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WSJ Article: Men's Luxury Shops Lose Snob Appea


Stylish Dinosaur
Jun 18, 2006
Reaction score
Article about how certain stores are reducing barriers to [certain] male shoppers. For instance Paul Stuart is removing "some" of its ties and sweaters from behind glass barriers (!!) so that shoppers don't have to ask a clerk to examine the item. The article is posted below but I'm pretty dumbfounded that a brand/store like Paul Stuart would treat potential customers like this. I equate security like that with CVS and replacement shaver cartridges. I was going to include Macys but I remembered they don't put sweaters and ties behind glass barriers. As you can imagine I've never been to a Paul Stuart store before. Now as I'm about to post this I do remember Ralph Lauren (even in its fancy Chevy Chase and Mansion stores) places [small] accessories behind glass cases but sweaters and ties seems stupid.


Men's Luxury Shops Lose Snob Appeal
Barneys, Bergdorf and Paul Stuart aim to be less intimidating

Updated Nov. 19, 2013 11:32 p.m. ET

Luxury retailers including Barneys, Bergdorf's and Paul Stuart are redesigning their men's sections to make them "warmer." Ray Smith discusses what they think will make male shoppers more comfortable. Photo: Brian Harkin for The Wall Street Journal.
It is OK to touch the ties. It is fine to feel the scarves. It is encouraged to try on the sunglasses.

In a bid to be seen as less stuffy, stodgy and intimidating, luxury retailers including Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and Paul Stuart are redesigning their men's departments to attract more shoppers, including younger shoppers. They hope to woo men accustomed to online shopping who don't want to squint through glass to see prices or wait for a sales clerk to unlock a merchandise case. They admit men today want a more informal store setting and want an easier way to buy work clothes and weekend clothes in a single shopping trip.

In some areas the stores are taking down walls to give shoppers a view of more of the department's offerings.

Such moves may seem a little obvious. And they will seem very familiar to anyone who frequents women's departments, where few items are stored in cases and a label's sportswear and dress clothes are often sold in the same spot.

What Men Want

For upscale menswear retailers, this is a sea change. Hushed, stately, wood-paneled environments were the tradition most recently. Merchandise was encased like museum exhibits to be revered. Customers were waited on.

Now, as it does every few years in retail, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction.

"Part of our culture has always been to have things under glass and service here is such an important part of our culture," said Michael Ostrove, chief executive of Paul Stuart, which this fall removed the front panel of glass cases containing its ties and moved some of its sweaters from cases entirely. "On the other hand, we've often created barriers to accessibility with glass cases." He described the change as part of Paul Stuart "lightening up."

The impetus is to take advantage of the momentum in menswear. Sales of men's apparel in the U.S. are up 2.8% to $58.6 billion for the 12 months ended in September, according to market research firm NPD Group. That trend is global. Sales of men's high-end, ready-to-wear apparel world-wide rose 10% in 2012, according to a recent report by Bain & Co. Sales are growing more quickly than for women's apparel, which inched up 0.9% to $111.63 billion in the U.S. for the same time period, NPD said. Women's high-end, ready-to-wear apparel world-wide rose 8% in 2012, Bain said.

Bergdorf Goodman's men's store, which is in the process of rebranding itself as Goodman's, knocked down walls to the left and right of the store entrance so consumers can see more merchandise from across the room. The entrance used to be anchored by luxury shirt brand Charvet and a Ralph Lauren shop. Now it is devoted to men's bags, leather goods and grooming products and a shop for Brunello Cucinelli. The Charvet room is now adjacent to ties, for easier shirt-and-tie shopping.

Neiman Marcus's Michigan Avenue store in Chicago now displays items from a particular label all in one spot. Men can shop for suits, sweaters and such without walking all over. Here, Zegna and Armani collections. Charlie Mayer Photography

Bergdorf's moves were intended to "create an environment which is warm and welcoming and not intimidating," said Josh Schulman, the retailer's president. It "allows guys to touch and feel the product as much as possible," he said. The renovation also brought scarves, gloves, hats and sunglasses out of cases.

With the moves, "we have noticed customers lingering, staying longer," Mr. Schulman said. "The renovation has highlighted collections and product we already had but customers didn't notice."

Barneys got rid of the dark wood on the sixth floor of its Manhattan flagship store, where men's suits are sold, replacing it with a light gray marble. "It was a very wood traditional box, this is ultra- modern," said Tom Kalenderian, general merchandise manager, executive vice president of the men's department. "We're now attracting guys in their 20s and 30s to this floor. They never would have shopped on this floor before."

Lord & Taylor's flagship store on New York's Fifth Avenue expanded its men's department to two floors, from one, and moved away from dark wood and bulky fixtures.

"We used a lot of white or off white so our product can do the talking, and chrome and metals, so it's very modern," said Wayne Drummond, group senior vice president of menswear and ladies at Hudson's Bay Company Department Store Group, which includes Lord & Taylor. "We wanted to create a loft—like a place where guys feel comfortable to hang out."

Macy's, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue have also been expanding or updating the men's sections in some of their U.S. stores in the past year. All this refurbishing comes as men have been doing more shopping. In a Mintel survey of 710 men aged 18 and over who bought clothing in the past 12 months, published last year, 67% said they bought clothing to replace old or worn-out items.

Also, the shift to a slimmer silhouette in men's clothing that started in the middle of the last decade drove many men to the stores in order to look current in the workplace. In the Mintel survey, 36% said they bought clothing as they needed to update their wardrobe.

Of the men surveyed, 28% said they bought an item just because they liked it, Mintel said. Retailers are trying to spur this sort of impulse buying. For example, Bergdorf's men's shoe department, known as the Shoe Library, now displays dress shoes next to designer sneakers so a man coming into the store on a mission to get one style may grab the other, too. Barneys New York gathered individual labels' sportswear and suits in one area rather than selling them in different parts of the store.

Barneys and Bergdorf also have bigger areas for men's leather goods—especially bags—and fragrance and skin-care products. Their placement near the entrance means nearly every shopper will pass by them and perhaps be tempted to buy.

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