on weekends.
When asked what’s after the heritage trend, he predicts the market will get a little less serious. “We’re already seeing that with the introduction of prints. I also think streetwear will have more of an influence on contemporary.” Whatever might be next, we know Bossola will have the supply his customers need.
Need Supply Co. at a Glance
- Established by Chris Bossola in 1996
- Location: Richmond, Va.
- Size: 2,500 sq. ft.
- Ratio: 50/50 men’s/women’s
- Top Vendors: Alden, Filson, Gitman Vintage, Norse Projects, Soulland
- assortment: 100% branded
- Average retail price points: wovens $78 to $250, non-denim from just under $100 to $250, denim from just under $100 to $350