Menswear independents are facing tougher trading conditions following a rise in interest rates, with men shunning formalwear and transitional product this season.
In a Drapers poll, retailers said shoppers had gone straight for summer shorts and T-shirts, bypassing fine-gauge knits and lightweight jackets.
Jason Gerrard, director of agency Geko Fashion Marketing, said the troubles faced by menswear multiples were now filtering down to independents. "Over the past few years the indies have been trading OK, away from the problems on the high street. But now it has hit the indies too. Menswear is a barometer of the economic climate and the interest rate rises are really hitting."
David Coe, owner of six-store Ipswich-based retailer Coes, said trading was tougher than last year. "Customers are much more aware of demands on their cash - the man who previously would have bought a new suit is now sticking with what he's got," he said.
Charlie Peel, buyer at Williams & Griffin in Colchester, Essex, said trading was up on last year, but with "fragile increases".
"Footfall is down and interest rates mean people have less to spend, but those coming in are spending. I think we're doing better than a lot of businesses," he added.
Edward Pritchard, owner of Pritchards in Hereford, said his business had been "holding its own" compared with last year. "British men seem to get into shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops as soon as there's a hint of sun. But it means we've sidestepped the actual spring product," he said.
WHAT'S SELLING IN MENSWEAR?
Charlie Peel, buyer, Williams & Griffin in Colchester
"We're shifting colour - pink is doing well. Shorts are popular, but plain styles have sold better than camouflage."
David Coe, owner, Coes in Ipswich
"Fashion-oriented styles are selling well. Suit sales in general are struggling."
Steve Cochrane, owner, Psyche in Middlesbrough
"Shorts are big again. Short-sleeved shirts are also doing well, and are on a par with T-shirts for the first time."
Edward Pritchard, owner, Pritchards in Hereford
"Lightweight jackets and knits are not selling. Business suits are slow, but weddings are keeping it ticking along."