The rise of the global 'Menaissance'

Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Men around the world seem to be spending more money on fashion than ever before. In 2012, the total revenues generated by the global menswear industry reached 403.6 billion dollars, according to MarketLine. In 2013, menswear increased more rapidly than its female counterpart, with global sales growing just short of five percent, according to Euromonitor.

Even in large Western fashion markets, such as the US, the UK and Germany, the sales of menswear has been growing at a faster pace than womenswear for the past few years. Euromonitor has named this trend 'Menaissance' and attributes the sales boom to men becoming more and more aware of their personal appearance, adjusting their grooming habits accordingly. Now the question is, what are the factors driving this increased interested in mens fashion?

Independent investment bank Brean Capital indicates that the growth in menswear boils down to their loyalty to fashion labels, even during a time of recession. "Men's [wear] -- historically -- doesn't move as much, period. It's more resilient in a down time since they're more brand loyal," commented Eric Beder, managing director at Brean Capital to CNN. "That means a man devoted to Ralph Lauren will buy a polo shirt, recession or not."

Others, however disagree. Michael Londrigan, author of Menswear: Business to Style, believes that there is more to the increase in mens fashion sales than brand loyalty as the pattern of men purchasing more and more clothing has been going on for a much longer time. Since 1998, global sales of menswear has soared over 70 percent and there seems to little signs of it slowing down anytime soon, as the men fashion market is predicted to reach 450 billion dollars this year.

Men today shop for the casual alternative to the suit

Londrigan attributes the increase in menswear to the 'dot-com boom' generation, where the boom of technical offices encouraged more casual work wear, which subsequently meant men investing more in combination wardrobes. "For so long, men wore a suit and tie to work. Then, all of the sudden they realized they didn't have to. But then they look in their wardrobe and realize they didn't have anything to wear." This led to men hitting the high streets and shopping centers to purchase a more relaxed and casual work attire.

His theory is supported by data from Euromonitor, which shows a 4.1 percent decrease in suit sales between 1999 and 2000, and a further decline of 21.2 percent between 2000 and 2001. According to Euromonitor, the drop in suit sales was much more severe than the overall dip in the sales of menswear. However at the same time, premium denim sales for men grew 0.4 percent and 6.8 percent respectively during the same time period and rose 200 between 1999 and 2008. Until last year, overall sales of menswear had declined during the recession.

Even though casual menswear makes up the majority of fashion sales today, there is an increasing group of men who are moving towards a dressier work attire. "There's a movement back towards dress-up, but not to a three-piece suit," noted Londrigan. Instead, men today prefer to combine a jacket with a shirt and jeans. "Men are wearing dressy as casual," pointed out Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group. "The suit is more expensive than the casual sportswear that they were buying before, so that drives the average price up." Suit sales in the US increased nearly ten percent from 2009 to 2013, equaling 2.3 billion dollars last year.

A piqued interest in dressing fashionable can also be attributed to Millennials, who today are more likely to build their identity around what clothing they wear instead of technological gadgets they use, adds Cohen. And thanks to the additional of social media network sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr and the rise of the 'selfie', looking good both online as well as offline is becoming more important for men. Then as these Millennials start to flow into work places and their growing technical skill set begins posing a threat to older employees, they try to compensate by dressing younger and hipper. "Men in their 50s and 60s, they think to compete and remain in the workplace, they think they have to look younger," said Jay Yoo, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences at Baylor University.

Retailers adapt to the growing demand of menswear

The increase in menswear has not gone unnoticed by retailers around the world. For example, a number of department stores have invested in expanding and upgrading menswear sections such as Saks Fifth Avenue, which increased it current in-house menswear offering and added more shop-in-shops due to increasing demand. Barneys Madison Avenue has added a number of European menswear brands and is constructing an eight-level men's store. Bergdorf Goodman recently opened luxury accessory section for men and Harrods is adding two new men's room to its shoe boutique.

But it is not only department stores who are investing in menswear. British fashion retailer New Look is currently considering turning a number of its smaller stores into menswear-only stores to strengthen its business and ultimately increase its menswear sales. Sainsbury's recently reported a strong growth in menswear, over 23 percent year-on-year, during its fourth quarter trading statement and has extend its contract with designer Gok Wan for its collections. Then there are pure-online players tapping into the menswear market, such as Berlin-based personal shopping service for men, Outfittery, which recently made headlines after closing a 18 million dollar funding round. The company aims to "free men from shopping", by offering personal consultation and service and in the span of a year, the company has gone from having a customer base of 20,000 to 100,000.

However, if retailers really want to improve the shopping experience for men, research from Mintel indicates that half of male consumers think positive in-store shopping experience is of vital importance. Providing good customer service would also encourage male shoppers to shop more, notes Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at Mintel. "There is scope for some retailers to focus more on turning their stores into retail destinations offering shoppers an outstanding customer experience, where men will visit the store to ask the staff for advice about clothes and then complete the purchase either on an in-store iPad, on their own mobile device or back at home on their laptop."

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