Men are dressing up – and retailers are benefiting – WWD

Love is in the air and men’s retailers are reaping the rewards.

Buoyed by the rising number of weddings and other special occasions, retailers expect last year’s strong sales to continue at least into the second half. Add to this the overhaul of the appropriate re-entry wardrobe and the future is looking bright – at least for now – for many menswear retailers.

Businesses like Target, Walmart, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Kohl’s are being impacted by the broader economic issues facing American consumers — inflation, a looming recession, and high gas and food prices — exacerbated by overstocking, which is certain to be a problem lead to increased promotions in the second half, but optimism remains in menswear, particularly in stores that cater to higher-income shoppers.

While Macy’s last week reported weak second-quarter earnings and lowered its year-end guidance, Sam Archibald, the retailer’s apparel general business manager, said the company was “really pleased with the first-half results” across all apparel categories and “men’s” . was an outstanding actor. What’s driving this – and for the back half in the men’s space – is that there are so many carrying options for the male consumer. We’re seeing a lot of wardrobe diversity with this new fluid lifestyle at the office, on vacation and at home.”

Today’s men are looking for both convenient and trendy wardrobes for all those aspects of their lives, Archibald added, whether it’s tailored clothing, furniture or denim. “And they’re not separate consumers,” he said. “So it’s a very exciting time for menswear and the apparel industry in general.”

Macy’s benefits from men’s new varied wardrobes.

Macy’s is also seeing men rushing to update their wardrobes for the weddings, events and holiday parties they’re preparing for over the next few months, giving both the tailored clothing and tie categories a boost. “The peak of the wedding season is now, and then there’s the Christmas parties and get-togethers,” he said. “And we expect that to continue into the fall.”

And while Macy’s has had some “bumps in the road” when it comes to the supply chain, Archibald said those appear to have been resolved for the most part. “We took action to move forward and much of that is now behind us.”

As a result, he’s bullish for the rest of the year despite the retailer’s lowered guidance. “We serve a wide range of consumers and we feel really good about it [the future].”

“I’m very hopeful that people will continue to go out and go back to work in a hybrid fashion,” said Dana Katz, owner of Miltons, a three-piece men’s chain based in suburban Boston. Add to that holiday partying, which is expected to return in full force this year, and Katz expects the business to continue to surge for the remainder of 2022.

“Weddings continue to be a strong trend and special occasion clothing continues to be the main driver of our business,” he said. “We’ve peeled our eyes, but we’ve seen no sign of the customer pulling out. We were lucky.”

The same goes for Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans, which operates four stores in the New York City area. “I’m still optimistic,” he said. “We handle a lot of requests for wedding attire and it doesn’t let up. We’re seeing a real interest in young men and their families looking to dress up. It used to be just a tuxedo for the wedding, now it’s something for the rehearsal dinner and Sunday brunch. They think a lot more about their wardrobe.”

Additionally, it seems that after two years of fits and starts, this fall will really mean a return to work for most men. “After so many false starts, they will finally be people getting back to work,” he said. “And they may not have the right clothes. No one knows what the new dress code will be like, but one thing remains the same: they still want to look good and that gives stores a responsibility to solve that dilemma.”

For most men, this means hybrid pieces like blazers and trousers that are both comfortable and sophisticated, worn with updated sport shirts or sweaters.

Giddon said that while he remains “very optimistic about business for the fall,” there are issues that need to be addressed, such as: B. Lack of inventory. “Our biggest problem is the supply of goods,” he said. “But one of the few positives from COVID[-19] is that we’ve all become more agile and learned to adapt when we don’t know what the future holds. But even if there is a recession, it is better than standing still for six months.”

Hill Stockton, owner of Norman Stockton in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, expects a strong second half.

“I still think business is going to be good,” he said. “We can’t always increase 20, 30 or 40 percent, but flat wouldn’t be bad because last fall was so good.” He still expects sales to increase by 15 to 20 percent by the end of the year. “However, it will be interesting to see what happens in the spring, so we are holding back on some open purchases.”

While its customers aren’t ignoring the macroeconomic woes, they’re not skimping on their purchases either. “Nobody likes to pay more for gas, but the impact at Walmarts and Targets is bigger than that at specialty stores.” His best sellers have included suits for events and for graduate students from nearby Wake Forest University going for job interviews and their new employers have to dress up. “You don’t even look at the price,” he said. In addition to tailored clothing, top sellers also include five-pocket pants, which Stockton was already anticipating. “I keep looking at the numbers and I’m surprised – sales are 100 percent higher than a year ago.”

Matt Mueller, chief executive officer of Knot Standard, which operates 10 of its own stores as well as the 59 locations at Brooks Brothers and another four at Nordstrom (which will expand to a further nine units in the fall), said: “Since March we’ve had more demand seen than we can handle. There has been a decline on the low end, but growth on the high end, and our average order is $1,700, so we’re not seeing a slowdown.”

Two years ago, customers would have only cared about what they wore from the waist up for their Zoom calls from home, he said. Now they’re looking for something a little different from athleisurewear and instead refresh their wardrobes for all the events on their fall and holiday calendar.

“Our clients are very concerned about getting out and being with people again,” he said. “When they come back from their crazy summer trip and look forward to their overbooked holiday schedule, we help them redesign their wardrobe – not so much for work, but for going out. And we’re seeing that trend translate into gaming cabinets that can also be used for work.”

Top sellers, Mueller said, include blazers and trousers, bomber jackets, long-sleeved tailored popovers and performance polos.

Andrew Berg, President of Robert Graham, which sells the majority of its range through direct sales channels, said: “The hardest part is dealing with uncertainty.” He acknowledged that the ongoing pandemic, inflation and tensions overseas are raising some concerns about of consumer withdrawal, but so far has not seen any slowdown in sales.

A Van Gogh print on a Robert Graham jacket.

“Our client is still keen to buy, so we’ve been able to maintain our momentum,” he said.

The brand’s bright spots include its knitwear and golf collections, which complement sales of the company’s signature multicolored patterned button-down shirts. “Woven fabrics are still our bread-and-butter, but the addition of knitwear, golf and women’s has really given us some exciting growth,” he said.

Berg added that the company has managed to retain its “passionate and loyal customers, while also attracting a new enthusiast to the brand — and the combination works well.”

A Brooklyn-based men’s retailer said it believes last year’s skyrocketing sales were a “deviation” as men who had been home for months rushed to refresh their wardrobes.

“It was euphoria, but now we’re going back to a more normal cycle,” he said.

During the rebound, many manufacturers overordered goods, believing the good times would never end, and as a result there is plenty of stock for immediate purchases, he said.

“Everyone in our industry is overreacting, so I will take advantage of opportunities and shop closer to the season. Spending is through the roof, so it’s all about margins. You need to buy better rather than sell higher,” he concluded.

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