Magazine article Marketing

Sector Insight: Menswear - Value in Vogue

Magazine article Marketing

Sector Insight: Menswear - Value in Vogue

Article excerpt

The growth of value retail means menswear revenues have not kept pace with volume sales.

THE BACKGROUND

When it comes to UK consumers parting with their hard-earned cash, there are some stark differences between men and women. Clothes do not feature high on many men's list of priorities: they are happier to splash out on entertainment and high-tech consumer goods. The menswear market is therefore a highly competitive one. Recently it has seen volumes increase, but value growth has not matched it as the value end of the market has boomed. Last year it was worth pounds 9.2bn, up 13% since 2001. Volume growth over the same period was 31%, according to Mintel.

The value end of the menswear market - which includes retailers such as Primark and Matalan - experienced share growth of 13.5% in 2006, while supermarkets' share increased to 9.9% (up 6.3% compared with 2001).

Asda and Tesco have been particularly forthright in the market, expanding their ranges and proving especially effective in appealing to women who buy clothes on behalf of their family and partners.

Maureen Hinton, senior research analyst at retail specialist Verdict, says: 'Men like using supermarkets as it is easier and non-gender-specific. When there is a downturn in the economy they are also more likely to stop spending on clothes than women.'

The rise of the value stores has had an impact on the mid-market but not necessarily as dramatic as might have been expected. Big retailers including Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and River Island have become more competitive by focusing on their core markets - M&S and Debenhams by developing their offer for older and more affluent customers, with the Autograph and Designers collections respectively, while River Island regularly adds trend-tapping new lines to target fashion-hungry consumers in their 20s and 30s.

However, the market has not benefited from rising prices since 1997, according to Mintel, as the result of factors including the rise of the value retailers, a change of consumer attitudes toward cheap clothing and the removal of quotas on the number of low-priced goods entering the EU. 'There has been price deflation for a long time, and it is continuing, but menswear has lagged behind womenswear in going down the value path,' says Hinton.

The biggest spenders in this market are fashion-conscious pre-/no-family shoppers, according to TGI. This group, comprising mostly 15- to 24-year-old ABs, is drawn to the specialist multiples and strong brands that create clearly defined personalities such as Diesel, G-Star and Ben Sherman. London has the highest proportion of high spenders.

The recent trend appears to be toward smarter dressing: suit-buying rose 2% from 2002-2006. Although the dress code for most workplaces has moved to being slightly less formal, it appears that men now like to dress up more to go out.

The large proportion of sales in this market made to women is especially evident in the 25-plus age range. As a result, stores that cater for both sexes are doing well. Online retailers are also in a good position to exploit men's reluctance to shop as the less-involved buying process will appeal to them. While many high-street stores have built an online presence, online specialists including ASOS have carved a niche in offering the latest fashions.

The specialist high-street clothing chains still dominate the market, however. Retailers such as Topman and Burton account for just over 22% of sales.

M&S' menswear sales rose by 9.5% in 2005 as part of its well-documented revival. Last year it rationalised its own-label lines to Autograph, Collezione and Blue Harbour. The latter is now the UK's biggest men's casualwear brand.

On a more specialist note, in January Italian fashion retailer Benetton announced it was developing a branded store to sell only men's clothes. It plans eventually to roll out the store format across Europe. …

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