UK menswear is strong but there are too many markdowns - report

While the British menswear market looks healthy, retailers and brands are too focused on markdowns and that means many men are buying at discounts when they’d be happy to pay more. The answer to this may be more investment in own-brands. That’s according to research specialist Mintel, which also issued some figures around market size on Monday.


Ben Sherman


It said the UK’s spend on menswear rose 3.5% to £15.5 billion last year, a 3.5% rise, with a similar increase predicted for 2019. But the market is expected to slow down after that with a total of 15.4% growth in the five years up to 2023.

That may look quite good, but compared to the 26.6% growth in the previous half decade, it’s well behind.

Mintel also said that 86% of British men have bought clothing in the last year, and while they typically shop less frequently than women, they spend more per shopping trip “because of their preference for branded clothing.”

Some 55% of male consumers admit to buying clothes at a discount that they’d be willing to pay full price for, which is a key takeaway for retailers, although how they identify exactly when is the optimum time to reduce prices or not can be difficult.

But while they’re happy to pay full price, men clearly like to find the best price possible and 61% of British menswear consumers also said that they now compare the prices of clothing items across different retailers. And 72% of them added that discounts enable them to buy brands they otherwise would not be able to afford.

Senior retail analyst Samantha Dover said of this: “Although the British menswear market continues to perform well, growth is slowing as the market is becoming more mature while a reliance on discounting is holding back value growth.”

She added that a key difference in the way men and women shop for fashion is men’s preference for branded and designer clothing. “This is driven by a multitude of different factors, including the less trend-driven nature of men’s clothing, which coincides with less frequent purchasing, as well as a greater interest in garment quality, and possibly more social pressure to wear brands,” she said.

She said men’s move toward price-comparing is partly due to “prolific promotional activity in the British fashion market. Branded clothing is far more exposed to this challenge because consumers can more easily make comparisons across different retailers.”

She warned that UK retailers “need to restore their price integrity and move away from frequent and deep discounting,” which Mintel thinks will also lead to more own-label investment. “While this will give consumers more choice, it will be harder for them to shop around and easily compare prices,” Dover said.

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