There was an interesting article this past Saturday in the Wall Street Journal that confirms something I’ve recently noticed: luxury makers that traditionally target women are taking aim at the men in their lives. While this is not really new, the intensity and focus surrounding the effort is.
Earlier in the year I wrote about Longchamp reviving its line of men’s bags; it turns out that was only the opening salvo. Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Lanvin, and even Dolce & Gabbana have all ramped up their menswear related offerings. While men are beginning to actually shop more like women, achieving the same level of brand loyalty is still an elusive goal. Generally speaking men are still more comfortable switching brands if one maker does not carry a desired product.
Men also appear to be taking that hunter/gatherer shopping approach to the mall. In 1995 52% of men bought their own clothes, compared to 75% in 2006. In addition, the menswear segment of the retail landscape has become quite profitable as guys across the board ease into the role of acquisitive spender. After observing this growing trend, retailers are taking action.
Earlier this year, Tiffany & Co., and Hermes both opened new stores in the Wall Street district of New York City. Both specifically target male shoppers. The Hermes location even has a separate salon dedicated to its custom tailored clothing; the first of its kind in any Hermes store.
That said, retailers still understand that women and men have different goals when it comes to shopping. Two age old rules will probably always apply: 1) Men tend to know what they want and approach shopping accordingly, and 2) men in general do not want “fashion,” they want functional style that lasts.
A good example of effectively responding to the trend of men taking a stronger interest in shopping is the Brook’s Brother’s Black Fleece line. Designer Thom Browne reigned in the excesses of his famously shrunken suits to create a stylish yet realistic collection that is still well grounded in Brook’s sense of tradition.
The suits and sport coats, pants and shirts are all easily understandable and nonthreatening to the target market of younger men looking to get the Brooks’ name with a modern flair. The line balances customer desires for “new” classics with usability.
The male customer can browse through selections without feeling like he is wasting time on trendy fluff. In the process, Brooks Brothers gets a new convert and the customer gets some sharp yet timeless clothes.
Men are not yet the next women when it comes to shopping, but maybe it doesn’t even matter. Men are now interested in shopping for themselves. They care about the experience and are more knowledgeable than ever before. If you are a retailer, that’s what you should really be focusing on.