Drapers finds out how high street retailers better known for their womenswear offer are cashing in on the booming menswear market
Menswear is big business.
Next-owned young fashion brand Lipsy became the latest in a long line of retailers to branch out into menswear when it unveiled its inaugural men’s collection, Man by Lipsy, earlier this month.
Fast fashion retailer Quiz has also dipped its toe into the world of men’s fashion for the first time, launching Quiz Man on a standalone website in April this year. US denim brand Madewell announced its first foray into men’s this month and fellow American Fashion Nova, known for fast, celebrity-inspired clothing, also debuted a menswear collection earlier this year.
They follow Boohoo Group’s launch of BoohooMan in 2016. The fast fashion menswear label has since been extended with a big and tall men’s range, which debuted in February 2017, and activewear, which launched this January. Retailers are going mad for menswear.
There is good reason for retailers once better known for their women’s offer to be turning their attention to the opportunities in menswear. The men’s fashion market in the UK grew by 4% between 2017 and 2018, Euromonitor reports, compared with 2.7% growth in the UK womenswear market.
Men are demanding changing trends more quickly
Florence Allday, Euromonitor International
Millennial men are also buying more: 16% of men aged 15 to 19 shop for clothing, footwear and accessories at least once a week, Euromonitor’s 2017 Lifestyle Survey found, compared with just 3% of women the same age.
“There are big opportunities in menswear for fast fashion retailers such as Quiz,” explains Florence Allday, a beauty and fashion analyst at Euromonitor International. “Previously, women were much more exposed to fashion trends through the press and magazines but now men are using Instagram just as much as women, so omnichannel retailers can really reach that customer.
“It is also important to remember that men are wearing less formal outfits to work because of the casualisation trend. You can wear gymwear to a bar or trainers to a club. As a result, men are less likely to invest in suits and more likely to buy cheaper fast fashion.”
The menswear market, traditionally less dynamic than its fast-moving womenswear counterpart, is becoming more receptive to trends, Allday adds: “Men are demanding changing trends more quickly, which is another opportunity for retailers seeking to enter the market. In womenswear, there can be a new strap or colour or whatever almost every week and, although men’s fashion is less detailed, it is changing more frequently.”
Way of life
Nick Paget, senior menswear editor at trend forecasting agency WGSN, believes menswear holds a natural appeal for brands and retailers that want to attract new customers: “Menswear is still projected to grow well into the next decade and, from a business point of view, it links into brands becoming more lifestyle driven. Brands are now selling a lifestyle and are thinking who or what else is in their customer’s lives – it’s becoming more conceptual.
The hardest thing can be getting male customers to try something new
Joanna Davies, Black White Denim
“As more and more brands launch cafes or homeware ranges, they are making it easier for both genders to shop in any given environment.
The industry is also consolidating and minimising risk. We’ve seen lots of designers showing men’s and women’s wear together, and they are thinking about how to use the same fabrics or even the same suppliers to minimise costs when putting new ranges out there.”
For some fashion retailers, launching a menswear collection is just a natural evolution of the existing womenswear offer.
“I wish I could say that I spotted the opportunity [in menswear] but it was completely customer driven,” explains Andrew Killingsworth, founder and managing director of plus-size retailer Yours Clothing, which launched its big and tall menswear brand BadRhino in 2015. “Whenever I visited stores, staff and customers would say ‘when are you going to start doing something for him?’”
There are now four BadRhino stores and Killingsworth hopes it may expand into international markets.
Fit for purpose
Nailing fit is a particular challenge for retailers looking to take their first steps into menswear, Killingsworth explains: “Sizing was a real challenge. Men can range from 5 ft 6 to 6 ft 10 in height – there tends to be less variation in women.
“Women are also more forgiving. If they like something and it shows off their best features, then they’re prepared to purchase. With men, on the other hand, if it doesn’t fit perfectly, then you may as well throw it away – it’s no good.”
Sizing was a real challenge. Men can range from 5 ft 6 to 6 ft 10 in height
Andrew Killingsworth, BadRhino
Tearing male shoppers away from ingrained habits can be another obstacle, adds Joanna Davies, owner and managing director of Drapers Independents Award-winning boutique Black White Denim. The Cheshire-based retailer launched its first menswear offer, which includes Samsøe & Samsøe, Mads Nørgaard and footwear brand Veja, last August.
“The hardest thing can be getting male customers to try something new,” she explains. “Men are much more loyal than women and once they find a brand they like, they are entrenched and tend to stick with that brand. That’s obviously great once you have that customer, but you have to build that trust.
“Our male customers also tend to be a lot fussier when it comes to details – the neckline on a T-shirt has to be exactly right, for example.”
Killingsworth agrees that retailers that want to launch menswear collections ignore the finer details at their peril: “What is also difficult about menswear is that it all hangs on small design details. A polo shirt is a polo shirt, so the details are what really make it.”
Men might be increasingly interested in trends, but practicality still comes first, WGSN’S Paget explains: “Men have come along way [when it comes to their approach to fashion], but they still won’t wear things that aren’t practical.
If a product is inconvenient or difficult to put on, men won’t buy it
Nick Paget, WGSN
“If a product is inconvenient or difficult to put on, men won’t buy it – if it needs more than a second to actually get it on your body then it’s not going to be commercially successful.
“There also needs to be recognition from retailers that men are different shapes and sizes. It’s not just about offering product for a bigger frame. The explosion of fitness and well-being means that men are muscular in different part of their body and that’s really coming to the forefront.”
The health of the menswear market makes it a tempting opportunity for retailers and brands looking to cast their nets wider in search of new customers. Although this is an increasingly dynamic and exciting sector, those wanting a slice of the pie will have to build trust, perfect fit and pay attention to crucial design details to really make their mark in menswear.