Miro Kroon of FrontLine had a chat recently with Adrian Cox (NSM – Madison Skye). Adrian has over 40 years of menswear exeperience, both retail & wholesale, working as product manager for such labels as Christian Dior and Yves St.Laurent, Sales Manager for McGregor and developing product for both major retailers and independents. FL: Adrian, what is your summary of retail menswear in Australia at the moment? AC: Retail menswear is suffering the fate of most apparel retail, in that is being governed by a philosophy of “How cheap can we sell the product?” We have DDS stores using basic items as lead lines, often selling below cost to attract custom, department stores fixated on leasing floor space to brands (and often duplicating the offering) – and then discounting the product at the start of the season! What is pleasing is seeing the likes of Industrie, Top Man, Zara, and also Cotton On, promoting new seasons trends strongly, and reaping the benefits of increased sales and profit margin. As an industry we tend to become too conservative and not give the consumer new product to tempt them to open their wallets and purses. FL: (You travel overseas for trend information quite often.) How does this compare to what you have seen over there? AC: Our leading edge vertical retailers offer great product ranges . I would like to see more of our independent retailers – especially those in rural areas and larger provincial towns, offer more fashion forward product. One reason more and more people shop on-line is the range of new product that they can purchase, that is not available to them here. One big difference between retail in Europe, Asia, and here, is that we use discount as a selling tool far more frequently. FL: One of the laments we often hear is that there aren’t enough trends in menswear…. AC: I think that the problem here is we do not embrace the trends that are out there. We tend to take a “shot –gun” effect , and if by chance we pick a winner, we have not committed enough to fully maximise it. We are too afraid of making a mistake. Also it doesn’t help if we purchase new trend items and then not promote them. FL: Where do things “fall apart”? AC: It is human nature to stay in our comfort zone. In the current climate we are risk-averse. However, if we want to increase our sales and profit margins, we have to give the customers a reason to buy. This is normally achieved through new product – well-marketed and value for money. If we deal on price alone, there is always someone cheaper out there. The car industry is a good example of giving customers what they want. Market share is being grabbed by Mazda,Hyundai,and Kia as examples. FL: Can you give us an example of this? AC: The world is changing very quickly. New mediums are constantly evolving. People are being influenced by what they see and read. Retailers need to identify their true customer base and gear their business accordingly. A fifty year old male today is a totally different customer to the previous generation, as he could be wearing the same brand or type of garment as his sons. Again, it is knowing what your customer wants from you. FL: What is the answer ? How can independents capitalise on a trend, without taking too much of a risk? AC: A very good retailer from a provincial city told me recently, “Don’t mix with old people, they only complain”. We need to be aware of what is happening around us, not just in our own comfort zone. Be prepared to take a calculated risk, but do the research first. Take a shopping trip to other destinations and see what other retailers are doing. Shopping should be a pleasurable experience. Many men don’t like shopping for clothes, but are very happy in Bunnings! Ask yourself why, and how do I bring that environment into my store.
Miro is the Business Manager for Menswear/Lifestyle at Frontline Stores. Miro has worked in the menswear industry for 25 years, starting in retail, moving to buying with Myer and now with FrontLine. Various roles have included customer service, stock refill, team leader, visual merchandising, managing stocktakes, training and admin.