Men’s fashion: Online suits you sir

The men’s fashion market is enjoying strong growth thanks to online channels and better brand marketing.


Ecommerce is helping to drive a boom in the men’s fashion market, with one third of men shopping online for clothes, new research shows.

The UK menswear market has grown by 12 per cent in the past five years and is worth £10.4bn, according to the study by Mintel.

The market research group believes the market will maintain this growth and rise by 11 per cent between 2012 and 2017.

Tamara Sender, senior clothing analyst at Mintel, says that although men are under-serviced with fashion options compared to women, numerous brands have identified “considerable growth potential” in the men’s sector. This includes H&M, which launched a menswear campaign fronted by David Beckham earlier this year, and Burberry, which opened its first menswear store in London last October.

“There has been a tendency for fashion retailers to focus on women’s clothing simply because women have been the biggest fashion buyers,” she says. “As a result, menswear tends to be put in a secondary space like the back of the store or upstairs. Men’s fashion seems to be undergoing a revival as a number of unisex retailers start to devote more attention to menswear.”

Digital platforms are contributing to the rise in menswear sales, the research shows. In the past year, 68 per cent of male shoppers online have used laptops or desktop computers to buy clothing, while 25 per cent used a tablet and 15 per cent a smartphone. The Mintel report notes that while fashion has been slower than other sectors to go online, men are increasingly using the internet to browse and buy clothes.




This is true for fashion label Gant (see the Frontline, below), which launched its ecommerce business in 2009 and reports that online sales are growing at a much faster rate than those from its bricks and mortar stores. The brand predominantly focuses on menswear and is planning further innovations in its online business in order to take advantage of this trend.

“Online is rapidly becoming a significant part of our business,” says Fergus Patterson, managing director for the UK and Ireland. “We’ve got several developments in the pipeline, for example, we’re looking at click-and-collect as part of an overall multichannel strategy for the brand. Those developments will further drive the online side but also create a link between our physical and virtual business.”

Patterson adds that the growth in the menswear market has encouraged Gant to open new stores. Last month, it opened a Gant Rugger store in Soho, London – the first UK shop dedicated to the menswear-only Rugger line.

According to Patterson, Gant is benefitting from an increasing willingness among men to invest in higher quality clothes. “I get the sense that people are split into those looking towards value retail and those who are prepared to trade up to a more premium brand like Gant and spend a bit more on statement pieces or products that are going to last,” he adds.

“Beyond us, if you look at the luxury end – the likes of Burberry and other brands that have performed well – that would tend to indicate that’s the way the market is moving.”

The research suggests this ‘trading up’ is a result of changing demographics among male fashion shoppers. Men aged 25 to 34 are buying clothes more often than those aged 16 to 24 and have overtaken their younger counterparts to become the most frequent shoppers, with half purchasing clothes once a month or more. This older demographic also seems happier to pay more for fashion. Overall, 52 per cent of the men surveyed say they are willing to spend more on a brand they like.

By contrast, the 16- to 24-year-old group has cut back the most on clothes shopping during the past year, with a 10 percentage point drop in those purchasing clothes once a month or more.

Robert Moss, chief marketing officer at fashion etailer SecretSales, categorises male consumers according to their shopping habits, as well as their age. He notes that some men tend to shop online in a similar way to their offline habits by purchasing in bulk once or twice a season. Others buy more spontaneously on the basis of the deals offered by the site.

“The convenience of the experience is important to men,” says Moss. “Everyone is time-poor but digitally savvy. The reality is that most people are very familiar with their sizings and the styles and what works for them.”


Only 22 per cent of SecretSales’s customer database is male, although menswear sales are growing by 80 per cent year on year, says Moss. Overall, company turnover has increased from £2m in 2008 to £20m this year. Last autumn, it sought to build on this growth with its first TV advertising campaign.

Although the campaign was focused on women, Moss explains that SecretSales also pursued a number of online marketing initiatives aimed at men. “By looking at the gender split in terms of channel performance, we understood that we could reach out to male bloggers who were specifically targeted at men’s trends or men’s interests.

“By using channels like customer relationship management, affiliates, blogs and search, we could be more granular and focus on ‘male’ search terms.”

Fashion industry leaders are also starting to look at how they can better target and communicate with men. Last summer, for example, the British Fashion Council (BFC) launched its first menswear-only event as an accompaniment to the female-focused London Fashion Week.

Called London Collections: Men, the biannual three-day event is preparing its third season in June. It has already won support from some of the world’s biggest labels including Burberry, Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford, all of which have decided to move their men’s fashion shows from Milan to London.

BFC chief executive Caroline Rush says the event is testament to the growing popularity of British menswear, not only in the UK but around the world. “British menswear is seeing strong growth internationally, with a notable appetite for British menswear brands in Asia,” she says.

The frontline

We ask marketers whether our ‘trends’ research matches their experience on the ground

Fergus Patterson

Fergus Patterson
Managing director UK and Ireland

Gant is predominantly a menswear brand and it’s certainly true to say that we have seen very strong like-for-like growth in menswear. To a large extent that has manifested itself in us opening new stores.

We’ve opened new stores nearly every year over the past four to five years and if the right locations were to come along, that is something we would still be looking to do. However, we take a pragmatic view because digital and ecommerce has changed the retail landscape for brands like Gant.

We launched our ecommerce business at the end of 2009 and like most quality men’s online businesses we have seen significant growth over the period up to the end of last year. We see it continuing to grow this year at a much faster rate than bricks and mortar stores.

Like other brands, we’re aware that our online presence will have to evolve from being just transactional to offering more content and information. That means catering to people who come to the site not just to buy but to look for tips on how to dress or the latest trends. We’re constantly looking at that and how that content will play to the relevant audience.

Robert Moss

Robert Moss
Chief marketing officer

Some men shop online in a similar way to their offline habits – they’ll buy once or twice a season and they’ll buy in volume. For example, if we have a strong [selection of denim items featured] on the site, it’s common for guys to buy three or four pairs of jeans. If you have a strong brand and the price is right, guys will buy on the basis of need, ease and convenience.

We also have many male customers who are spontaneous and the moment we add a strong brand on the site, they’ll buy one or two pieces and they’ll buy with a high degree of frequency.

Our consumer is more mature than the Asos consumer, and is more confident about their own style. They’re also more aware of the brands they like and want to wear. As soon as we put something together that we know they’re going to like, we see substantial results.

Our first TV campaign last September was very female-focused. We took a different channel approach for men and integrated bespoke men’s digital campaigns through some partners we were working with. For example, we launched gender-specific emails with a men’s homepage, so that guys clicking through to the site would automatically land on that page first.

Caroline Rush

Caroline Rush
Chief executive
British Fashion Council

British menswear has incredible heritage and has influenced men’s style for decades. Today, our heritage brands and Savile Row are matched by talented developing businesses that are leading innovation in menswear. The combination of the two makes the UK an influential force in menswear globally.

Last year we launched a three-day menswear event called London Collections: Men to showcase the breadth of our industry to a global audience of media and retailers. This event now plays a key role in raising the profile of British menswear. June will be our third showcase and is shaping up to be stronger than ever, further bolstered by the news that Burberry will move its menswear show from Milan to London, a significant move for the brand and for the event.

Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones
London Collections: Men

Menswear has never been so important, especially in Britain. During the recession it has been one of the sectors that has outperformed in the fashion industry. Menswear has always been a smaller part of the industry than womenswear, but for many companies it is approaching 50 per cent of their business.

While Britain has always had some of the most creative menswear designers in the world, there is a new generation of young designers who have also harnessed their design skills to good business models.

London Collections: Men, which is coming up for its third season, has helped draw attention to the rejuvenation of the menswear industry in the UK. Having Burberry, Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford decide to show in London, instead of Milan, is a huge testament to this.



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