This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of men's and boys' ready-to-wear clothing and accessories.
448110 (Men's Clothing Stores)
448150 (Clothing Accessories Stores)
In 2002 Americans spent $50.9 billion on men's clothing, down 7 percent from the previous year. The decline can be primarily attributed to a sluggish economy and a decade-long trend for increasing casual attire in the workplace. Whereas good suit, tie, and accessories cost around $400, a pair of khakis and casual shirt can be purchased for around $100. Conservative spending by consumers following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 exacerbated already slow sales in the industry. In the first quarter of 2003, industry insiders were waiting out the war with Iraq, hoping for an upswing in the second half of the year.
Although the industry is notorious for its aversion to trends and shifts in fashion, men's apparel is offered in a wide variety of retail formats, including upscale design and specialty shops, department stores and retail giants, and discount men's clothing stores. Casual attire continues to be khakis and a polo shirt, but the suit is beginning to make a comeback. However, the return of the suit may not be of significant help to the lagging industry until the economy stabilizes. Men are more likely to pull an old suit out of their closet than invest in a new one until consumer spending rebounds.
The men's and boys' segment of the apparel and accessories industry was relatively small. Historically, marketers focused on the women's market, assuming that they were more concerned about fashion than men. In 1990, the men's and boy's category generated just over 10 percent of total sales in the accessory and apparel category. At that time, the women's ready-to-wear and specialty stores commanded close to 67 percent of the category, while the family clothing stores garnered roughly 29 percent. Businesses in the industry hoped that growing fashion awareness among men and boys would increase the industry's percentage of sales.
Since they carried narrow product lines but great depth within those lines, men's and boys' apparel and accessory stores were classified as specialty retailers. Historically, retailers of men's and boys' clothing and accessories focused on particular segments of the industry. These segments usually mirrored the five divisions into which menswear manufacturers were divided: tailored clothing, including suits, overcoats, topcoats, sport coats, and separate trousers; furnishings, including shirts, neckwear, sweaters, knit tops, underwear, socks, robes, and pajamas; heavy outerwear, including jackets, snowsuits, ski jackets, and parkas; work clothes, including work shirts, work pants, overalls, and related items; and other, including uniforms, hats, and miscellaneous items.
For nearly 150 years, these categories prevailed at the retail level. Even department stores organized their men's and boys' wear departments according to these categories. Beginning in the late 1960s, however, men's and boys' wear stores moved away from specialization into more diversified retail formats that offered a variety of clothing lines.
The trend toward large diversified stores accelerated during the 1980s. By the 1990s, superstores offering huge selections at discount prices were flourishing. Companies such as S&K Famous Brands, Inc., Today's Man, Inc., and The Men's Wearhouse, Inc. that were started in the late 1960s and early 1970s enjoyed tremendous growth in the 1990s as consumers flocked to the stores in search of stylish clothing at a discount. Although these stores focused on the tailored wear segments, they also carried huge selections in all categories in an effort to provide convenient one-stop shopping for customers.
The locations of men's and boys' stores underwent changes as the superstore format became popular. Many men's and boys' wear retailers moved out of the high-rent cities and malls into less expensive, but larger, suburban locations. The new superstores, which were sometimes more than 20,000 square feet, were often located in strip shopping centers or stand-alone buildings. To avoid high rents, these superstore retailers were quite willing to locate off the beaten track.
Competitive Structure. Owing to an increase in the overall fashion consciousness of American men, the industry experienced a rapid growth stage during the 1960s. The nature and intensity of competition in this industry has varied considerably since then. During most of that decade, rising demand for men's clothing and accessories encouraged new entrants. By the 1970s, however, the number of menswear stores was decreasing. Competition increased during the 1970s as department stores and specialty retailers battled for market share in a declining market. Demand picked up again in the mid-1980s resulting in a rapid increase in the number of stores.
Throughout the 1970s, department stores, which enjoyed the advantages of location and customer recognition, appeared to have a competitive edge over the specialty stores. For this reason, many retailers that entered the industry in the 1970s were off-price stores that hoped to compete with department stores by offering low-priced merchandise. It was not until the mid-1980s that department stores were the main competition of the men's and boys' specialty retailers.
The downward economic trend of the late 1980s, however, was a boon for discounters. By 1990, many off-price specialty retailers enjoyed a competitive advantage over department stores whose merchandise was often priced 30 percent higher than that of the discounters. Heading into the mid-1990s, market conditions favored the discount retail formats. Since even affluent customers were increasingly willing to shop at off-price stores, traditional retail formats continued to decline.
Financial Structure. Businesses in this industry were often small, privately owned stores, although there were many chain stores in operation. In 1990, the smaller businesses typically generated more than $1 million on an initial investment of approximately $295,500. The sales figures for chain retailers were quite disparate owing to the varied size and success of different chains; some of the larger chains grossed upwards of $300 million in sales, while industry-leader Hartmarx Specialty Stores generated over $1 billion.
Statistics showed that men's and boys' wear stores were more expensive to operate than women's or children's wear stores; therefore, the financial structure of businesses in this category differed from other segments within the retail category. Annual payroll, for example, in men's and boy's stores averaged $13,274 per employee, while women's accessory and specialty store payroll averaged about $10,000. Inventory costs were relatively high in the men's and boy's segment as well. The short fashion cycle and resulting quick turnover of merchandise in women's apparel explains much of the disparity in inventory ratios. Men's fashions changed so infrequently that stores could carry inventory without worrying about significant changes in customer preferences.
Developed in the late 1700s, the menswear industry is the oldest of the domestic apparel industries. The industry began in the northeast, where Samuel Slater built the first textile mill and where sailors off ships needed ready-to-wear clothing when they arrived in port. As the seamen could not afford custom-tailored clothing, tailors in port cities like New Bedford, Boston, and New York made standard size suits for them to wear as soon as they arrived on land. These early garments were made of the roughest cloth and were also frequently purchased by southern plantation owners for their workers.
The industry continued to develop as the demand for ready-to-wear clothing increased. The steady stream of immigrants who arrived in the United States with few clothes of their own, the Gold Rush in 1849, and the Civil War all stimulated the industry. When the Civil War ended, opportunities in the industry continued since people moving to the newly opened land in the West purchased ready-made clothing before they departed.
In response to the growing popularity of ready-to-wear men's clothing, dry goods stores featuring men's apparel sprang up throughout the country. These early experiments in retailing were the predecessors of the modern department store and shaped the direction of the modern retail industry. Many of the stores that were started during the early 1800s continued to do business into the 1990s. Heading into the twenty-first century, Brooks Brothers, founded in 1818, was the nation's oldest clothing store still in business.
One of the pioneers in men's retailing, John Wanamaker, introduced many of the merchandising strategies that are still used in the retailing industry. Wanamaker, together with his brother-in-law Nathaniel Brown, started a men's and boys' clothing store in 1861 in Philadelphia. Wanamaker, who had almost become a minister, proclaimed that he and his brother-in-law would follow the "Golden Rule of Business." Guarantees of satisfaction or money-back refunds were the hallmark of Wanamaker's businesses. So badly did Wanamaker want to get his message across that after making $24.67 on his first day of business, Wanamaker invested $24 in advertising. He was one of the first merchants to purchase a full-page newspaper advertisement. Wanamaker's, with a reputation for having fine clothing and accessories, became a shopping legend for all ages and both sexes. The end of an era came in 1995 and 1996 when most Wanamaker stores were bought out by the May Company and converted to Lord & Taylor stores. The Wanamaker's name had actually died some years earlier, although its former flagship store in Philadelphia still gives many shoppers a strong sense of the Wanamaker past.
Although many of the early men's and boys' clothing and accessory stores evolved into large department stores, the small independent shops continued to flourish throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These stores were typically conservative and specialized. Often, for example, a store would offer only tailored clothing or work clothes. For roughly 150 years, the men's and boys' wear industry retained the same selling practices.
A new segment of men's and boys' retailers developed in the 1960s: the casual and sportswear stores. Changes in lifestyle and increased demand for more variety in men's wear led to the decline of many tailored wear retailers. By the 1970s, leisurewear was the fastest-growing segment of men's and boys' retailing.
Dual Distribution. Unlike other apparel industries, the men's and boys' clothing business has been connected with dual distribution since its inception. The term "dual distribution" refers to the practice of selling manufactured goods on both a wholesale and on a retail level.
As the country expanded, the manufacturers in the north found themselves far away from their customers. Although the factories were located in mill towns like Lowell, Massachusetts, and in big cities like New York, the population was growing rapidly in places like New Orleans. Initially, the apparel manufacturers were willing to sell their goods to clothing stores in the South. It did not take long, however, for clothing producers to realize that owning retail stores would be profitable. By the 1830s, manufacturers operated outlet stores in large southern ports such as New Orleans and Charleston. Most factories also continued to sell apparel to independent stores at the wholesale level.
Many well-known names in this industry, such as Hartmarx Corporation, Botany Industries, and Phillips Van Heusen, practiced dual distribution. In women's apparel, on the other hand, this policy was unusual. The industry watched the decline of tailored wear, especially suits. By the mid-1990s, the suit segment had been declining about 5 percent a year since 1989. The number of suits being manufactured reflected the trend: in 1990,15.5 million men's and boy's suits were manufactured, down from 18.4 million in 1989. The suit industry was at its apex in 1979, when 25 million suits were made for the U.S. market.
In the place of the suits, the tailored separates product line was prospering. An inexpensive and flexible alternative to the traditional men's suit, tailored separates allowed customers to mix and match jackets and pants of different sizes and colors according to their needs. The separates were once considered a cheap way of selling clothes and were typically carried by bargain outlets or mass retailers like J.C. Penney. Heading into the mid-1990s, however, upscale retailers such as Brooks Brothers were carrying tailored separates as well. In fact, Brooks Brothers' separates line, called the Wardrobe Collection, represented over 30 percent of its sales by the mid-1990s.
In addition to the tailored separates, retailers in the men's and boys' clothing and apparel industry discovered that the inexpensive product lines such as ties and hats were very lucrative. Although the recession convinced many men to forgo major purchases like suits, the lower priced items were popular. In fact, ties enjoyed faddish popularity even among teenagers. In response to increased demand, retailers of men's and boys' casual wear, such as The Gap, added ties to their merchandise in the early 1990s. Tie sales continued to grow into the mid-1990s, as new styles and fabrics continued to catch the attention of consumers. Baseball hats were also popular during this period. Sportswear stores stocked hundreds of baseball hats featuring college and professional team logos.
Among the best-selling casual lines was licensed clothing. Merchandise featuring characters from popular television shows and movie releases sold extremely well in the early 1990s, as did licensed sports team apparel. The popularity of sports logos was no surprise to the men's and boys' apparel retailing business. The proliferation of new sports franchises during this period contributed to the fad. Department stores accounted for 79 percent of all licensed apparel sold in 1995.
Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes characters enjoyed tremendous popularity beginning in the early 1990s. Looney Tunes and the National Basketball League teamed up to produce apparel and accessories featuring both licenses. This line was popular with the young men's segment, especially in urban areas.
In addition to changes in the types of merchandise sold, the men's and boys' apparel and accessories industry moved more toward using private labels than it had in the past. David Feld, CEO of industry-leader Today's Man, summarized the shift by noting that "years ago, retailers were representatives of manufacturers. Today, we see ourselves as the buying agent of the consumers."
Many of the large discount retailers discovered that private label merchandise was more profitable than brand-name clothing. Men's wear retailers who sold private label merchandise avoided having to mark up prices to allow for manufacturer and distributor profits. The savings was passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices. In the value-oriented climate of the 1990s, this pricing advantage gave private label retailers a competitive advantage.
Advertising. Historically, advertising in this industry was subdued compared with other segments of the apparel and accessory category. Even men's wear manufacturers did little national advertising, preferring instead to rely on time honored reputation and brand recognition. During the 1970s and 1980s, some manufacturers provided retailers with newspaper and magazine advertisement and the necessary materials for radio and television commercials. This cooperative advertising continued to be popular into the 1990s.
By the late 1980s, however, men's and boys' retailers, especially discount chains, were aggressively advertising. Houston-based The Men's Wearhouse, for example, began advertising in local newspapers during the 1970s, but by 1993, the company spent close to $14 million on promotions, the majority of which were television commercials. Companies that focused on small to mid-size markets like Memphis, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina, valued advertising as a competitive tool. In these markets, advertising helped gain market share quickly. Discounters in these areas typically spent 5 to 6 percent of sales on advertising, though The Men's Wearhouse spent nearly 8 percent of 1992 sales on commercials.
Trade Groups. Trade groups also figured prominently in the publicity efforts of menswear retailers. Major national publicity campaigns were often organized and sponsored by a number of trade groups.
Based in Washington, D.C., the Menswear Retailers of America organization drew its membership from independent menswear stores located throughout the country. The organization was originally called the National Association of Retail Clothiers and Furnishers whose principal purpose was to lobby on behalf of the menswear retail community. By the 1990s, the organization provided its members with a monthly newsletter and an annual business survey. The group also organized national conventions and seminars for industry executives.
A more niche-oriented trade association, the Big and Tall Associates concentrated on a market that represented less than 5 percent of all the nation's men. These customers were over 5 feet 11 inches tall and/or had a chest measurement of more than 48 inches. Roughly 60 menswear manufacturers and 40 merchants were members of the association.
The importance of Father's Day for menswear merchants was underscored by the existence of the Father's Day Council, Inc. Although the council was a nonprofit organization supported by manufacturers and department stores, it provided much publicity for stores in the men's and boys' apparel accessory industry. Through various campaigns, The Father's Day Council promoted gift giving on Father's Day. One of the organization's oldest traditions was the National Fathers of the Year awards. Each year, the recipients were chosen from various professions.
In January 2000, the American Apparel Manufacturers Association (AAMA) voted to allow retailers into their organization. The reasons for this move were related to the shifting marketplace: retailers had begun sourcing directly from overseas contractors, online commerce promised increased sales, and similarities between retailers and manufacturers were growing. Retailers had been allowed to join AAMA in the past as associate members, but revisions to the bylaws in January 2000 afforded them full membership status.
The challenging economic conditions of the early 2000s have resulted in some shifts within the industry. Traditional department store retailers, such as J.C. Penney and Sears, have long been the biggest market source for men's wear. However, as consumers trade down in value, discount superstores, including Target, Wal-Mart, and such hybrids as Kohl's, are commanding a larger share of consumer attention. Whether this trend points to the inevitable slow death of the department store has yet to be played out, but clearly the men's wear industry has taken notice.
As consumers seek value-priced apparel, numerous men's wear providers have followed suit. Mossimo Giannulli signed a multibillion-dollar deal with Target in 2000, and Columbia Sportswear has become a highly successful line at Kohl's. In 2003 Levi Strauss began supplying Wal-Mart with an exclusive line of denims. As brands originally found only at department stores move down to discount stores, other higher-end brands are also stepping down from specialty shops to become available in the department stores.
Following a decade that emphasized a dressed-down work environment, some industry analysts anticipated the return of fashion to the office. With no one wanting to be mistaken for a t-shirt-wearing dot-com dropout, men are starting to reconsider the business suit. A new emphasis on men's fashion may be due in part to the increasing number of men who shop for themselves. In the mid-1990s, 75 percent of men's clothing was purchased by women. However, as women have become busier, men are increasingly picking out their own clothes. In 2002, 45 percent of men were shopping for themselves, a number that was expected to reach 70 percent by 2007, according to Crain's New York Business. This trend has led to a shift in men's wear marketing strategies, which traditionally attempted to appeal to female shoppers. Because men's fashion is overwrought with sameness and men are likely to have many similar choices in similar price ranges, stores are emphasizing those features that appeal specifically to male shoppers, including gadgetry, convenience, and customer service.
Overall, fashion changes slowly in men's clothing, and retailers continue to rely on tried-and-true staples in their offerings. The situation leads the industry into stagnation as mega-brands and those that imitate them flood the market. Although industry analysts call for innovation and new brands, there is a sense that stepping outside the box of traditional fashion is risky business, which could be detrimental to the bottom line. At least until the economy once again swings up and the United States moves beyond the second Gulf War, the menswear industry is expected to remain a relatively conservative environment for innovation.
Although the men's and boys' clothing and accessory industry was fragmented, a few of the companies in the industry were growing faster than the competition. These businesses were able to capitalize on the changes in consumer preferences and spending habits that were rapidly changing this traditionally conservative industry.
Retail Giants. Sears, Roebuck, and Co. added substantially to its clothing lineup with the 2003 purchase of Lands End for $1.9 billion. The company posted $41 billion in sales in 2002. J.C. Penney, another department store giant, reported sales of $32 billion in 2002. Wal-Mart, the world's largest company, is also the nation's largest retailer with $218 billion in sales in 2002. The company is becoming more serious about its clothing selection, including adding an exclusive line of Levi Strauss fashions in 2002. Target, with 2002 sales of $39.9 billion, has also begun taking its apparel lines seriously, accentuating the trendy with its offerings from Mossimo, Cherokee, Stephen Sprouse, and Ecko's Phys. Sci.
Traditional Retailers. Another industry leader involved in retail and manufacturing, and the oldest men's retail store in America, is Brooks Brothers. This company was started in 1818 by Henry Sands. Brooks Brothers was the company that invented the button-down shirt and the argyle sock. The company outfitted notable Americans like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt and continued as the last bastion of conservatism in the men's clothing industry.
According to Brooks Brothers executives, their company has been successful over the years because its name represents American style. Brooks Brothers' clothes have changed very little over time. In fact, the button-down shirt, invented by Brooks Brothers in the nineteenth century, remained practically unchanged as of 2003. Brooks Brothers offered the stable conservative type of clothing that appealed to U.S. presidents as well as young men out of college who wanted to dress appropriately for a first job interview.
Although the Brooks Brothers name has been associated with conservative clothing, the company has also demonstrated flexibility. Recognizing that men were buying fewer suits and were dressing more casually at work, Brooks Brothers introduced Friday Wear. The line was more relaxed than a suit, making it appropriate for casual Fridays at the office. Brooks Brothers also introduced the "Wardrobe Collection," a line of tailored separates. These and other innovations helped Brooks Brothers prosper despite that fact that many of their products have not changed since they were first introduced in the nineteenth century.
The company has 160 retail and outlet stores throughout the United States. It also has 75 stores in Japan and two in Hong Kong. Owned from 1988 to 2001 by the British firm Marks & Spencer, the chain was sold in 2001 to Retail Brand Alliance for $225 million. Brooks Brothers' sales in 2001 were $634.6 million.
Joseph A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., founded in 1905, specializes in suits and other business attire, although it too offers casual wear. It also sells golf wear under the David Leadbetter label. The company operates more than 150 stores in 30 states and had sales in 2002 of $234.4 million.
Discount Leaders. An important departure from tradition in the men's wear businesses was the willingness of consumers to purchase tailored wear at bargain outlets. Two of the leaders in this fast growing segment were S&K Famous Brands and The Men's Wearhouse. Both of these stores used similar strategies in pricing, promotion, and location, and represented a stark contrast to traditional men's wear retailers like Brooks Brothers.
S&K Famous Brands, Inc. was started in 1967 by I.J. Siegel and Abe Kaminsky as a wholesale business. The founders started their operation after retirement: they would spend their days buying one retailer's overstock and selling it to another retailer. Eventually, the volume of merchandise exceeded the space available in the car the two men used as their base of operations. Siegel and Kaminsky rented space in a former thrift store and eventually attracted retail customers.
Siegel's son, Stuart, joined the business in the early 1970s and initiated its expansion. By 1973, S&K Famous Brands operated five stores; when the company went public in 1983, it had grown to 13 stores with sales of $10 million. The initial public offering generated $2.6 million, most of which was used for expansion.
Despite rapid growth, S&K Famous Brands maintained tight control of its finances. Its expansion was gradual and internally financed. Owing to this conservative approach, the company had little long-term debt as it entered the mid-1990s. By 2002 S&K had nearly 240 stores in operation in 27 states, and annual sales totaled $162.2 million.
An off-price retailer, The Men's Wearhouse had humble beginnings similar to S&K Famous Brands. The first Men's Wearhouse store was started in 1972 with a $7,000 investment by George Zimmer, an apparel salesman. Zimmer carried brand-name men's suits and sold them well below department store prices. In 1992, after 20 years of operation, the company went public.
The Men's Wearhouse battled aggressively with department stores. The company invested heavily in television advertising featuring George Zimmer attacking his competitors by name. Zimmer's ads were scathing enough to provoke Nordstrom Inc., a Seattle-based retail chain, to file a suit against The Men's Wearhouse for false and misleading advertising. Despite this challenge, by 2002 the company had grown into a 680-store chain with a presence in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada. The company posted net revenue of $42.4 million on sales of $1.3 billion in 2002.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total number of individuals employed in this industry was estimated at 80,300 during 2001. Over 77 percent of all jobs were sales related. Retail sales positions totaled 46,350, or nearly 58 percent of the work force, and had a mean annual salary of $18,230. Managers and supervisors, totaling 11,210 or 14 percent of the workforce, earned an average annual salary of $32,930. Tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers, totaling 4,380 or 5 percent of the workforce, reported a mean annual salary of $27,340. Management-level positions, consisting primarily of general and operations managers, accounted for less than 4 percent of the workforce and had mean annual salary of $65,310.
As the industry moved into the mid-1990s, American companies began to establish specialty retail operations abroad. Manufacturers of men's and boys' clothing and accessories were well aware of the opportunities abroad, and many had established joint ventures in foreign markets. The retailers, however, found it more difficult to penetrate foreign markets.
One company successful in negotiating a retail joint venture was Eddie Bauer. A division of Spiegel, Eddie Bauer was a leader in the men's and boys' wear industry in the United States with successful retail and mail order operations. In 1993, Spiegel announced that it had successfully negotiated an agreement with Otto-Sumisho in Japan to form a joint venture to sell Eddie Bauer products through retail stores and catalogs. Company executives forecasted that they would open between 75 and 100 stores in Japan and that the venture would generate from $400 to $450 million in sales.
The fact that Eddie Bauer was able to negotiate this agreement was a positive signal to other retailers. In the tailored wear sector, however, global expansion was difficult since European and Far Eastern-made suits were widely regarded as being superior to American manufactured suits. Opportunities did exist, however, in the casual wear segments, as Eddie Bauer's success indicated.
Inventory management became a major strategic priority in the early 1990s. Most retail environments, including the men's and boys' apparel segment, were forced to improve inventory management techniques through advanced automation. S&K Famous Brands, for example, implemented a merchandising information system that tracked store inventories on a daily basis. The system improved efficiency and helped maintain the correct match of inventory to demand. Other types of state of the art technologies were sweeping men's and boys' wear retail operations and the retail industry as a whole. Many businesses invested in cash registers that could calculate discounts, approve credit, accept credit cards, and schedule deliveries. This new technology promised cost saving in the long run, but in the short run the cost of the technology itself was prohibitive for smaller stores.
Most industry experts agreed that technology enabled retailers to react to their businesses much more quickly. Before computerized tracking systems, managers would wait until Monday morning for weekly sales figures. With the aid of technology, this information became available on a daily basis. The timeliness of this information gave retailers the ability to respond to sales by placing reorders, taking markdowns, and spotting trends on an accelerated basis.
Some apparel retailers complained about the amount of useless information the technology produced. Some industry executives pointed out that the technology revolution produced so much data, they wasted time sorting through the information. One industry analyst summarized the problem, noting that "The technology makes it possible for retailers to be better, provided [they] also have the systems capabilities to deal with a large mass of data, to analyze and summarize, to distill what is important and what is extraneous." Despite these criticisms, however, industry experts agreed that automation was a prerequisite for success in the 1990s retail environment.
Using technology to enhance retail businesses is critical to the success of men's and boys' apparel and accessory retailers. The intensely competitive market coupled with shifting consumer preferences made flexibility and low price important competitive weapons. The ability to enhance reaction time and to streamline operations using automation helped retailers compete in this environment.
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