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Young men ditch brands in favour of high street

Men’s branded young fashion could be in terminal decline, with spend among under-25s falling as buying habits shift towards cheaper own-label alternatives.

Spending by under-25s is the only age category to have fallen in the 24 weeks to February 13, down 5.1% according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel. Within the age group, even online spend frequency has dropped 1.1%. Menswear has taken the brunt of the falls, plummeting 11%, while womenswear dropped 2%.

Falling spend on brands has driven much of this, with consumers instead opting for retailers’ own labels that have improved product quality and style while remaining relatively price-competitive.

Kantar’s strategic insight director Ian Mitchell told Drapers branded goods made up 40% to 50% of purchases made by men under 25, but warned this was moving towards the wider market average of 10% to 20%.

“Men’s young fashion is the last bastion of the branded market, and what we are seeing is young men trading across from brand to own label, and therefore paying less,” he said.

“There are different social and economic factors – unemployment, tuition fees kicking in, less disposable income … but long term there has been a switch away from brands to retailers, who have upped their game. Label as a motivator is now down the pecking order, compared with price, quality, look.”

Mitchell said it was a structural change that would ultimately make it harder for brands to charge a premium when competing against similar-quality own brand from retailers.

It is a trend borne out by the number of brands or multi-branded retailers that have gone under in the past 12 months.

Republic entered administration in February – with figures published this week suggesting it left total debts of £33m – while Gio-Goi collapsed in January. Indie young fashion retailer Hoi Polloi also went bust earlier this year.

Firetrap’s retail division went under in March 2012, with the wholesale arm saved by Sports Direct, while Miss Sixty teetered on the brink last summer before being saved in February, although the wholesale brand has exited the UK.

Nick Hood, business risk analyst at financial research firm Company Watch, warned more young fashion businesses could suffer, arguing the weather was exacerbating the sector’s problems.

“The whole fashion world is season sensitive but particularly young fashion.”

Andy Tompsett, UK head of young fashion brand Merc, said brands should be trying to set themselves apart from the high street instead of competing.

“How many ice cream-coloured chinos does a man need?” he asked. “It’s about being individual. Brands have a heritage they can use in their products.”

But one source noted that even successful brands such as Superdry were faced with problems as retailers’ own labels mimic their style. “The name of the brand doesn’t really have any staying power,” he said.

Readers' comments (4)

  • As a long standing Indie, I've been telling brands this for years, but will they listen? No. Brands have got too expensive and have let the younger end of the market go. Bad management in complete ignorance.

    Therefore this all means that some brands are still obsessed with an age group that couldn't give a damn about them. Funny in a way.

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  • Agree completely. It is not understandable why most fo the brands are targeting younger market who are short of money and ignoring the age group 40/50+ who still have the money to spend.

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  • its an obvious scenario and retailers such as topman are cleaning up the cheaper end of the market . Good luck to them i say, They have the finger on the pulse of younger market. Brands are just not interested in this genre and those that are, get it hopelessly wrong.

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  • Said this time and time again, the younger market is not short of money, it's short of choice, these guys are flocking to TM and Asos and the likes, most of the bands out there lack innovation and they need to stop offering seasonal ranges, by the time the season arrives Topman have already flogged it to death and are moving on. Personally i actually do not think that many of existing brands can compete and that they are better off focusing on the 30, 40 somethings who do wish to invest in something with a bit more quality and longevity.

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