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New Look eyes menswear push via standalone stores

New Look is considering converting some of its estate into standalone menswear stores as it gears up for growth in the market, Drapers understands.

A source close to the situation said discussions were taking place over whether to convert some of the smaller stores, or those currently underperforming, into menswear- only operations as the business looks to ramp up growth. No decisions are believed to have been finalised as yet, however.

Another source said the retailer was “gearing up in a big way” and it was looking to take on top players in the field such as Topman. New Look’s menswear offer currently sits inside the womenswear stores.

Drapers has also learned that New Look has poached River Island’s menswear buying controller Shailen Unalkat to spearhead this new strategy as its head of buying for menswear. Unalkat, who has been at River Island since 2004, is expected to join the company shortly.

One New Look insider said changes to the menswear offering could be evident as early as autumn 14. She said internal targets sought to make menswear equal to its womenswear business in terms of sales.

This will be a challenge however, as in 2014 New Look is forecast to have a womenswear market share of 3.4%and a menswear share of 0.5%. This ranks the retailer sixth in the womenswear market and 30th in the UK menswear market, according to analyst Verdict Retail.

To grow the menswear business, Drapers understands New Look has made significant improvements to the quality of product, with tailoring expected to become more prominent in a move away from novelty T-shirts and underwear.

One supplier said it had been approached by the chain in order to source better-quality product, in line with that sold by Debenhams and Next.

“It wants to take the whole thing more premium, which isn’t too hard because it was quite down and dirty before,” he said. “It is taking the [retail] prices up quite a bit on menswear for autumn.”

Verdict Retail analyst Honor Westnedge said: “For a few years running New Look has said it had made [its product] too young, and that it wasn’t suited to the customer coming into stores, so it has tried to make it more grown-up and preppy but it’s still not a menswear destination. It needs to create a more comfortable environment for men to shop – it can’t just rely on women browsing the section.

“New Look has always been known as a womenswear retailer, so having standalone stores would be a good way of targeting men specifically.”

New Look declined to comment.

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