The Inside Scoop on Carhartts from Northern Lights

Five years ago, Shannon and John Redding’s garage was just a normal garage on an anonymous side road in Emmet County. Today it houses Northern Lights Family Outfitters, 600 square feet of pure Carhartt—one of the highest volume Carhartt stores in Michigan. We checked in with Shannon to learn the marketing magic behind moving this oh-so northern-vibe line of clothing that’s headquartered in Dearborn and made in the U.S.A.

What made you think you wanted to sell Carhartt’s out of your garage, I mean, your location isn’t exactly stellar.

Right, because we are conveniently located off the beaten track in the middle of nowhere. Well, five years ago I was working in the Pellston school system—I have a teaching certificate and was in the AmeriCorps program. And I was doing a lot of counseling. And I thought, so many of these problems are because it takes two working parents to make a living these days. And if I had the ultimate scenario, I’d like to stay at home when I have kids. But we couldn’t afford that, so I had to brainstorm something that would let me stay at home and work and still be a part of my kids’ life.

You’ve kind of gone from zero to 60 in five years, what’s the strategy?

We make sure you get fitted. That’s what makes us different. It’s no big secret, but nobody else does it anymore.We have to admit it never occurred to us to get fitted for Carhartt’s. Guys come in and say they tried Carhartt in the past and just don’t like how they fit. And I say, did you know there are four kinds of cuts of Carhartt? And I’ll say I bet you bought relaxed fit, and they’re real saggy in the rear end, and you don’t have a butt. But if you get fitted, it pulls up
in the rear end and fits nice. Typically, men just walk into a store and grab three pair and go home. But you don’tleave out of here without dropping your pants and getting fitted. I okay them or not okay them. And the people go out happy customers, and they come back.

And your growth has come when trades people are getting laid off all over the place.

We are 40 percent ahead of last year. And that’s because Carhartt is worth the investment. It will last you five years. A working person can’t afford to be buying new clothes all the time or have a zipper blow out on the job. Everything is triple-stitched. You can work in it. You can’t break it. And we have a 10-year return policy. You can bring it back for any reason, no questions asked, for ten years. We stand behind our customers, and they stand behind us.

Still, a lot of people are selling what you are selling, but you are growing fast and they aren’t.

We are bombarded with all these negatives about the economy, but we tend to forget that 90 percent of the people are still working. And those people who are working are putting in long hours, working more than ever, and they need really good work clothes. They need us. It’s really key to keep focused on the positive. Northern Lights Family Outfitters is at 7037 Pleasantview Rd., Levering. 231-537-2832, northernoutfit.com. 

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