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High street wants its cut of bespoke suit market

The mainstream menswear market is facing a major shake-up as high street retailers take on traditional tailors for a slice of the made-to-measure and bespoke suiting market.

Earlier this month, Moss Bros opened its first store dedicated to bespoke suits on Blomfield Street in the City of London.

The Moss Bespoke concept, which offers suits for up to £500 and made-to-measure shirts for £75, is expected to be rolled out across the UK via shops and concessions.

Drapers also revealed last week that shirt retailer Charles Tyrwhitt is set to introduce made-to-measure suiting into its stores. The suits will cost up to £450 and the service will launch in its London stores from next year, with shirts also set to be available via the service.

Upmarket chain Reiss will also launch a personal tailoring service into 11 of its UK stores in September and in a number of its US and Middle Eastern stores. Suits will cost from £485 to £795, compared with £395 for a standard Reiss suit.

Meanwhile, retailers that already offer personal tailoring are also rolling the service out. Luxury British heritage brand Aquascutum has expanded its personal tailoring from its London Regent Street store to its concessions in Selfridges in London, House of Fraser in Manchester and Glasgow, and Bentalls in Kingston upon Thames.

So why is made-to-measure such a hot area for retailers? According to Verdict Research, menswear retailers are adding more diversity to boost trade, which has suffered during the recession at the same time as the market has faced rapid consolidation.

Verdict Research senior retail analyst Sarah Peters said: “Retailers are looking for new areas to move into and new ways to drive sales. Menswear has been difficult over the past year, so adding made-to-measure will help increase revenue.”

Mike Rich, managing director of made-to-measure at menswear retailer and supplier Baird Group, said: “Everyone is looking to extend their portfolio and get more out
of the space they have, and made-to-measure offers something quite special.”

A new generation of consumers is seeking individuality and convenience, aided by the success of suiting etailers such as A Suit That Fits.
Tailoring business Gresham Blake, which offers bespoke tailoring as well as made-to-measure services, saw a 12% rise in like-for-like sales from January to April, led by a growing trend for made-to-measure.

“Men would rather wait six weeks and choose themselves how they want their suit to look,” said founder Gresham Blake. Moss Bros chief executive Brian Brick said: “The market is ready for something fresh and new. People today want something different; they don’t just want to be plain, they want be individuals. All fashion companies are continually developing.”

Charles Tyrwhitt founder Nick Wheeler echoed Brick: “Made-to-measure is very fashionable at the moment. It’s a big thing.” Mark Henderson, chairman of the Savile Row Bespoke Association, said he believed there had been a trend in the suit market towards personalisation. “People who’ve been buying ready-to-wear prefer a better fit. There’s a difference between a beautiful suit and some tat from around the corner.”

Reiss menswear buying manager Ben Leaver said Reiss’s new tailoring service would help it to capitalise on existing footfall. “We get large groups of wedding parties coming and this is a chance for them to buy a personal suit and really enjoy the experience,” he said.

Men’s spending on suits, jackets and blazers fell 17% to £222.7m in the 24 weeks to April 25, according to Kantar Worldpanel. Despite the overall decline in suit sales, some men still want expensive products that are high quality and long-lasting rather than more items which don’t offer the same quality.

Peters said: “Men are becoming happier to pick out one well-fitted suit that looks really good rather than buying several cheap suits.” While made-to-measure will appeal to those buying suits for special occasions, some jobseekers will want to impress by wearing a sharp suit, added Peters.

The move into made-to-measure on the high street has ruffled feathers at more established tailors, with Savile Row decrying the move by Moss Bros to offer Bespoke suits.Henderson took umbrage with Moss Bros calling its new offer Moss Bespoke, and told Drapers the branding “trashed the word”.

Traditionally, a made-to-measure garment is ready-to-wear and alterations are made, while bespoke suits are hand-cut and hand-stitched. But while Henderson criticised the Moss Bespoke branding, he believed consumers knew the difference between a Moss Bespoke suit and one from Savile Row, where prices start from about £3,500.
Peters said the high street would not steal market share from Savile Row. “They’ll be looking at a new customer. People who go to Savile Row will continue to shop there.”

Gresham Blake said customers who spend thousands on a Savile Row suit are different from those who will visit the high street: “I don’t feel any threat from Moss Bros. People who buy from Moss Bros are not going to be turning away from Savile Row.”

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