There’s an old adage to finding success in baseball: “Hit ’em where they ain’t.” A similar philosophy holds true for men’s specialty stores who are posting good sales by focusing on brands, items and experiences that are not found at their larger, highly promotional, competitors.
“We don’t have the same things as the majors,” said Mike Zack, owner of the Circa 2000 store in Plano, Tex. “That’s why we work so hard at the shows, to find things that are different.”
Zack and other specialty retailers will converge on New York City later this week to shop for fall at the showrooms and trade shows around town, including the revamped Project, as well as MRket and Capsule. Most retailers report that unlike the larger stores, they had a solid holiday season and managed to steer clear of promotions. As a result, they are optimistic that the momentum will continue and are expressing confidence about placing orders for fall. Tops on their shopping lists are slim suits and sport coats, interesting knitwear and lightweight outerwear.
“Our holiday season was very good,” said Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans in New York City. He attributed it in large part to the company’s relocation into a larger, more modern space. “The new store provided customers with a compelling reason to visit and we were up fairly dramatically,” he said. Rothmans’ second location in Scarsdale, N.Y., was up as well, but only in the low single digits, he said.
But neither store was promotional. “We’ve gotten out of the promotional game,” he said. “We do a little sale merchandise, but we earn our business by curating product and owning our customers. Most things are available everywhere today, including Gilt and My Habit, so we better provide a better shopping experience.”
Through the fall and holiday season of 2012, Giddon said shoppers were attracted to the “cool, interesting lines” that Rothmans recently added, and he will be in search of complementary labels for fall.
“We’re going to be looking for new products and vendors,” he said. “And potential product for our oxymoronic 1,000-square-foot permanent pop-up shop.” He also said he’ll be having discussions about the future of the Mr. Brown by Duckie Brown collection, a capsule collection produced for the store last year. “We’re trying to figure out the next step,” said Giddon. “It sold well and we’re considering wholesaling it.”
Giddon, who said he will walk all of the shows in New York and Las Vegas, said he will “keep beating” the slim-suit drum, and will also be looking for knitwear and other items that have “interesting” twists, such as wool jackets with nylon liners, knit sweaters with leather insets, etc.
Tim Ryan, owner of Harleys in Milwaukee, was also upbeat. “Our holiday season was very good, better than last year, which was better than the year before that. We were up in the double digits,” he said.
He said that a promotion sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission the two weeks before Christmas provided a “real boost to business,” with a series of trunk shows and other events that attracted shoppers. “We did not break price until Dec. 26,” Ryan added. “We always try to avoid going on sale and we were able to accomplish that. We always have a sale corner, but it’s small and usually out-of-season goods. We try to hold to our guns.”
He said that the store has experienced “strong growth in clothing,” both suits and sport coats, which has also given a bump to dress furnishings. “And we even had a good outerwear season, which was surprising considering how mild the weather is.” Top brands include Zegna, Trussini and Schneider of Austria, and AG, Citizens of Humanity and DL 1961 in denim. A Robert Graham shop has also performed well, he added.
At the shows, Ryan hopes to find “better fancy sweaters” as well as “techie things — anything with an additional feature that can be used as a selling tool” such as stretch fabric in jeans or outerwear with unusual fabrics or details.
“I think 2013 should be a good year for retail, and we’re planning for it to be a good year for Harleys,” he concluded.
David Rubenstein of Rubenstein’s in New Orleans, said he’s going to be working the New York market for “unique sport coats — some constructed, some unconstructed,” as well as “new colors in dress and cotton pants. The biggest problem we have are weights, so we’ll be looking for lighter weights,” he said.
In sportswear, top on his list will be “something new in nonleather jackets.” He said his store had some success with lightweight jackets in 2012 and he’s searching for the next iteration. “And we’re going to be looking for a whole new direction in sport shirts,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent sure what that will be, but that’s what we’re looking for.”
Zack of Circa 2000 also had a good holiday season: “We had a lot of things people wanted.” And although the week between Christmas and New Years was untraditionally slow, “we got our share of what was out there.”
He said the store did well with knitwear and sport coats and newly added women’s wear also performed well. He held price, opting instead to give away pies to anyone spending $100 or more. “If you have what people want, you don’t have to discount it,” he said.
In New York, he said he will scour the shows for vendors and pieces that are not sold at the majors. “If they’re selling department stores, I don’t want it,” he said. That means he has to work harder and search more, but that’s what’s working.
“I think if I can find the right merchandise, customers have pent-up demand,” he said. He will be shopping for both immediates and fall at the shows and looking for knitwear, lightweight outerwear and sport coats in particular. “If I can find some items, that’s what I’m looking for,” he said. “I’ll go to Chicago and Vegas, too. The shows are an education and if you don’t look at them that way, you’re doing yourself and your customers a disservice.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast