Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Latest Business Idea: FastShirt

There are eight buttons on a typical shirt, ten if it’s a button-down. As a result, you spend about a minute every time you put on a shirt. 

Say you wear a shirt four days a week. That’s four hours a year or 320 hours over a typical lifetime. That’s 320 hours that yields absolutely not a moment of pleasure nor a whit of productivity. 

But what if there was a shirt that could be donned in five seconds instead of sixty and would look better? Wouldn’t you prefer it? Enter FastShirt—a shirt that closes with Velcro. Not only does it close fast, it’s more attractive because there are no buttons to break the placket's clean line.

I believe one could sell enormous quantities of these. Most of the world’s seven billion people wear buttoned shirts. If even 1 in 10,000 people bought just one shirt, I would have sold 700,000 shirts—and as you’ll see, at a net profit of approximately $3 a shirt: a cool $2.1 million. 

Here’s how I’d develop the FastShirt concept: 

Step 1:  I’d create a prototype by having a local seamstress replace the buttons on a standard white business shirt with Velcro. 

Step 2: I know that Wal-Mart sells great-looking iron-free standard business shirts for $8.99. So, I estimate that Wal-Mart must pay no more than about $3 per shirt. I’d google "dress shirt manufacturer" to find one willing to make me a trial run of 1000 standard business white shirts with Velcro closures at $3 a shirt. I’d try to convince them to do so by letting them know that if the trial is successful, my goal is to eventually order shirts in quantities of 100,000+. 

Step 3: I’d try to convince the major retailers of shirts (Lands End, LL Bean, Macy’s, etc.,) to pilot test FastShirt—selling it to them at $9 per shirt, expecting to retail for $29.95 (the same price as their standard business shirt.)  If they all said no, I’d put samples in my car and drive from retailer to retailer trying to convince them to try selling my shirts. If necessary, I’d sell them on consignment—if they don’t sell, I’ll buy them back. 

Step 4. If I was turned down by the major chain retailers but then had a successful trial with a local retailer, I’d report that success to the majors and see if that would change their mind.  If my trial utterly failed, I’d sell the shirts on eBay and/or from a search-engine-optimized website. 

So this strikes me as a relatively simple business that has small risk and large potential.

What do you think? Any suggestions for the idea's improvement?


Anonymous said...

I would test the FastShirt to see how well Velcro holds up over time. Maybe it doesn't last as long as buttons would in washing or dry cleaning, for example, or perhaps they're not as easily replaced if one Velcro piece goes missing.

A zipper might be faster than buttons. Pullovers as well. You don't see many of those in blouse or shirt form. Maybe a pullover with closure only part of the way with Velcro could be even faster.

Marty Nemko said...

I definitely appreciate your input but in this case, I think I thought about those objections in advance:

Velcro is washable. Indeed it holds better after washing. See this link:

Also, pullovers are not a competitor--they are more casual than a business shirt, which are the type I was discussing.

Anonymous said...

Also a great idea for those with dexterity challenges for any reason who either don't go out or settle for less attractive styles than they would prefer when the effort is too great.

Anonymous said...

I think it might be better to add nonfunctional buttons and buttonholes to the shirt front. This would make the shirt look more like a regular shirt...a logical extension of the clip-on tie idea.

Anonymous said...

I have velcro in a lot of my cooler weather wear, and over a few washings, it fills up with lint and small fibers from elswhere in the laundry load. You can clean it, but it's time consuming.

The link you point to is sales copy, ie, lies. (Or perhaps it's true, but only under a limit condition where the test is done in a velcro-only wash load.)

I rarely unfasten all of the buttons on my office shirts. I undo the top two or three and pull the shirt off and toss it into the hamper. I wash the shirts mostly buttoned, and for those that need ironing, it's actually helpful to have them buttoned because then they're laid out straight on the ironing board.