For this season’s third and final Hit or Miss report, Drapers headed to Milton Keynes to scrutinise the major trends and key pieces on offer at high street menswear stores for spring 11.
Every bloke likes a deal. But that’s no excuse to bamboozle the average Joe with BOGOFs, ‘two for’, ‘three for’, free trousers, free club membership … the list of this season’s promotional activity goes on. Quite frankly, no man in his right mind would entertain buying anything at full price right now - and whether he will long term is debatable given the plethora of creative discounting methods adopted by high street chains.
Yes, men are probably the toughest consumer group to get to part with their cash at the moment, and discounting is a necessary evil in times of zero consumer confidence, but these promotions are undoubtedly built into margin at point of sale. As such, full-price ticketing looks ridiculously bad value for money, while the scraps of paper and signage decorating shopfloors does no more than cheapen the overall image. The impact of that on brands is pretty irreparable - a straightforward price-to-value strategy would be refreshing.
In Milton Keynes, Bank was singled out for being bold enough in its product choice to not follow its direct competitors down the discount route. Its store experience and reputation was all the better for it. Meanwhile, on the whole, the spring 11 menswear collections were disappointing; Drapers is calling on all high street menswear buyers to boycott the dullest-of-dull checked shirt next season. It remains the item backed most by the market - just how many more can a man’s wardrobe really take?
“Bank was bold enough to not follow its direct competitors down the discount route”
This is a season of key pieces - think chinos, the cargo short, graphic tee, chambray shirt and drop-crotch jeans - rather than full-blown trend stories (unless you are Topman, which took a brave but questionable stab at the 1970s). Boy band The Wanted are responsible for taking the draped jersey All Saints-look to the masses via some seriously mainstream shops - one look that could tire very quickly as a result.
In terms of brands, Voi Jeans was the most prominent by a country mile, put there by a competitive price point in austere times. Superdry was still cornering the branded jersey and hoodie market but there was little else to excite, apart from Gant at John Lewis - although by no means a stop-you-in-your-tracks collection, it showed a solid range of the most important styles.
Finally, Drapers was impressed to see Marks & Spencer and Next finally getting their houses in order, with collections and pricing finely tuned to their target markets. It’s a rarity to see both hit their stride in the same season.