‘How about menswear? : What to consider when expanding into menswear’

‘How about menswear? : What to consider when expanding into menswear’
“There is more to the store design than simply having exposed brickwork for the men’s area and softer furnishings for women”

Large brands and big name designers are scrambling to launch menswear and it is a bandwagon that indies would also be wise to jump on.

Global Data forecasts menswear growth will increase quicker both this year and next with growth in the market set to hit 3.4% year-on-year in 2018.

Michael Kors, New Look, Lululemon and Stella McCartney are among the large retailers and designers that are tapping into the trend.

However, the move from womenswear to menswear is no easy task and there have been plenty of failures along the way.

Maureen Hinton, retail analyst at Global Data, says that if you are an indie retailer with a couple of stores you need to think hard to “determine exactly who you are targeting”.

For instance, an indie in London’s Stoke Newington would “probably be looking for quirkier brands, smaller and up and coming brands”.

Consideration must also be given about whether to launch menswear in your existing womenswear store, or to open another location for expanding into the new product category.

“Mixing the two is a bit difficult,” says Hinton. “It depends on the profile of your brand really, if it is too feminine it is going to be more difficult to introduce menswear.”

Akshara Manohar, strategist at retail and brand consultancy Fitch, agrees with Hinton that striking the right balance is of the utmost importance.

She believes that if 80% of merchandise is womenswear then an effective strategy is to pepper the remaining 20% of men’s product throughout the store to take advantage of women shoppers wanting to gift for the men in their life.

However, if you are making a commitment to a 50-50 split between men’s and women’s products then Manohar advises having two separate split zones or even standalone stores.

“Our sensibilities are very different,” says Manohar. “I might gravitate towards different textures, materials and colours and finishes whereas men would gravitate towards completely different things.”

She adds that there is more to the store design than simply having exposed brickwork for the men’s area and softer furnishings for women.

“It is completely sensorial,” says Manohar. “It is the sound, the colours, the tones, the staff, and even the smells.”

Manohar believes the key is to create an environment where men can “walk in confidently and have a good time”.

This is because of the different mindsets of men and women. While women are happy to “forage” for clothes this can be a more intimidating process for men, according to Manohar.

“One thing that seems to be putting off all men is the clutter” says Manohar. “Less is more for them.”

By de-cluttering the men’s department retailers are able to make it an open and easy atmosphere to engage in.

“To come into a store is a big effort so you need to make that experience worthwhile or they will be unlikely to return,” says Manohar.

If the formula can be cracked, then indies are onto a winner because men tend to show more loyalty to brands because once they find something they like they are happy to stick with it for some time.

One way Manohar believes men can be hooked in is by taking a leaf out of Lululemon’s book.

Lululemon has a reputation for being a retailer of women’s yoga clothes but is increasingly moving into menswear, and the latest step is through its menswear store in Canada.

This includes a pop-up barber shop and areas where customers can play ping pong or have a coffee.

Such concept stores are perhaps hard for indies to emulate but should certainly provide inspiration in how to tap into the lucrative but arguably less adventurous male customer.

“There is no one size fits all answer,” concludes Manohar. “Traditionally shopping has been perceived as a feminine activity and retailers previously catered only for women and did not cater to the nuances of the male shopper”.

It is time for retailers to put the male shopper at the forefront of their strategy.

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