After a solid holiday season, the polar vortex has cast a pall over the men’s business during the first three months of 2014 as shoppers stayed home to escape from the cold instead of venturing out to stores. While overall sales have not yet recovered, many retailers are seeing pockets of strength for spring and are expecting a further uptick as the weather improves.
“Nobody wants to blame the weather, but we got hit really hard,” said David Zant, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Belk. “But we’re seeing business beginning to come back.”
“To find really escalating spring business, we have to look deep,” admitted David Fisher, executive vice president and gmm of men’s for Bloomingdale’s. “It’s a weird season. It’s not a disaster, but it’s softer than we would like.” Nevertheless, Fisher pointed to strength in outerwear and sweaters as well as emerging designers as top performers for spring.
Saks Fifth Avenue is seeing an uptick among “young, emerging brands,” according to Tom Ott, senior vice president and gmm. “There’s a real changing of the guard, more than I’ve ever seen in my career. And where we’re updating stores to be young and hip, we’re getting good traction,” he said.
“Spring business is very promising in spite of the ups and downs of the cold weather,” said Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and gmm of men’s for Barneys New York. Luxury clothing; better, handmade dress shirts; men’s designer sportswear, and accessories are among the most promising businesses for spring. “We’re having a very positive start to the season,” he said.
Specialty stores are also seeing an uptick in men’s sales.
Laure Heriard Dubreuil, chief executive officer and founder of The Webster, said, “The men’s business is growing at a steady and healthy pace. The proof is that we are about to open a new location entirely dedicated to men’s in Bal Harbour. The men’s category is evolving a lot, in a more refined, detail-oriented way. They are not only looking at suits, but also paying attention to a lot of details for some more casual pieces such as a good pair of jeans, clean sneakers, button-downs, etc.”
Bob Mitchell, copresident of Mitchells Family of Stores, said, “I’m not one to blame the weather, but January and February had a slow start right out of the gate, and weather has definitely been a factor. But the mood of the customer is very positive, so I’m still optimistic. Anything new is selling.”
Sam Ben-Avraham, owner of Atrium in New York and Florida, said the “early-bird” shoppers “give us a good indication if the season is hit or miss, and gives us time to react.” This spring, “we’re definitely seeing some trends,” notably non-denim bottoms, athletic-inspired dress sweatpants and layering pieces.
Outside the U.S., men’s sales are also doing well. At Beams in Tokyo, Takashi Hattori, men’s buyer, said “new products start to sell earlier” every year. “Right now the ratio of people who actually buy things they’ve put on hold for spring 2014 is quite high.
In tailored clothing, Italian styles are leading the way and “the slim silhouette is a key element. Customers that were once only interested in business apparel have started to buy casual items to complement their wardrobes, and thus expanded our gentlemen’s market. We do not necessarily have new customers, but one customer buys more,” said Shuhei Yoshida, tailored clothing buyer.
At I.T in Hong Kong, David Fung, head of merchandising for men’s wear, said sales in 2014 are outperforming last year, with European and American brands such as Thom Browne, Valentino and Ami performing well for spring.
The results are strong in Europe as well.
In France, the men’s business is running 8 percent ahead of last spring, according to Maud Tarena, director of men’s fashion at Le Bon Marché, with designer jeans and sport shoes doing especially well. And in the U.K., Matchesfashion.com has seen a 200 percent increase in its men’s business over last year, and the retailer will respond by introducing 20 new labels for this coming fall season.
“It’s also highly encouraging for us that the average basket value of our clients continues to increase, reflecting the strong fashion literacy of our men’s wear customers, who are responding particularly well to collections including Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Christopher Kane and Balmain,” said Damien Paul, men’s wear buying manager.
Eleanor Robinson, buying manager for men’s contemporary at Selfridges, said customers are flocking to the store for “word-of-mouth premium streetwear labels, particularly those by designers with huge social media followings — Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off-White, is a great example of a face behind a label who has real power in that market. Men are increasingly interested in the personalities behind the brands they buy into, especially when those are bona-fide creatives with a fresh take on the fashion industry.”
WWD polled retailers around the globe — from Connecticut and Los Angeles to Paris, London and Tokyo — to discover what is selling now. Among the hits:
Oak, a boutique in New York City and Los Angeles, says jeans from BLK DNM is still a much-sought-after item for the season.
“Men are enjoying fashion as much as women — even if they do not shop the same way, [or] as often, but they are more and more sensitive to the fashion trends. They are also very loyal customers. Among are bestsellers are Balenciaga and Lanvin sneakers.” — Laure Heriard Dubreuil, The Webster
“Where we add new things [such as this three-piece suit from Boss], we’re seeing good results.” — David Fisher, Bloomingdale’s
“Saint Laurent continues to perform for us. Our customers are really responding to the authenticity of Hedi [Slimane’s] vision for the brand, and are buying into the full looks.” — Damien Paul, Matchesfashion.com
Graphic sweatshirts from Neil Barrett are among the top sellers in the designer area at Printemps.
The label Stüssy is still a popular item within the streetwear community in Los Angeles and is selling well at Attic.
“The Scoop men’s customer has been investing in fashionable and functional outerwear from Dsquared2, Moncler and Aether.” — Bryan Reynolds, Scoop
“We created a slim suit separate from Tallia Orange that quickly became a bestseller — it’s a slim silhouette, with skinny lapels, a fun lining, with three colorways available for the pant, jacket and vest.” — Thomas Eckrich, Lord & Taylor
“After our ground floor renovation, our accessories business is great, particularly in small and large leather goods [from Balenciaga and others]. The business is growing dramatically.” — Tom Kalenderian, Barneys New York
“Givenchy’s flame prints are this season’s cult item — the sweatshirt in that print sold out within two hours of landing online.” — Damien Paul, Matchesfashion.com
“Our strongest growth initiatives are in active, outdoor and the golf world. Under Armour Ts and shorts are trending very well.” — David Zant, Belk
“Updated fits in brands such as Boglioli continue to be a “major catalyst” for sales, especially in pants and suits.” — Bob Mitchell, Mitchells Family of Stores
“A must-have for the season is from Fox Umbrellas.” — Roland Ling, Gentry
“PacSun’s men’s wear has gained considerable attention over the last year by offering collections from some of the most coveted names in fashion [such as Ray-Ban].” — Alfred Chang, PacSun
“In sportswear, our strongest business is men’s designer from Prada and Rick Owens to Thom Browne.” — Tom Kalenderian, Barneys New York
“In addition to bringing exclusive product from cutting-edge collaborators like Neff, Been Trill and Van Styles to the market, PacSun has expanded its own proprietary brands such as Bullhead and On the Byas that offer men on-trend apparel.” — Alfred Chang, PacSun
“There is such energy around Y-3 at the moment.” — Eleanor Robinson, Selfridges
“Right from the start of the season, products like short-sleeve shirts, polos, T-shirts and shorts have been selling, specifically knits by Marni.” — Takashi Hattori, Beams
“Our customer prefers to stick to basic and versatile colors such as black, white, navy and gray, but also opts for allover patterns including florals and similar graphic prints [such as this one from Billionaire Boys Club].” — Gillian Wong, Hypebeast
“We’re selling lightweight down jackets and vests, as well as technical outerwear [from Stone Island]. We’re seeing lots of layers, and as a result, the pieces are getting thinner and thinner.” — Sam Ben-Avraham, Atrium
Ami’s tropical print sweatshirts are a bestseller at I.T in Hong Kong, Printemps and Le Bon Marché in Paris and Beams in Tokyo.
Men are mixing athleticwear, such as this 10.Deep jersey, into their daily outfits at Attic in Los Angeles.
“We have very good sell-throughs with wallets by Pierre Hardy and with ‘Shopping’ by Want les Essentiels de la Vie.” — Maud Tarena, Le Bon Marché
“Biker jackets from Saint Laurent and Balmain are also the outerwear piece of choice for the Farfetch guy.” — Gabrielle de Papp, Farfetch
“Shoes are the best business we had in fall 2013, representing a major opportunity going forward. Here, our key players are Cole Haan, Johnston & Murphy, Ugg and Sperry Top-Sider.” — Thomas Eckrich, Lord & Taylor
“Bracelets, lapel pins, cuff links and tie bars are being scooped up as great add-on pieces.” — Jim Monteiro, Hudson’s Bay