An interesting debate started up in the Drapers offices this week after we heard the news that My-Wardrobe.com had taken the decision to drop menswear to focus on international expansion.
At first glance this seems like a very odd call at a time when we are hearing from many retailers that menswear is outperforming most areas of the market, as UK males catch up with the likes of Japan on their fashion credentials by taking a real interest in what they wear.
Certainly Asos recently attributed part of its growth to the success of menswear, and other high street retailers such as House of Fraser and John Lewis have both expanded their offer in terms of brands but also in terms of things like bespoke suiting and premium labels.
Add to this the real strides forward in menswear design over the past few seasons and the spotlight that the British Fashion Council has shone on the menswear market with London Collections: Men, and it could be argued that menswear is enjoying something of a moment.
So what is My-Wardrobe playing at?
There are several interesting issues at play here. One is the target market that the site appeals to. It’s not seen as being so ‘high-end’ as some sites like Mr Porter, for example, but is more premium than the mainstay of the high street and certainly more upmarket than Asos, for example. Which puts it out on its own in terms of being neither one thing or another – something that may confuse shoppers. Certainly it’s not a go-to site for the most enthusiastic online shoppers in menswear, the new generation of 16 to 21-year-olds who are fashion savvy and have been heading to Asos in their droves.
The older male has been more reluctant to embrace online shopping, so could this be one of the reasons why the My-Wardrobe offer has not taken off?
Could it be, even, that those who do fall among the site’s catchment area are choosing to visit a bricks-and-mortar store for the tangible experience rather than shopping online? Certainly insight into shopping habits among males and females has suggested that females are always on the lookout for something new, whereas males tend to be brand loyal and can be put off by too much choice and newness.
It’s also worth noting that when times are as tough as they are right now for everyone in retail, businesses have to make tough decisions about the focus they bring to their offer – something My-Wardrobe is rightly doing. Without a clear vision of what the business brings to the market that is essential to its customers the operation will not succeed – just look at M&S for an example of this.
Perfecting its womenswear offer, brand mix and global expansion may well pave the way for My-Wardrobe to then look at other areas.