Editor’s Letter: Positive Energy!

by Karen Alberg Grossman

The stars are aligned for some unprecedented growth in menswear


As this endless winter gradually melts into spring and we in the Northeast can finally venture outdoors without layers of hats, scarves, sweaters (and those ubiquitous quilted jackets), I’m feeling much positive energy in the more temperate air. Although too little of this energy has yet translated to big sales increases, I’m nonetheless excited about menswear’s future due to many factors. These include: 1) Favorable indicators like lower gas prices, lower unemployment and a strong dollar (meaning prices out of Italy should soon deflate somewhat); 2) Growth rates in menswear exceeding those in women’s in virtually all channels; 3) A definite shift to men shopping for themselves (from 30 to 50 percent in dress shirts over the past few years, according to David Sirkin at PVH); 4) Continued collaborations between designers/celebrities and menswear makers (everyone wants a piece of the action); 5) A big increase in style blogs and educational material on the web, leading to 6) A notable growth in online purchasing, now estimated at 17 percent of total menswear sales and projected to grow at a rate of 15 percent annually over the next five years; and 7) A welcome shift to more fashion/less commodity, even in traditional stores.

Among department stores successfully capitalizing on these shifts is this year’s Retailer of the Year, Hudson’s Bay/Lord & Taylor. Despite the inherent challenges of being a moderate store that is neither the cheapest nor the most upscale, HBC’s talented management team is carving out new niches, giving their two department stores a decided edge in fashion, value and service, not to mention strong omni-channel initiatives, gorgeous new menswear floors, terrific print and digital marketing campaigns and some truly credible store brands (becoming even more trend-right under luxury veteran Peter Rizzo). We’re also very impressed with the synergy between the two menswear merchandising teams (under the steady direction of Wayne Drummond), each making the other even better than before. On behalf of the entire menswear industry, we at MR are delighted to honor these exceptional merchants.

A small example of how they mean business: I recently received some above-and-beyond service from a sales associate at Lord & Taylor’s flagship store, who searched the stockrooms to locate a few specific sizes and patterns in Black Brown dress shirts. (Note to self: next time try shopping online!) When I asked him for his business card, he handed me a Lord & Taylor card printed with the phrase, “#OBSESSED with customer engagement.” The back of the card reads, “Tell us about your visit” with a website address, 800 phone number and a space for the associate’s name. (My selling floor hero was Scorpio.) When Liz Rodbell told me during our interview that she’s maniacally focused on service and truly values customer input, she apparently wasn’t kidding.

A final thought on our 2015 Retailer of the Year from Morris Goldfarb at
G-III: “Richard Baker should be nominated to the Fashion Industry Hall of Fame. He took a huge risk in acquiring Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay at a terrible economic period in our country. Their shareholders, vendors and customers are grateful for all that has been accomplished.”