Tailored Clothing: What’s New Now?

by Harry Sheff

Take a stand and increase your sales.

Ben Sherman Most retailers report that tailored clothing business is as good, if not better, than other men’s categories. That said, the “newness” driving sales isn’t all that new. Peerless’s Ronny Wurtzburger says what’s driving business today is quality, delivery and in-stock programs. Slim fit is now the norm (almost every model from modern to traditional is offered in some type of slim fit), and guys are still coming in to update their old, boxy suits.

All shades of blue and sharkskin are selling, and retailers predict those trends to continue into 2014. Fashionable details like hacking ticket pockets and peak lapels performed in 2013, and retailers who took a stand on these details reaped the rewards. However, retailers face challenges like how to introduce these “new” details to the younger consumer. As Dana Katz from Milton’s says, “Young guys are open to newness, but we need more exciting fabrics and patterns from the market. Solids are too dominant in our assortment and price often drives many fabric choices. Tallia Orange has been a noteworthy standout amongst brands that successfully push the envelope when it comes to modeling and fabrications.”

Wurtzburger offers retailers this advice: “Don’t be afraid to buy fashion and create a look for your store. Show him you have something new by putting it in the window and on displays. Even though the buy may be 85 percent basics, you still have to show off the icing.”

Bright spots include soft jackets and topcoats, and Katz is delighted. “Coming off two consecutive weak [outerwear] seasons we’re happy that the weather is finally cooperating!” he admits. “There’s also a much more compelling assortment in terms of color, pattern, model and fit, largely due to changes in the market. We’ve got the most exciting presentation of coats we have ever had, and our customers love it.” Marcraft’s Gary Brody agrees: topcoats with the new slim-fit silhouette and shorter coats are all selling. “The biggest thing in outerwear is the new modeling. We started fresh with Tommy Hilfiger and Kenneth Cole where everything is new in terms of silhouette and fabrication. It’s been great.” As for 2013 disappointments, double-breasted looks were heavily promoted in consumer fashion magazines and on men’s style blogs, but didn’t check at retail.

LBM 1911In the better market, made to measure continues to grow. At Hart Shaffner Marx, M2M is now 10 to 15 percent of business and is projected to be in the high-teens for next year. At Lanier, Alan Rubin says the better business will be driven by luxury fabrics like cashmere, wool, silk and linens for spring 2014.” And in terms of color: shades of blue will continue, as will burgundy. “We feel strongly about rolling out new versions of the ‘blue suit,’” says Men’s Wearhouse’s Tony Finocchiaro. “In some cases we have blues that are even brighter or more electric. I think we might be pushing the envelope, but we’ll see. We’re also investing in light-colored suits, adding shades of tan into our assortment and penetrating that a little more than we have in the past. And we’ll continue with tropicals and windowpanes.”

As far as the item-driven sportcoat and blazer business goes, color and pattern are more important than ever. Brody says patterns are coming back and they’re selling a lot more windowpanes, plaids and mid-tone grays at Marcraft. Wurtzburger notes that while suit business is much bigger than sportcoats, traditional brands like Lauren are having great success with sportcoats. Modern brands are also doing well with them; as Rubin expains, “Our sportcoat business is vibrant in brands like Kenneth Cole Reaction, Ben Sherman and Billy London because young guys like to wear jackets with jeans.”

Finocchiaro says sportcoat business at Men’s Wearhouse is better than ever and they’re starting to see slight increases due to trends like plaids and earth tones. “We are having success with herringbones and donegals in sportcoats. Total assortment is still predominately nested, but we are slowly increasing the level of inventory in separates. We’re still a suit store: sportcoats are there, but suits drive our business.”

At press time, Finocchiaro had just begun previewing the market for fall 2014 and said he’s seen some great lambswool and shetlands. “They look fresh and I think there’s some excitement there. We’re seeing a lot of velvet in the market. To be honest with you, this season we haven’t been that successful with it yet, which is a little disturbing for us. We thought that would be a trend that would perform.”

The tailored pants buyer at a major department store reports strong 4th-quarter selling on brushed fine wale corduroys in autumnal shades. Although this store’s suit separate business is mostly EDI replenishment, their pants business is moving away from basics to concentrate on fresh, more frequent inventory. Something to consider for the rest of tailored clothing, perhaps.

Tailored Chart Jan 2014