Mrket musings: five top tips

by Karen Alberg Grossman

While there was no dominant new item or trend at last week’s menswear shows to revolutionize the business, many fall ’16 offerings at MRket were in fact quite fabulous and merchants who don’t play it too safe should be in for a stellar season.

After talking to our MRket mavens, here are five merchandising tips for fall 2016.

1) Don’t be afraid of color! A perennial problem on fall selling floors is too many dark neutrals making for monotonous and dreary assortments. Be bold: customers these days could clearly use a wake-up call!

2) Don’t try to be all things to all people. Instead of buying a little from everyone, stick to the brands that can best service your store (i.e. offering in-stock programs, high-res images for social media, exclusivity in your trading area). “Too many buyers cherry-pick collections so there’s no cohesive statement on selling floors,” notes Andrew at Andrew J, who recommends featuring key styles in a full color range and then filling-in sizes as they sell. (Among our favorite Andrew J dress shirts: a royal oxford Donegal twill in colors like pistachio and cappuccino; all their shirts are non-iron with upscale details at retails from $125-$175).

Madeline and Andrew de Vries with their Andrew J collection of carefree shirts.
Madeline and Andrew de Vries with their Andrew J collection of carefree shirts.

3) Consider more private label. Although it makes no sense to drop successful labels simply because they’re selling direct (isn’t everyone?), private label ensures both exclusivity and margin. As Michael Duru said at the DLS meeting at MRket, “55-60 percent of what we sell is our store label. If the vendor won’t sew it in for us, we do it ourselves. Plus, we never mention the manufacturer in our advertising/marketing: we’re selling our store, our taste level, our assortment.”

For a new PL opportunity, check out the TailoRED collection of half-canvas sportcoats at Peerless. With all Italian piece goods from the finest mills, these luxury sportcoats are priced for profit. (e.g. a 95% wool/5% cashmere Zegna fabric sportcoat costs $202 for a $695 suggested retail.)

4) Promote layering! After this year’s late winter, no one wants to get stuck with too much heavy outerwear or too many bulky sweaters. But lightweight layers sell year-round, and vests continue to trend. Check out: Survivalon (new sourcing means pricing that’s $100 lower than last year: jackets retail at $295 instead of $395, vests at $265), genuine military-inspired jackets from Cockpit (liners made from high-end Italian fabric snap off and can be worn on their own), great knits and vests at St. Croix; beautiful lightweight sweaters at Cesarani and Loft 604.

5) Add accessories! Nothing creates more impulse purchasing than unexpected extras. In addition to dress furnishings and jewelry, think grooming, barware, picture frames, small leathers, even candles. Among our favorite finds at the show: tie fabric umbrellas by Edward Armah, made from exclusive Italian-printed waterproof poly/silk in 30 different designs (donkeys and elephants are particularly hot this election year!) Featuring a one-piece Tuscan leather handle (the same leather used in Porsche interiors) and an aluminum/carbon fiber shaft, this is a true gentleman’s umbrella at $95 cost, $225 suggested retail.

We also loved the woven stretch Florentine leather belts at Bucks Club (made in NYC, $139 suggested retail), the gorgeous exotics at Araldi Milano and fun bowtie lapel pins at Dion neckwear. Happy shopping!!

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