British shirtmaker coming to D.C.


British men’s shirt retailer Charles Tyrwhitt is to open a store at 1000 Connecticut Ave. NW in April. This is the clothier’s first store in the Washington area and third in the United States. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Capital Business)
February 26, 2012

Signs hailing the arrival of retailer Charles Tyrwhitt are plastered all over the storefront windows at 1000 Connecticut Ave. NW.

The British shirtmaker is setting up shop across the street from rival haberdasher — and fellow countryman — Thomas Pink. But don’t get the two confused. Tyrwhitt (pronounced Tirr-it) carries a wide selection of high quality poplin and herringbone weaves for at least $20 less than Pink, where similar men’s shirts start at $160.

“Tyrwhitt is a first-class, quality retailer,” said Bill Dickinson, senior director of brokerage at the Rappaport Cos., who negotiated the 2,000 square foot lease. “Pink recently renewed its lease within the Mayflower Hotel ... it’s a very synergistic tenant.”

Once Tyrwhitt opens in April, there will be a full hub of menswear boutiques within a two-block radius on Connecticut Avenue, including Brooks Brothers, Johnson & Murphy, Burberry and Allen Edmonds.

“D.C. is a very well-dressed city,” said Nick Wheeler, who founded Charles Tyrwhitt — his two middle names — as a mail order business in 1986 while attending Bristol University in England.

The company, with 14 stores across the United Kingdom, entered the United States in 2002 with the opening of a location in Midtown Manhattan. Another New York store sprung up a few years later, with a third scheduled to arrive in May.

Wheeler said he would like to open four stores a year, split between the United States and U.K., though 70 percent of the company’s business is done online. Sales in the United States, he said, grew 80 percent last year. Tyrwhitt closed out 2011 with $136 million in total revenue, and is projecting sales of $165 million this year.

The brand is known for its bold use of color and fine woven blends, a nod to the traditions of Jermyn Street, London’s premier destination for gentlemen’s clothing.

Wheeler said his U.S. customers tend to be younger than his European clientele. Analysts say men under 40 are fueling the current resurgence in menswear across the country.

“They love the whole concept of smart dressing, good quality, good value,” Wheeler said. “U.S. men love the really tailored fit, that sharp, sleek look. We see more ties in bold, solid colors sold in the U.S.”

Landing Tyrwhitt is a triumph for the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, which set out last fall to attract more upscale stores to the neighborhood.

“We’re flattered that Charles Tyrwhitt choose this location for its first site outside of New York,” said Leona Agouridis, executive director of the district. “We’ve got a really strong men’s market.”

The 43-block corridor that runs from Farragut Square to Dupont Circle, known as the Golden Triangle, is largely peppered with a disparate collection of shops. The improvement district hired a retail recruiter, Susie Tanis, to work with area brokers to turn the neighborhood into a high-end retail destination.

Agouridis said there has been a lot of meetings and walking tours with retailers interested in the market, but bringing the vision to fruition is still a work in progress.

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