January 27, 2012 9:57 pm

His not hers

The men’s luxury goods market has gone from underserved to unstoppable – and it’s outperforming the women’s market

It’s a man’s world where luxury goods are concerned. At least judging by recent moves from two of fashion’s biggest players: in November, PPR acquired Italian tailor Brioni and LVMH appointed Antoine Arnault to head up the expansion (including a move into ready-to-wear) of its men’s footwear label Berluti.

“The men’s market has been under-served for too long,” says John Auerbach, former president of Park & Bond, the men’s etail website from Gilt Groupe, which has experienced continuous double-digit sales growth since its launch five months ago. “We are experiencing a generational change, both with consumers and retailers, and we expect to see strong growth for some time to come.”

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Indeed, the men’s luxury goods market is outperforming women’s in all categories, according to the 10th edition of Bain & Company’s luxury goods worldwide market study, prepared for Fondazione Altagamma. The report found that men’s items now represent 50 per cent of the luxury apparel market, helped in part by male consumers in emerging markets, especially Asia, with China a major source of growth. As Jean-Marc Bellaiche, a senior partner at New York-based Boston Consulting Group, points out, approximately 70 to 80 per cent of male millionaires in the US and Japan respectively are aged 45 and over; in China 80 per cent of men with the same net worth are under the age of 45.

“In Asia, the development of men’s wear is extremely rapid, and in China we expect an organic growth close to 20 per cent for most of the European luxury names,” says Thomas Mesmin, a luxury goods analyst at CA Cheuvreux.

Still, the masculinisation of luxury is a global phenomenon. New York-based designer Coach has seen its men’s business double in the last fiscal year, growing from about 2.5 per cent to nearly 5 per cent of its global business – an increase of more than $200m. Over time the brand expects the men’s sector to represent 15 per cent or more of Coach’s global sales. At Hermès, sales at its sole global men’s shop in New York (opened two years ago) were higher than its sales growth average across the entire US.

Meanwhile, retailers from Le Bon Marché to Isetan to Bergdorf Goodman have all, within the last year, shuffled their real estate to dedicate more space to men’s offerings. French department store Printemps opened a corner dedicated to men’s luxury accessories, and Harrods has built an exotics room showcasing accessories and footwear in an array of luxurious solours and skins within its new men’s shoe salon where business is experiencing a significant uptick.

Louboutin men’s wear boutique in Paris

Louboutin men’s wear boutique in Paris

Then there’s Christian Louboutin, which opened its first men’s store in Paris’s Galerie Véro-Dodat last August, which includes an expanded offering complete with bags. “The men’s business represents today less than 5 per cent of our overall business, but could easily become 15 to 20 per cent in the near future,” says company COO Alexis Mourot.

Louis Vuitton launched a men’s made-to-order shoe service in its Milan flagship on Via Montenapoleone, Milan’s most fashionable shopping street, with plans to roll the program out to Shanghai in June.

Furthermore, aside from buying Brioni, PPR chairman and chief executive François-Henri Pinault has also announced plans to test men’s-only concept stores for Gucci and Bottega Veneta in China. Bottega (where men’s wear now accounts for 30 per cent of the business) has already opened its first men’s-only store in the L’Avenue Shopping Centre in Shenyang and has confirmed its first men’s boutique in the US, to open on Madison Avenue in May.

“We tend to see that men are now more assertive about fashion,” says Alexis Babeau, deputy chief executive of PPR’s luxury division.

In fact, with a forecasted growth of 9 to 10 per cent for the men’s sector versus 7 to 8 per cent for women, the Altagamma report estimates the global market for luxury men’s ready-to-wear at $31.2bn – roughly on par with the women’s market.

“I think we are not facing a temporary vogue, but a long-term evolution in clients’ habits worldwide,” says Babeau.

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