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If you're 5'8" or under, Jimmy Au's has just the right fit (photos)

by Robert Garrova | Take Two®

Jimmy Au, owner of Jimmy Au's For Men 5'8" And Under, started the business as a college class assignment out of his trunk. Now, the short men's suit shop has a store in Beverly Hills. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

In Beverly Hills, just around the corner from designer brand shops like Hugo Boss and Gucci, there's a specialty store that's survived two recessions and the ever-increasing popularity of online shopping. It's called Jimmy Au's for Men 5'8" and Under and only caters to one type of customer: short men. 

"You would think all you would have to do is shout 'Hey I've got clothes for short men' -- but that doesn't cause men to come running," says Alan Au, Manager at Jimmy Au's for Men 5'8" and Under. 

According to Au, part of their continued success has come from something as simple as the right business name.

"We used to be called Jimmy Au's Small and Short and it worked for a while, and then I decided we should change it because some guys won't walk through the door because it says 'small and short,'" Au says.  

More than 50 years old now, the business has come a long way from humble beginnings. Alan's dad, Jimmy, started out custom fitting suits in Hawaii from the trunk of his car. Jimmy Au stands 5'1" and he soon realized he was better at fitting shorter men. So, Mr. Au decided to focus on what he knows best. 

Today, everything about the shopping experience at Jimmy Au's is tailored for short men. The mannequins in the window were custom built so they stand 5'8" instead of the standard 6'. Even the display shelves are placed lower, and the Au's strategy has worked. Shorter men from all over SoCal -- and the U.S. for that matter -- come to Jimmy Au's and drop thousands of dollars at a time. 

Au says stores specifically for short men just don't exist anymore, partly because it's a limited market. But why all the "Big and Tall" stores and no "Short and Smalls?"

"There's a huge market for big and tall because big and tall guys cannot settle for clothing," Au says, "They must have clothes that are big enough for them otherwise they go naked."

It all comes down to settling, Au says, because plenty of short men figure they just can't find better fitting clothes.

Ira Kalb, professor of marketing at USC's Marshall School of Business, says Jimmy Au's ability to successfully market to a specific customer is key for small businesses these days. 

"You create this idea that you're a boutique and that you specialize," Kalb says, "That will draw people from a much wider radius than you would if you were just going to a chain store."

So, if you run a small business, take some advice from Jimmy Au: You have to know where, and sometimes how high, your customer stands. 

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