WHAT PEOPLE BUY: MEN S CLOTHING AND APPAREL


WHAT PEOPLE BUY: MEN'S CLOTHING AND APPAREL

Over half of U.S. households (55 percent) purchased men's clothing out of desire, not strictly out of need, in the past year. While men's desire-based purchases of clothing are less than women's, which totaled 65 percent in 2003, it still represents a significant discretionary purchase category for the majority of households in America.

Industry Snapshot

Personal consumption of men's and boys' clothing totaled $93.7 billion in 2002, up about 1 percent over the 2000 total of $92.8 billion (see Figure 6.7). Brooks Brothers is both a leading manufacturer and retailer of men's apparel. The company's heritage stretches back nearly 200 years. Brooks Brothers is famous for the custom-made topcoat they provided Abraham Lincoln on his second inauguration. He is also said to have worn a Brooks Brothers suit that fateful night he attended a play at Ford's Theater. But they are not satisfied to rest on their laurels. Having been recently acquired by Retail Brand Alliance, the parent company of Casual Corner, Brooks Brothers is defining classic American style for a new generation of shoppers. They operate about 160 stores in the United States and bring American style to shoppers in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Italy through 90 locations.

 

2000

2002

% CHG '00-'02

Total Personal Consumption in millions

$92,750

$93,656

1.0

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis


Figure 6.7: Men's and Boys' Clothing and Apparel Industry Snapshot

Retail Overview

Most men's apparel shoppers turn to traditional department stores to fill their closets. Some 65 percent of men's buyers shopped in traditional department stores. Discount department stores also serve as an important source for more casual clothing, with 56 percent of shoppers. Specialty clothing stores round out the top three sources for men's apparel, used by 50 percent of shoppers in the past year.

The biggest name in specialty menswear retailing is Men's Wearhouse (see Figure 6.8). With sales of $1.3 billion, Men's Wearhouse operates about 500 stores located mostly in free-standing malls. They are positioned as a discount retailer by offering their tailored suits at 20 to 30 percent discount over competitors' prices. Like Brooks Brothers, they are vertically integrated and so they design and manufacture the clothes that they sell.

 

2002 SALES

The Men's Wearhouse

$1.3 billion

Brooks Brothers

661 million

Structure

569 million

Casual Male

380 million

Jos. A. Banks

206 million

Today's Man

168 million

S & K Famous Brands

168 million

Bachrach Clothing Inc.

106 million

After Hours Formalwear Inc.

84 million

Salant Corporation

77 million

Rochester Big & Tall

60 million

Source: 2002 Directory of Apparel Specialty Stores


Figure 6.8: Men's Apparel Market Share Leaders

Another important retail name in men's fashion is Structure. Structure was founded by The Limited as the male version of their Express chain, which targets youthful female shoppers. With nearly 300 stores, The Limited changed the name of the chain to Men's Express in a repositioning strategy. Today, The Limited operates both the men's and women's fashion business under the $2 billion Express division. Meanwhile, they sold rights to the Structure brand to Sears in September 2003, which will be introducing new Structure men's apparel into the Sears stores in 2004.

Purchase Drivers

The business of men's apparel has been hit by a double-whammy that hurt the business. First, businesses everywhere adopted the new casual dress trend, then economic lethargy befell retail after September 11. For the past ten years or so, professional men traded in their three-piece suits for polo shirts and khakis. Because they could work in casual clothes, they didn't feel compelled to buy suits, formal shirts, and other "buttoned-down" looks for work. But that trend is beginning to reverse, perhaps in part due to the flagging economy. If everyone else is dressed in chinos, a man in a beautifully tailored charcoal gray suit commands attention and respect. Dressing for success is a simple though expensive way to gain stature in a challenging, competitive business environment.

A new research study by Dr. Jeffrey Magee, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based psychologist, provides factual proof that casual dress isn't good for work or the worker. In a study of productivity among 500 firms, he reports that casual dress leads people to take their work more casually, and as a result it suffers. He says, "When people are dressed more casual, they take a more relaxed view towards their work and their workplace." The study found that more than 50 percent of executives and 70 percent of employees feel how one dresses influences their daily behavior. Organizations that adopted business casual dress codes reported decreased productivity and an increase in tardiness, absenteeism, and sexual harassment lawsuits. "The more casual and more relaxed the dress policy is, the more work productivity declines," argues Magee. "People are more inclined to socialize in this atmosphere. . . . The workplace becomes less valuable as employees take its legitimacy for [a place of work] less seriously."

Retail leader Men's Wearhouse has embraced the new dress-for-success ethic. The company notes that both Lehman Brothers and Bank of America have announced a return to business dress. To help confused workers learn the new rules for business dress, they employ in-store Wardrobe Consultants in their 500 Men's Wearhouse stores to offer expert advice on what to wear and not to wear to work.

Demographic Variables

While men buy more men's clothing, purchased by 59 percent of men in 2003, women buy nearly as much, bought by 50 percent of women. In my home, for example, I am behind virtually every single men's clothing purchase that is made. With three men to dress—my husband and two teenage sons—there is a lot of market potential in my house, but all marketing efforts better be directed toward me or nothing is going to be bought, guaranteed. The prime market for men's apparel is households under age 45, though purchase incidence remains high with purchases among about half of households through age 64, at which point it drops sharply.

The most affluent households with incomes of $75,000 and above are the most active buying menswear, though middle-income households from $35,000 and above all maintain fairly active purchases in the category. Households with two or more members and those with children spend more buying men's clothing. And higher educational attainment links with higher purchase incidence.

Key Demographics for Buyers of Men's Clothing and Apparel.

  • Men buy slightly more than women, but women buy lots too.

  • Middle-to-high-income households buy more.

  • Younger households aged 18 to 34 are the most active, but buying remains strong through age 65.

  • Two-person and larger and households with children buy more.

  • Purchase incidence is linked to rising educational attainment.