Who says dropping thousands of dollars on Fifth Avenue should be left to the ladies?
Men are increasingly spending more on high-end fashion, and luxury brands are taking notice.
In its recent earnings report, Prada said it plans to nearly triple the number of standalone men’s stores in the next few years. In the affordable luxury category, Coach said it’s pushing ahead with its global men’s business, in hopes to hit $1 billion in sales in three years.
Hot on their heels is Michael Kors, whose CEO said on its latest earnings call that he thinks its men’s category can also reach $1 billion.
Elsewhere in the sportswear category, Tory Burch last week announced plans to enter the men’s business, and high-end athletic wear brand Lululemon is also putting a larger focus on men’s.
“Recognizing that brands are looking for growth and traditionally have been looking for growth in all the wrong places, well now they’re looking for them in all the right places,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group research firm.
According to a 2013 study by Bain & Company, men make up about 40 percent of the luxury market—and this demand continues to grow. The consulting firm said that menswear had a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent from 2010 to 2013, compared with 4 percent for women’s.
What’s more, Cohen said men’s growth has outpaced women’s two years in a row. That has only happened two other times in the past three decades, he said.
Citi analyst Oliver Chen said the movement toward men’s luxury started in Asia, where more males use handbags and tend to be more fashioncentric.
But the trend is shifting to the U.S., where there has been an increased interest among men to look tailored and polished, and dress in more preppy and traditional styles. Grooming among men has become more important as well, Chen said, tying the shift to the economy.
Cohen added that men have recently been updating their wardrobes with “greater gusto” than women, as innovations in style and fit have made it a must.
“The metro-sexual, that cliché from 20 years ago, is now becoming a commercial reality,” HSBC said in a report.
Because much of the growth in men’s is occurring in the affordable luxury sector, there will be winners and losers, Cohen said. He said that male-oriented brands will have no trouble attracting a following, calling Kors in particular a “slam dunk.” Trouble lurks for brands with an overly feminine reputation, or those that are not household names, who attempt to enter the market, Cohen said.
Wells Fargo analyst Paul Lejuez said Michael Kors could capture share from Coach, as it has done with women’s lines. But because Coach is better known among men in the popular Asian market, it could be protected, he said.
Coach has a more mature men’s business than Kors, and is looking to reach $700 million in sales for its current fiscal year, which ends in June. Chen estimates Kors’ men’s business is currently worth about $300 million.
And despite weakness in its women’s assortment, Chen said he doesn’t think Coach is at risk among its competitors as it relates to men’s.
“Their men’s product continues to be very on-trend, and men don’t tend to be volatile in fashion,” he said.
Chen also said he’s encouraged by the offerings at Lululemon, where the men’s business makes up about 13 percent of the product assortment. He said it could grow to about 18 to 20 percent, since people are willing to spend money on athletic apparel.
New Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin said in the company’s earnings call last week that it will expand its men’s section within its Miami, Santa Monica and Vancouver stores.
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“Most of the men that we speak to really like it,” Chen said.
Regardless of the segment’s growth, HSBC warned that the men’s market poses a few challenges to retailers, mainly in tough economic times. Because men are likely to first cut back on themselves when the economy takes a dip, exposing a brand to the men’s category could mean greater downside.
“It’s certainly something that is worthy of doing, but one has to be cautious with it. You don’t want to overextend the brand,” Cohen said. “If you can make a good connection with the men’s market, they tend to stick around for awhile.”
—By CNBC’s Krystina Gustafson.