Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts was set up by Nicholas Charles Tyrwhitt Wheeler in 1986 with a flagship London store in Jermyn Street, traditional home to upmarket gentlemen's shops. But by July 1999, competition from the high street meant the company needed a new sales outlet. So www.tyrwhitt.com was born. Online shoppers can view and rotate more than 100 men's and women's shirts to see such details as hang and cut and the numbers of buttons - and ties can be matched with the shirts.
The strategy seems to be working. Gary Robinson, web marketing manager, says: 'Internet transactions now account for 20% of our total turnover of pounds 18 million per year, and we have set a generous target of making this 62% by 2003 to 2005.' At present, the average web order is 1.5 shirts - well below the average of three bought by store visitors, but enough to make a substantial contribution to annual turnover. Robinson accepts that, with a name (and spelling) like Tyrwhitt, the site may not be easy to find, so links from other web sites are being developed. Some are predictable - tyrwhitt.com can be accessed from lifestyle, fashion and financial sites. But there is also a link from a Freemasons site. So, after centuries of invisibility, the Masonic cover may be blown. Those blue wide herringbones are such a giveaway.