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With a solid holiday season as the backdrop, men’s specialty stores shopped the New York market this week with gusto. Fall collections were strong and saleable, retailers said, with advanced fabrics in outerwear, modern silhouettes in tailored clothing and sophisticated knitwear among the biggest opportunities for later this year.
The young customer continues to drive business, they said, but more-mature shoppers are also updating their wardrobes, further resulting in a boost in business. “The older guy feels outdated with his baggy pants and wide point-to-point clothing,” said Van Weinberg of James Davis in Memphis.
Retailers were in New York City this week shopping the Project, Liberty, Capsule and Agenda trade shows. The MRket show, which is usually part of the mix, was forced to shift its dates this time and will open on Sunday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
“Christmas was really good,” said Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans. “We had a phenomenal November with a lot of people shopping early. The first two weeks of December were not spectacular, but we had a strong finish, and our [post-Christmas] sale has been good.”
Giddon was shopping the market for product to fill what he sees as “opportunities in tailored clothing and sportswear.” He especially liked Duckie Brown Gentlemen, the new, more commercial line from the men’s wear designers, as well as Bosideng, a Chinese lifestyle brand that is launching in the U.S. market for fall.
He said young men are still gravitating toward tailored clothing, and they’re not shying away from more upscale prices. “Young guys like suits, and they’re learning about better suits,” he said.
Overall, Giddon said he’s expecting a strong 2014. “I always go into every season excited,” he said. “And I look for something new and different.”
He continued, “We always have to find new ways to create noise. Retail is all about theater, and there are a million places to buy.”
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The New York market was an opportunity for many brands to step out and introduce new labels, collaborations and classifications. Among the highlights at Project was the new technical outerwear from Tumi, designed by Scott Branscum. The collection incorporated all the bells and whistles from Tumi’s bags into a modern collection of coats for men and women. Duckie Brown Gentlemen was also unveiled at Project. Designed by Steven Cox and Daniel Silver, the duo behind the directional designer brand Duckie Brown, this line was targeted to a more conservative customer. Suits were offered in two styles, classic and new classic, and retail for $900. There were also sport coats for $695. “It’s for the guy 25 to 105 who wants a reasonably priced suit,” said Silver.
Also at Project was the expanded collection from Gents. The brand started 14 months ago as a baseball cap company and has now expanded into denim, graphic and basic T-shirts and fleece and cashmere hoodies, cardigans and lounge pants. Gents is expanding its presence in Bloomingdale’s and has been picked up by Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.
Citizens of Humanity used the Project venue to unveil the new C-of-H Man collection, designed by Simon Miller, its new men’s creative director. Miller is considered a denim denizen, and his first product for Citizens will hit stores in May. A standout was a hybrid slim fit model — somewhere between slim straight and slim — in a raw Japanese selvage fabric.
Several other brands chose the Liberty show to make their debut. These included Filson’s new collaboration with U.K. designer Nigel Cabourn, considered an expert on heritage apparel, fabric and details. That showed in Cabourn’s seven-piece outerwear collection, which blended Filson’s workwear sensibility with the designer’s vintage aesthetic, such as a waxed cotton coat with buffalo plaid insets that retails for $685.
Liberty also marked the debut of Woolrich White, a new contemporary men’s and women’s collection influenced by the brand’s 183-year heritage and incorporating wool from its mill in Woolrich, Pa. The collection focuses primarily on outerwear and includes the Patrol Series, a collection of down-insulated parkas with water-repellent fabrics and goose down fill.
Although not its first season, the Ovadia & Sons York Street collection for J. Press offered a couple of surprises for fall, including a varsity jacket with a kimono dragon print.
Dan Farrington, general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Mitchells Family of Stores, characterized the holiday season as “decent — we’re not jumping for joy. But we’re not panicked about business either. We were up, and up is up.”
At the shows, he was “scouring for items,” particularly outerwear, knitwear, casual pants and soft jackets. “The soft jacket has been good for a while,” he said, “but it continues to pick up momentum. Guys now know how to wear them.”
In addition, he said the stores’ suit business is “surging” and he was shopping for slimmer, more fashion-forward silhouettes.
Weinberg of James Davis also reported a strong fall season. “We got out of the women’s business, remodeled the store and opened a custom department, which is a growth area for us,” he said.
At the shows and in the showrooms in New York, he was shopping Kuhl, Star USA, Peter Millar and Robert Graham.
Tim Ryan, president and chief executive officer of Harleys in Shorewood, Wis., was similarly upbeat.
“We had a very good holiday season, with nice increases in merchandise sales and a dramatic increase in our gift-card business,” he said. “That’s cash on hand, and generally when they come in to use the gift card, what they spend is generally greater than the dollar amount. So it’s a win-win.”
Ryan said he is expecting a 10 percent growth in sales for fiscal 2014, which is already into its fifth month. “And we’re ahead of plan. We’re expecting our business to continue to flourish.” He attributed that to a “strong resurgence of tailored clothing, not just for the businessman, but the Millennial customer as well, who buy because they want a suit, not need one.”
Harleys has seen an uptick in clothing sales for the last three years, but believes there’s “still life there.” And the strong suit business has led to sales of complementary shirts and neckwear.
At the shows, Ryan was shopping for knitwear and especially liked Gents, which he brought in for fall last year and had a 95 percent sell-through. He was also looking for the right woven sport shirts to spur sales, which have been “challenging.” He liked Capsule’s Sundries section of grooming and apothecary brands. “We brought in eShave and did very well with it,” he said, noting that accessories such as grooming products, jewelry, watches and small leather goods were a hit for holiday and are a good add-on business for retailers.