It’s been all about menswear for the last few years, as the US menswear market has been growing faster than the women’s market, both in stores and increasingly online. Mall-based retailers like J. Crew, Nordstrom, Lululemon, Coach and Lord & Taylor and more have beefed up their menswear sections to respond to increased demand for interesting and new viewpoints on menswear. Newly launched wholesale brands like Public School, Shinola and AXS Folk Technology are getting a lot of buzz, and the hype around many of these new brands is significant (Shinola was picked up by Nordstrom and Public School won the CFDA/Vogue competition). Even men’s underwear has been a growth category, growing 4% over the last 12 months. And don’t forget luxury designers: brands like Prada have announced a renewed focus on menswear, as have Bruno Cucinnelli and Bergdorf Goodman – the list goes on and on. Online, menswear e-commerce stalwarts like Bonobos, Mr. Porter, Jack Threads, Revolve Clothing and Need Supply have been successfully growing their businesses.
Conventional wisdom says that at some point, menswear growth has to slow and the industry will consolidate, particularly as the lines between e-commerce and bricks and mortar begin to blur. Pundits predict continued growth in the overall men’s category, currently projected to exceed $402 billion globally in 2014, which is good news for men’s e-commerce.
In fact, in just the last 12-18 months, there has been a real explosion of new e-commerce concepts and brands. Some examples? Wits and Beaux, which, like many menswear sites, focuses on a very narrow category, in this case ties and socks. Others target a specific lifestyle like Hickoree’s, which embodies the Brooklyn hipster feel. Others focus on fit, using bespoke and made-to measure techniques, like Trumaker or Acustom. And then of course there is East Dane (owned by Amazon), offering every better and contemporary brand under the sun. There is even a new luxury watch rental site for men, Eleven James, based on the Rent the Runway model.
Which begs the question: is men’s e-commerce over? Have we hit the peak? How many more new concepts can the market really support? The answer is not yet clear, but if I had to bet, I would say we will see plenty of new menswear sites before all is said and done.