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IADS Press Release: Men's Fashion shows mix between casualwear, sportswear and formal attire

press January 2024 Press release

Booming and blurry: if menswear remains a steady category, it is adapting to changing customers’ tastes and lifestyles, but also to their price concerns.

In a difficult worldwide context, wary male customers have become price-sensitive and spend less. However, their appetite for fashion remains stable and shows a twist from casualwear (the driving force of the business) to semi-formal wear, as many companies ask employees to return to the office. Now that they also come back to stores, department stores’ focus is also on generating growth in e-commerce, which in turn raises the question of operational profitability.

Overall, the men’s fashion category turnover share was stable in the past exercise at 16% of the total business on average for IADS members. In terms of price points, year-to-year, while entry-level and luxury sales shares remained stable at respectively 18% and 10% of sales, the premium segment grew at the expense of the high-street category. 

Two parallel trends explain this shift:

▪ The return to the office, implying adequate attire, but with a rejuvenated and modernized touch,
▪ The need to spend more as such products are more complex, therefore more expensive, than casualwear, but without entering the luxury territory, due to economic concerns and spending capabilities.

It is interesting to note in this context that department stores remained primarily purveyors of accessible and inspiring fashion: the high street/mid-range price bracket was the most important with 45% of sales, followed by the premium segment, with 25% of sales and growing. 

Casualwear meets office wear and elegance: an increasingly fluid category

The Style Pulse, an IADS partner, explained to department stores’ buying teams their conclusions based on their digital B2B platform usages, and how menswear categories continue blurring: customers are no longer looking for separate offers in suits, casualwear, and sportswear, but are wearing all three at the same time. Mix this need with the return of office wear and social functions, and the cocktail becomes complex:

▪ Elegance is back, sustained by the “quiet luxury” trend and the appearance of new generation tailoring ideas. 
▪ Customers demand relaxed styles that can be worn on every occasion, from the office to evenings out,
▪ Fluidity has really taken ground, with a feminine touch added to utilitarian and technical wardrobes.

Consequently, as men’s fashion is no longer a collage of separate and very distinct segments, brands are not categorized and confined to specific stylistic boxes either. The days of “one brand is equal to one style” are gone.

Nevertheless, casualwear is still the force driving the business with a 56% share on average, followed by office wear (24%), showing people are increasingly back to the office. After significant growth in 2021 due to events resuming after Covid, occasion wear decreased to 5% in 2022. Finally, and this also shows how fluid the category has become, athleisure grew to 15% of the total business, a dynamic segment which would have remained solely classified in sports departments a few years ago.

As fashion authorities, the department stores’ top-of-mind priority remains the product and brand mix

Nelly Rodi, a partner of the IADS, presented its exclusive scouting of up-and-coming brands made specifically for the Association’s members: 

Must-have brands: Ami, A.P.C., Carhartt WIP, Arte, Nudie Jeans, Les Deux, Isabel Marant, Seidensticker.
Brands making a comeback: Gant, Fursac, HS05, Lacoste, Aigle.
Rising brands: ERL, Aries, S.S.Daley, Bode, Eleventy, Revolution, Thisisneverthat, De Bonne Facture, Drôle de Monsieur.
Hidden gems: Cherry, Ouest Paris, Manastash, Norwegian Rain, Baziszt. 

Pop-up stores and capsules remain an extremely powerful way to animate the product and brand offer, as illustrated with the Lacoste x Netflix capsule and Calvin Klein swimwear pop-up at Manor, Disney x Givenchy capsule and MC2 St Barth pop-up at El Corte Inglés, Jacquemus' store takeover and Café du Cycliste pop-up at Galeries Lafayette, Boss x Looney Tunes and Agnès b x New Era collaborations at Sogo or Les Deux pop-up at Magasin du Nord, to name a few. 

Going beyond the retail floor animations, department stores also adopt tailor-made strategies to lure in specific customers according to their local trends: for instance, while Boyner is focusing on including more sustainable and 
eco-friendly products, El Palacio de Hierro is simultaneously working on the development of streetwear, the repositioning of formalwear and the relaunch of its made-to-measure program, and The Mall Group mixes local brands and Instagram labels.

Challenges ahead: e-commerce, inflation and inventory hurdles

With life fully back to normal, customers are back in stores and the share of e-commerce in the category is no longer increasing, remaining stable at 17%. To keep this business dynamic, department stores launched new services such as Boyner with Boyner Now, a 90-minute delivery service which allows customers to order alternative sizes and try the items while the delivery person waits at the door for their decision. Thanks to a new distribution centre, Magasin du Nord offers faster deliveries and more BOPIS services. On their side, El Palacio de Hierro and El Corte Inglés significantly grow their online product offer. 

All these initiatives raise the question of making such operations profitable in the current cost context: inflation is a reality for all. In all markets, customers are looking for bargains and cheaper alternatives. For some retailers, the purchasing decision is getting more complex, with fewer units per transaction (UPT) and a smaller average basket. As a consequence of inflation and slower sales in some cases, department stores are facing issues when it comes to the level of inventory and end-of-season stocks. 

While casualwear remains the driving force of the category, workwear is making a comeback with people returning to work. Overall, Men’s Fashion contours are less precise with casualwear and sportswear mixed with more formal attire. Going beyond products and despite having different projects, e-commerce is a priority for all. Also, department stores are facing a challenge relating to the consequences of inflation which are affecting consumers’ shopping purchasing power and habits as well as causing inventory issues. 

Read the full press release below:

Read the full press release, in French, below:

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