Lessons learned from taking the plunge into menswear

Lessons learned from taking the plunge into menswear

Last week we explored the things to consider if you’re thinking about branching out into the rapidly growing menswear market. Now we’re able to share a real example of that diversification process.

You have decided to expand into menswear to make the most of the growing market but how exactly do you go about it?

Inside Retail caught up with Georgie Cook, co-founder of north-east London indie The Hub, to find out what they have learned from taking the plunge into menswear.

Cook and her sister Louise opened their first store – a womenswear retailer – in Stoke Newington in 2002 and two years later opened a standalone menswear shop after a strong demand from the local men.

A man’s world

At first the sisters felt like they were operating in a man’s world where even the trade shows were “blokey”.

“We were two women who had a background in womenswear and it was quite difficult at first,” says Cook.

They now have a menswear manager and buyer who began working for them as a Saturday Boy, who helps provide a man’s perspective.

“Sometimes we get it wrong as two women and it is good to have a man on board,” explains Cook.

The Hub went from strength to strength and opened a third store in nearby Broadway Market in 2011, which sells both menswear and womenswear in the same store.

“We think it is really nice to have it combined,” says Cook. If the opportunity arose they would snap up a larger store in Stoke Newington.


Getting the balance right

The mix of product in the Broadway Market store is a 65-35 split in favour of womenswear, which reflects overall sales. The shop’s existing design lent itself to selling menswear and womenswear in two distinct areas.

“We sometimes think about ‘what if you blend the ranges together?’ but I think it does throw people a little bit if it is not so obvious, it can confuse people,” says Cook.

The menswear is displayed in the front of the store because Cook says you sometimes have to make it “a bit more obvious” to lure men in.

Cook believes men “like it simple” when it comes to displaying stock.

“We find that if too much is folded on a shelf they don’t look at it, it almost has to be easy access, they’ve got to be able to get it off the rail and probably too much [stock] is a bit overwhelming,” says Cook.

The generation gap

She believes how men approach shopping depends on their age with those under 45 much more willing to engage, while there is a growing trend towards men shopping with their male friends.

Nevertheless, women still buy a lot of clothes for their partners and Cook believes as much as 50% of sales in the menswear-only shop comes from women.

“At the end of the day women still shop more than men,” says Cook.

Hitting the right note

Music plays a big part in catering for the male customer and can be used to create a relaxed atmosphere.

The Hub hired an independent music consultant to create a women’s and men’s playlist, but the female staff decided they prefer the men’s playlist so they’ve told the consultant they want all the music to be a “bit more unisex”.

“Girls do not notice the music as much, it is all about the whole shopping experience,” says Cook. “But guys are a little bit geeky and they will ask what the track is.”

In the Broadway Market shop they have the same consistent décor throughout and Cook says no one is bothered by having unisex changing rooms.

Creating an all-round experience

Space constraints have prevented The Hub dabbing with the likes of pop-up barber shops and coffee areas that are now de mode in concept menswear shops.

However, for those with limited space Cook recommends little touches that enhance the whole experience and encourage men to stay longer. This could include a comfy chair for them to sit on while they try on shoes or ensuring you have free magazines to browse through.

Male grooming products and dark chocolate are also proving popular. This is all geared towards constantly evolving to create an irresistible all-round lifestyle experience.

Cook believes the key is to never stop thinking of and discussing improvements to the experience.

“You can’t rest on your laurels,” concludes Cook .