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Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

Men Hitting the Malls in Search of Style

When m. fredric decided to launch its men’s store, president Fred Levine figured his customers would be the husbands, boyfriends and partners of the women who had long shopped in his women’s stores. But to his surprise, his new male customers came shopping entirely on their own steam, and in far greater numbers than Levine had anticipated. “I thought I was going to get my m. fredric woman buying for her husband,” Levine said. “I thought they would try to hip up their guy. But the guys started coming in on their own. They were coming out of the woodwork from the day we opened.” Maybe because they don’t have a wife to do it for them, or just because they have become more interested in how they look, more and more men are doing their own apparel shopping. And not just the highly publicized metrosexuals. A newly empowered average Joe is changing the demographics for retailers, and stores are scrambling to figure out how to attract him. “Men are buying more of their apparel,” said Kim Kitchings, director of supply chain planning at Cotton Incorporated. “In 2001, 68 percent of men’s apparel was purchased by men according to the figures we get from NPD Group. In 2006, that number is 75 percent. So you see the growth there.” Men were largely ignored by apparel marketers for years, and with good reason. The average guy went from jeans and tee-shirts in college to khakis and work shirts as adults with little desire to vary what became the official married-guy uniform. Worse yet, they were notoriously averse to browsing, and their impulse buying gene seemed only to kick in where electronics were concerned. But a funny thing happened to the average American male while he was wielding that remote. He started paying attention to health and fitness. He began to notice that his favorite macho magazines were talking to him about style. And he began to remain single longer, so he had to fend for himself, everywhere from the department store to the grocery store. By the time CEO George Zimmer promised, “You’re gonna like the way you look,” in Men’s Wearhouse commercials, the way he looked actually mattered, even if he was an average Joe. Meanwhile, younger men, often raised by their divorced moms, spent as much time in the mall as they did in the ballpark, and their sense of style was often firmly in place long before they went off to college. “The younger male consumer is much more adept at it than the older male consumer,” said Tim Henderson, consumer strategist with Iconoculture, a company that specializes in consumer intelligence. “Older men, they got married after college, they bought a home, raised a family, and they didn’t think much about what they wore. But a lot of that has changed now. So now you have male consumers who want to look fashionable.” Men’s Wearhouse added about 30 stores in the last year alone. Another menswear specialty store, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, has plans to open about 65 stores a year after seeing its sales grow by 55 percent since 1999. And Nordstrom’s newly remodeled store at Westfield’s Topanga mall stocks a staggering 3,500 dress shirts and 2,500 ties. Retailers may not be anxious to share what they’ve learned about the new male shopper. (Officials at Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, Nordstrom and Macy’s did not return calls for this story.) But their actions speak just as loudly. “Macy’s, with their expansion in their flagship 34th Street store has expanded its men’s accessory department by 30 to 40 percent in floor space,” said Garry Butcher, vice president of research for shopping center developer Macerich. “You don’t increase a department by 30 to 40 percent without just cause.” Actually, department stores have been slower to pick up on the news of the newly-evolved fashionable man, leaving the category to retailers like Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch and Gap. But that is changing. At The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks, posters and table tent cards tout an expanded selection of dress shirts now available from Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. at Macy’s., featuring bright colors, slimmer fits and designer names like Calvin Klein and BCBG. “We’re trying to get our message out there to people in the mall who might not think we’ve got this product,” said Dominic Catalfamo, vice president of retail services at PVH. “Newspapers don’t always reach the audience. The guys are in the mall every 10 days. We wanted to hit them when they visit.” Not coincidentally, PVH this January launched its largest media campaign ever with a 30-second spot on the Superbowl. The availability of fashionable merchandise was central to the decision by m. fredric to open its men’s stores in June, 2005. The Agoura Hills-based retailer began including men’s sportswear in its existing eight stores, and as new stores became available, moved the category into its own space. “We’ve been asked to do it for years by our customers. But we didn’t want to take on a whole new enterprise,” Levine said. “But what happened about two or three years ago, is we discovered somewhere between 50 percent and 75 percent of our top women’s vendors were starting to open up men’s divisions. So not only did it fall right into our lap, it wasn’t even a step away from what we were already doing.” Writing the orders may be just as easy, but selling to men isn’t, especially when it comes to fashion. They typically want more information and more service than do women, if only because the subject matter is often so new to them. PVH three years ago began placing its own staff of sellers into a select number of Macy’s stores. “They’re employees of PVH and they sell the product and educate the consumer,” said Catalfamo. “They help them coordinate the outfit. And every year we’ve experienced phenomenal sales results.” Levine thinks music videos have had a lot to do with the change. And he said it doesn’t hurt that L.A. is defined by Hollywood, and on the red carpet, what men are wearing has become just as important as what women wear. Then too, there is no longer a stigma attached to men when it comes to fashion. “Men just care more in 2007 about how they look,” Levine said. “The mainstream guy can now care about fashion and there’s nothing feminine about it. And that’s evolved in the last few years tremendously where a guy can still be very masculine, but care about what his appearance is like.”

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