It comes as little surprise that retailers have warmed to the idea that men do like to shop. It’s not for nothing that I wrote a book on the subject, so some of the recent news of branded men’s offerings is worth closer inspection.
Coach, Hermes, and even department stores like Lord and Taylor have all made major statements with either dedicated men’s stores or departments.
One might wonder if they had perhaps been closely watching brands like Brooks Brothers and its Black Fleece stores (New York and San Francisco), or J. Crew, which has gone from a single prototype in 2009 to now two dedicated shops in New York and a soon-to-be-opened Boston location.
Coach’s store on Bleecker Street is designed to feel distinctly “masculine,” with rich mahogany wood, exposed air ducts, and a broad assortment of both men’s wear and accessories on display.
Coach has been rumored to be toying with a concept for some time, and their choice of the West Village is certainly strategic. Marc Jacobs, Black Fleece, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger are all a stone’s throw away from the store.
Coach is apparently also looking at other locations, and we’ve heard San Francisco and Boston are on their radar.
Hermes opened its opulent men’s store in February. The brand is one of the few to be resilient in these economic times, mostly because their customer base is so affluent. The glamorous space, located on New York’s Madison Avenue (you think they would open anywhere else?) includes custom pieces designed exclusively for that store — such as a baseball glove retailing for $8,500. I’d be so curious to see what that customer looks like, wouldn’t you? The four-storey retail experience includes an entire floor dedicated to suiting (topping out at $20,000 each) and a crocodile jacket for a mere $130,000.
Recession? What recession?
Not far behind Hermes’ (although a decidedly different customer) is Balenciaga, which opened its first free-standing men’s experience in Paris in late June.
The space is hyper-modern, with a sculptural stairway dominating the small, 650-square foot space. Designer Nicholas Ghesquiere collaborated with artist Dominique Gonzalez Foerster. The space is decidedly space-age, with clean, geometric lines and diode lighting.
Meanwhile, department stores continue to shuffle around their men’s offering — as if it makes any difference. We all know that men don’t really care much for department stores unless the entire space is made just for them. Nevertheless, Lord and Taylor put in a substantial overhaul of the flagship’s 37,000 square foot men’s store, which they hope to complete by fall. Currently the brand’s men’s offering accounts for roughly 12 percent of Lord and Taylor’s annual sales (estimated at $1.2 billion) — so it’s no wonder they want bolster their offering. Other department stores, like Saks Fifth Avenue, do far better in total sales, as high as 20 percent.
As I’ve discussed in my book, Branding the Man: Why Men Are the Next Frontier in Fashion Retail (2009, Random House/Allworth Press), department stores can rearrange the deck chairs all they want, but men still need to be able to access what they want as easily as possible. Lord and Taylor does in fact have an express elevator to their 10th floor department, but it’s way over on the south side of the building, so most guys don’t even know it’s there. That means a slow trek via an all-stops elevator or worse, the escalator. More importantly is the perception of Lord and Taylor, (a) it’s “old”, and (b) it’s a women’s store. The brand will need to do substantial marketing to get men to see the store as a place for them.