In Challenging Economy, Chicago Retailer Prospers

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Small business grows in struggling retail market

A lot of retail stores have trimmed their selection of men's suits, and we are seeing a lot of frustrated shoppers turn to us for help.

Amidst a time of record layoffs, pay cuts and company bankruptcies, one small business is doing the remarkable: expanding. Ever more surprising is that their primary line of business is retail, a sector that has been in turmoil since the third quarter of '08. This success story is less about an improvement in the business environment and more about finding opportunity in a stale and reactionary market.

Balani Custom Clothiers, a custom clothing retailer in Chicago's loop, intends to do just that. Recently, Balani hired their third full-time employee as well as actively seeking a location to open a second showroom. Given recent retail data, expansion seems inconsistent with conventional wisdom. According to a report from the International Council of Shopping Centers, the pace of store closures is expected to reach 4600 by years end, on top of the 6913 closures last year

"We want to position ourselves for the turn-around. Hiring talent and finding prime retail space is the first step," says Sonny Balani, owner of Balani Custom Clothiers. "A lot of retail stores have trimmed their selection of men's suits, and we are seeing a lot of frustrated shoppers turn to us for help."

Calling Balani a retailer, in the traditional sense, might also be a misnomer. Unlike most retailers who need to carry a wide variety of inventory for walk-in business, Balani only keeps samples in the showroom and work by appointment for their clientele. Each suit is made from scratch, eliminating the expense of inventory.

Understandably, Sonny is excited for the future and to take advantage of the shortcomings of the retail business model. "We are poised for growth. With our new hire's [Jake Cremer] background in marketing and high-end retail, a new modern showroom, and the talent of our existing team, we are ready for the turnaround."

http://www.balanicustom.com

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Marisol Finch

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