BY MANDY MILES
After more than a decade as a Duval Street retailer, Phil Anderton, owner of Graffiti menswear shop at 721 Duval St., has had to adapt to changing trends in fashion, economics and society.
"The economic climate of Key West is changing," Anderton said last week while showing his belt selection to a visiting couple. "The retail market is left out of the picture a lot of the times and the specialty store concept has become a struggle because of things like the Internet and Macy's one-day sales."
Graffiti has been operating on Duval Street for 27 years. Anderton bought the business in 2002 after working there as a sales associate in the evenings while spending his days as a banker.
"For years, yes, we catered to the gay market," he said, adding that he carried clothing and swimwear lines that were most popular with gay men. "Our window displays catered to the gay clientele, but that can't happen anymore. We asked for equality and we got it, so being gay isn't anything out of the ordinary anymore."
Anderton has adapted his merchandising strategy and altered his inventory to appeal to all men.
"I tried to adapt and bring in brands that appeal to the more meterosexual guys," Anderton said, moving around the shop from Ben Sherman shirts and bags to French Connection scarves, Diesel shorts and shirts and Lucky jeans. "Stores aren't gay; people are, and since moving to this location in 2011 I no longer hear that Graffiti is a 'gay store.'"
"We have the only Lucky jeans south of Miami," he said. "And they're priced at the MSRP (manufacturers suggested retail price)."
Graffiti also has an exclusive contract with PanAm to sell the iconic airline's logo'd travel bags and other items.
"I buy them exclusively from PanAm, and actually an older, straight couple was in the other day looking specifically for a bag," Anderton said, also pointing out lightweight shoes by Unstitched Utilities.
The shoes are made from DuPont Tyvek, the same durable, lightweight material used for FedEx shipping envelopes.
Anderton estimates that tourists comprise about 70 percent of his clientele.
"I do get some locals because I'm involved in various organizations and I support charities in town. But while my traffic from cruise ship passengers has been reduced, I'm getting more of the ships' employees coming in to shop."
Graffiti also carries men's swimwear, shorts and tees year round.
"People are always coming in, saying they forgot their bathing suit, or they didn't realize how warm it would be here in the winter," said Anderton, a native of Orlando. "You go into some of the big stores this time of year, even in Florida, and it's all jeans, sweaters and boots."
Despite the struggles of a small retail shop, Anderton emphasized the advantage that merchants like him have when it comes to changing their inventory quickly.
"I'm here every day," he said. "I see what the customer likes and I hear what they're asking for. I have good relationships with my vendors to change rapidly based on the climate, and I specialize in things you can't get in larger stores."
Graffiti, 721 Duval St., is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, 365 days a year. Find them on Facebook at Graffiti Key West.