Love is in the air and men’s retailers are reaping the rewards.
Backed by the increase in the number of weddings and other special occasions, merchants expect strong sales from the past year to continue into at least the second half. Add to that the appropriate wardrobe rework for the return to work and the future, at least for now, looks bright for many menswear retailers.
Stores like Target, Walmart, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Kohl’s are affected by the biggest economic problems facing American consumers – inflation, a looming recession, and high gas and food prices – exacerbated by inflated stocks that are sure to lead to intensified promotions in the second half, but optimism remains in men’s clothing, especially in stores that cater to higher-income shoppers.
While Macy’s last week reported depressed second-quarter earnings and slashed year-end forecasts, Sam Archibald, the retailer’s apparel general manager, said the company is “really happy with the results in the first. semester “in all categories of clothing and was an extraordinary artist. What is driving it – and for the back half into the male space – is that there are so many bargains to wear for the male consumer. We see a lot of wardrobe diversity with this new fluid lifestyle in the office, on vacation and at home. “
Today’s teens are looking for both comfort and trendy wardrobes for all of these 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 the men’s business and the clothing space in general.”
Macy’s also sees men rushing to update their wardrobes for the weddings, events, and parties they’re preparing for in the coming months, which is giving both the bespoke and tie categories a boost. “The climax of the wedding season is now, and then there are the parties and party gatherings,” she said. “And we expect it to continue throughout the fall.”
And although Macy’s experienced a few “bumps in the road” when it came to the supply chain, Archibald said it appears to have been fixed for the most part. “We have taken action to overcome it and much of that is now behind us.”
As a result, he is upbeat for the rest of the year despite the retailer’s downside forecast. “We serve a wide range of consumers and we feel really good [the future]. “
“I am very confident that people will continue to go out and return to work in a hybrid form,” said Dana Katz, owner of Miltons, a three-unit men’s chain based in suburban Boston. Add to that the Christmas holidays that are expected to return this year and Katz expects a further increase in business for the remainder of 2022.
“Weddings are still going strong and special occasion clothing continues to be the most important factor in our business,” he said. “We have our eyes open, but we have not seen evidence of the customer’s withdrawal. We have been lucky”.
Ditto for Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans, which operates four stores in the New York City area. “I’m still optimistic,” he said. “We are handling a lot of requests for wedding dresses and this is not slowing down. We are seeing real interest among young men and their families who want to dress up. It used to be just a wedding tuxedo, now it’s something for rehearsal dinner and Sunday brunch. They are thinking a lot more about their wardrobe ”.
Plus, after two years of ups and downs, it looks like this fall will truly mark a return to work for most men. “After so many false starts, it will finally be people who will go back to work,” she said. “And they may not have the right clothes. Nobody knows what the new dress code will be, but one thing remains consistent: they still want to look good, so that creates responsibility for the stores to solve that dilemma. “
For most men, this will result in hybrid pieces like coats and sweatpants that are both comfortable and sophisticated, worn with updated sporty tees or sweaters.
Giddon said that while he remains “very optimistic about business in the fall,” there are problems that need to be addressed, such as a shortage of stocks. “Our biggest problem is the supply of goods,” he said. “But one of the few positives to come out of COVID[-19] is that we have all become more agile and have learned to adapt when we do not know what the future holds. But even if there is a recession, it’s better than closing for six months. “
Hill Stockton, owner of Norman Stockton in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, expects a good half of the year.
“I still think business will be good,” he said. “We can’t continue to have increases of 20, 30 or 40 percent, but flat wouldn’t be bad since last fall was so good.” She is still forecasting that sales will increase by 15-20% by the end of the year. “It will be interesting to see what happens in the spring, so we are holding onto some buyback opportunities.”
While its customers aren’t oblivious to macroeconomic issues, they’re not cutting back on purchases either. “Nobody likes to pay more for gas, but the effects on Walmart and Targets are greater than those of specialty stores.” Among its best sellers are event dresses and graduate students from nearby Wake Forest University who need to disguise themselves for job interviews and for their new employers. “They don’t even look at the price,” she said. In addition to tailored clothing, other top sellers include five-pocket trousers that Stockton expected would already run their course. “I keep looking at the numbers and am surprised: sales have increased by 100% compared to a year ago.”
Matt Mueller, chief executive officer of Knot Standard, which operates 10 of its own stores, as well as the 59 Brooks Brothers locations and four more in Nordstrom (which will expand to nine more units in the fall), said: “Since March, we’ve seen more demand than we can handle. There has been a decline in the low end, but growth in the high end and our average order is $ 1,700, so we are not seeing a slowdown. ”
Two years ago customers only cared about what they wore from the waist up for their Zoom calls from their home offices, he said. Now they are looking for everything but athleisure clothing and instead are refreshing their wardrobes for all the events on the calendar for the fall and holiday seasons.
“Our clients are very interested in going out and being with people again,” she said. “As they return from their crazy summer trips and look forward to their overbooked Christmas holiday program, we’re helping them redo their wardrobes, not so much for work, but to go out. And we are seeing that this trend translates into wardrobes for play that can also be used for work. ”
Top sellers, Mueller said, include blazers and trousers, bomber jackets, tailored long-sleeved popovers, and performance polos.
Andrew Berg, president of Robert Graham, which sells most of his line through direct-to-consumer channels, said: “The hardest thing to manage is uncertainty.” He acknowledged that there are some fears of a consumer withdrawal due to the ongoing pandemic, inflation and tensions abroad, but so far he has not seen a slowdown in sales.
“Our client is still eager to buy, so we have been able to maintain our momentum,” he said.
Among the brand’s bright spots are knitwear and golf collections that complement the sales of the company’s signature brightly patterned button-down shirts. “Textiles are still our bread and butter, but the addition of knitwear, golf and womenswear has really helped us see exciting growth,” she said.
Berg added that the company has managed to retain its “passionate and loyal customers and has also attracted a new brand enthusiast – and the combination is working well”.
A Brooklyn-based men’s retailer said it believed last year’s skyrocketing sales were an “aberration” as men, who had been housebound for months, rushed to update their wardrobes.
“It was euphoria, but now we’re returning to a more normal cycle,” he said.
During the surge, many manufacturers have ordered too much merchandise, believing the good times would never end and, as a result, there’s plenty of stock available for immediate purchases, he said.
“Everyone overreacts in our industry, so I’ll take advantage of the opportunities and buy closer to the season. Expenses are skyrocketing, so it’s really all about margins. You have to buy better rather than sell higher, ”she concluded.