SPORTSWEAR REPORT: BATTLE BOREDOM WITH CAREFUL BUYS & EXCITING NEW BRANDS
When life hands you sameness, up your curation game. That’s the rule that many sportswear stockists are forced to follow these days. And although it’s challenging, they’re keeping things fresh by offering unique items and adding new brands to their mix.
“It’s a lot of work to turn inventory. Because of the redundancy out there it makes our job very hard,” says Jason Somerfeld, owner of the Manhattan menswear boutique Letter J, whose sportswear best-sellers currently include colored pants and anything in lightweight fabrics or with a soft hand. “Manufacturers don’t want to take risk because they have minimums and then if it doesn’t work it ends up in Century 21. They don’t want to go out on a limb on special product when in essence that’s exactly what customers will buy at full price. When everything looks the same they wait for a sale. And most of our store is still full price. It’s important that the redundancy gets readjusted.”
He adds, “The state of sportswear now is very redundant and it tends to be kind of dark with not a lot of color.” A firm believer in constantly adapting his store’s brand mix, Somerfeld has added Timo Weiland, NSF and S.N.S. Herning sweaters, among others, for fall 2015.
But landing new, not to mention reliable, brands can be difficult. “You have to travel to Europe and to Paris to find unique and different brands that aren’t offered in the States,” says Bryan Reynolds, men’s DMM at Scoop NYC. “It’s challenging finding lines at the U.S. trade shows or rather actually receiving what you bought outside of the established big boys that show there,” notes Murry Penner of the Houston store M Penner. “One exception for me has been Benson. Though new to me, they are sold out of a showroom I trust to deliver.”
However Paul Witt, owner of the two Wittmore boutiques in Los Angeles, whose best-sellers are Reigning Champ, Levi’s Vintage Clothing, Max N Chester, Relwen, Alex Mill and Mollusk, sees things very differently. “There are more options than ever within men’s sportswear,” he says. “In the past few years it feels like new brand offerings have doubled. There are so many great new brands coming out of the U.S. There might be too many great brands out there, making it difficult to choose. Maybe that’s why we’re starting to see constrictions in themarketplace.”
He also has no qualms about working with sportswear up-and-comers: “I’m a big believer of supporting new brands. We haven’t had many issues, but I’d say sometimes they don’t last more than a season or two and that’s tough for planning. We have had great luck in starting partnerships with new brands and moving forward, we want to invest more in this area.”