Retail is evolving — from the rise of mission-driven shopping to experience-first stores to the integration of new technologies like AR, touch screen displays, and cashier-less checkouts — and transforming the shopping experience. With any adaptation, natural selection chooses its victor to advance through the next stages of development, and in retail, 2019’s main contender is seemingly an unexpected demographic: the male shopper.
The growth of the menswear market is expected to surpass womenswear by 2021, and while the massive opportunity awaits, luxury brands and mainstream retailers must consider how to alter the traditional brand experience to cater to men. In a 2017 analysis on the shopping habits of men vs. women, men were found to make purchases when the need is immediate, are likely to stop shopping after they find the first viable product, and are less interested in discounts, deals, or out-of-season sales (sorry off-price).
The opportunities in menswear of 2019 fall under three straightforward tactics in markets that have traditionally catered to women but remain underdeveloped in men’s sectors.
THE END OF LUXURY OWNERSHIP
This will be the year the luxury industry meets the HENRYs (high-earners-not-rich-yet), the latter of millennials who will reach age 38 in 2019 and hit their peak in careers and income. Following that will be Gen Z, the oldest who will turn 22 years old and start their employment journey’s in a demanding economy. These retail trendsetters are expected to fall in the top 25 percentile of income, with the desire for luxury brands that align with their personal values and digital engagement habits.
Meanwhile, luxury brands are raising prices, significantly. According to McKinsey’s State of Fashion Report, Prices of fine watches and jewelry have nearly doubled since 2005. So, even high earning consumers and HENRYs will look for discounts and alternative models of luxury acquisition. This, against the backdrop of rising consumer interest in access versus ownership, has led to the success of rental and pre-owned models in 2019.
What does this mean? An open opportunity for straightforward rental and resale strategies targeting men’s interests: watches, sneakers (now considered a luxury purchase in a study conducted by Highsnobiety), and quality apparel.
Since the beginning of the activewear craze offering up yoga pants as a denim alternative, menswear has taken a backseat to the focus on women’s yoga pants and high-performance active assortments. Now, men are in search of premium products that combine highly technical fabrications, performance, and style. In other words, men want yoga pants too.
Leading the performance-wear wave is Lululemon, who noted last year that 30% of its new customers added during the first quarter of 2018 were men, attracted to casual wear, and Lululemon's men’s office commute line. This year, the company has introduced shorts and stretch chinos to their men’s bottoms offering, resulting in a 28% rise in sales. “It’s growing faster than our women’s business,” said Stuart Haselden, Lululemon’s chief operating officer, on a Q4 earnings call. “We really believe that Lululemon can be a dual-gender brand, and that our men’s business can ultimately be as big as our women’s.”
With Lululemon testing the waters with positive results, retailers have open opportunity to gain traction in men’s performance-wear with a strong, innovative pipeline. In early February, Nike didn’t waste time launching its first-ever unisex yoga line to capture a piece of the performance pie.
“People don’t know how to market body positive for men...[or] market size diversity for men,” says Bruce Sturgell, founder of the plus-size menswear blog Chubstr in an 2017 interview with Glossy. The women’s plus-size market has continued to make strides over the past year,, meanwhile, the men’s plus size industry remains a mystery and underdeveloped market. More than ever, the big and tall customer is looking to be on-trend, and the demand for inclusive men’s fits is on the rise, with brands like DXL dominating the market. Although online retailers like Stitch Fix, Bonobos, and Asos have begun expanding assortments, DXL sells mostly through brick-and-mortar, with 225 retail and outlet stores.
This presents a unique opportunity for retailers who want to corner the market and provide stylish menswear for male shoppers of all sizes – ages 18-to-34 who “would ideally buy everything online”, according to a Business Insider report.
As we progress through the year ahead the luxury rental, performance-wear, and plus-size industry will offer significant opportunities in the menswear sectors, requiring careful business model considerations and consumer relevance.