Contemporary retail survey: Modern love

by Elise Diamantini

Shades of Grey by Micah CohenWho says there’s no excitement in the contemporary market? Retailers are reporting that business is “surprisingly good” and started picking up begining third quarter. Although they’re planning more modest increases for 2011, there is optimism that the momentum will continue. Between limited-edition collaborations, innovative social media marketing opportunities and cool product, there are many reasons for guys to spend money on apparel. The abundance of menswear and streetwear blogs proves that there’s an interest in fashion from a younger generation. Contemporary retailers are stocking (and selling!) more than just jeans and T-shirts. In fact, one retailer confided that 2010 T-shirt business was the worst it’s been in 15 years because of lack of direction and vendors focusing more on cut and sew offerings. As for denim, (which used to average 40 to 50 percent of most contemporary store’s total volume), it’s dropped to an average 23 percent. Some retailers have added lower-priced denim lines (opening at $100) because “the middle is gone” and noted that vendors helped the cause by lowering their prices slightly. But obviously, this will be tough to maintain with the astronomical increases in cotton prices. Retailers are challenged with finding a denim replacement with a similar AUR. Premium denim prices have clearly dropped, with the sweet spot now being under $200. However, survey respondents are attempting to build denim business back up. And based on spring ’11 bookings, retailers are excited about non-denim bottoms. Denim vendors like AG, Citizens of Humanity and Hudson have introduced 5-pocket pant models in twill fabrics and guys are responding to them. Retailers are predicting a strong non-denim business for spring 2011 with hopes to grow it further into fall ’11. Retailers are also growing contemporary collections to offset denim loss and adding new resources like Shades of Grey, BOSS Orange, Gant by Michael Bastian, RCVA and Shipley & Halmos. Footwear is also offering huge opportunity. Retailers are selling boots and more casual footwear from lines like Palladium, Converse and Tom’s Shoes.


2010 Average Pricepoints

Wovens: $58 to $149
Knits: $24 to $89
Sweaters: $60 to $150
Denim: under $200
Non-denim: $99 to $200
Outerwear: under $200

2010 Breakdown by Category

—Wovens: 17%
Ranging from 10 to 24%
—Knits (including T-shirts and sweaters): 17%
Ranging from 10 to 20%
—Denim: 23%
Ranging from 7 to 40%
—Non-denim bottoms: 13%
Ranging from 0 to 25%
—Outerwear: 12%
Ranging from 5 to 25%
—Accessories/Footwear/Other: 18%
Ranging from 5 to 40 percent

Retail chatter

* “Everything needed to make business better is internal. I need to just swallow the social networking pill.”
* “I wish I was done with the super-flared jean with back pocket detail, but I still have guys who want it.”
* “We haven’t added any major resources this year, but we are trying to replace some of the brands who now also sell to stores like the Buckle and Metro Park. We had to skip a couple of the long-term relationship brands if they weren’t performing, which was difficult, but I can’t keep trying to sell a brand that isn’t working out of obligation.”
* “We need to focus on partnering with vendors. If a product isn’t working they need to be there to switch it up with other goods and give us more promotional opportunities.”
* “We used to do well with brands that have a lot of emblems and stuff, but guys don’t want that anymore. They’re looking for crisp and clean lines now.”
* “We’ve seen strength in knits. Our customers are really picking up on it. We’re looking for more interesting product that’s moderately priced.”
* “Business has been picking up since August. We introduced more from our private label (mostly in women’s) but it has still helped us with increases to our bottom line. Even if it’s the same at the top, we’re getting better margins and it’s cheaper for the customer.”
* “We need more brands like Life/After/Denim and RVCA because they give you that Rag & Bone or A.P.C. vibe at better pricepoints. They’re non-basic with a twist and are sized right, so they actually fit our customers!”
* “Modern heritage dressing from brands like Gant and Ralph Lauren are on trend and have hurt the main contemporary lines that didn’t change.”
* “Business is surprisingly good. We’re very specific and we have the hot items on the floor like Edwin denim and G Star outerwear.”