This may be a moment for menswear retailers, but only for those prepared to do something about their stores.
There is a theory that as times get harder, formal and businesswear has greater appeal as men try to hang onto their jobs by dressing in a, well, more businesslike manner. It’s perhaps a matter of keeping your head below the parapet while generally looking as if you mean business. On this reckoning, you’d expect menswear retailers to be rubbing their hands as concerned males take a look at their wardrobes and decide that donning a tie that’s not ten or more years old might be a good idea (or maybe even wearing a suit).
This could be why menswear at Marks & Spencer is understood to be one of the areas that’s steered its way through the choppy waters that are confronting clothing offers. Equally, John Lewis has just come through the revamp of its Oxford Street menswear department and looks busy, where this used to be one of the store’s more genteel and sedate areas. And it’s hard not to notice that Moss Bros, yes Moss Bros rather than ‘Moss’, is reporting an uplift in sales as the revamp of its Regent Street flagship repays the investment that has been made in it.
The latter is an example of another tendency as consumer purse strings are drawn a little tighter - nostalgia for rather better times. Everyone knows what Moss Bros used to stand for and the Moss interregnum may be drawing to a close as the retailer opts to capitalise on the fund of goodwill that still exists for the original brand name.
Which does rather make you wonder why brands think that shortening their names or ditching that which makes them well known is a good idea. At the risk of stating the obvious, brands take a while to build and they rarely improve following abbreviation.
All of which adds up to a potential silver lining for retailers that have menswear as part of their offer. Men may shop more infrequently than women and spend less money when they do so, but it does look as if this may be a moment when a reasonably priced collection in a decent interior will have a fighting chance. The caveat is, of course, that this applies only to existing purveyors of the category. Menswear retailing is a relatively shallow pool and it would be a brave organisation that thought that starting something up in the current climate would be a good idea. However, if you do have a menswear department, or operate standalone menswear stores, then now might be a good time to consider a little judicious expenditure on the way your interiors appear. And don’t be tempted by the siren call of the casual.