Last week the US Consumer Price Index announced that menswear apparel pricing was up by 0.5% from May to June, whilst womenswear was down by 0.5%. Meanwhile, in the UK this month, with inflation at merely 2.4% (lower than it has been since November 2009), clothing prices saw a June decline of 4.5%. Summer sales starting earlier is a major contributing factor, but it got us thinking – is menswear really increasing at a greater rate than womenswear?
We looked to three retailers with a global reach and both men’s and women’s lines. Using our data we looked at core items across the past year or more to find out how the pricing had fluctuated.
Topshop’s core basic vest was our starting point: it has stayed priced at £6 as far as our data goes back! Also fixed were £4 knickers and thongs and knitted long cardigans at £38. Leigh jeans have seen a slight 5.55% increase from £36 to £38. The Pac a Parka capelet that was £28 in March 2011, eventually reduced to £12 in order to sell out, was reintroduced in May this year at £20, selling in five sizes without reduction. Seems like the pricing and weather were right this time!
Looking at the pricing structures year on like-for-like for the past quarter it becomes apparent that Topshop have grown the lower end of their product range, with less investment in the £21-26 price point. They have created a more structured pricing the customer can identify with: three clear tiers, as opposed to a smooth spread throughout prices. Dresses and tops are still the two most invested-in ranges, but the gap between them has closed, highlighting Topshop’s emphasis change.
Topman’s most invested in price point is £27-£34, which in the same period a year ago was barely represented. The price spread has shifted quite dramatically: greater investment has been placed in higher price points, as well as maintaining the lower end, keeping the budget customer happy whilst luring the fashion-forward too. The biggest categories in 2011 were shirts, t-shirts and jeans, whereas in 2012 shorts (less of a staple and more fashion-focused) have beaten jeans into the top three. Topman have addressed a perceived increase in demand: extending their offering and benefitting from increased pricing.
A clear example is the basic striped t-shirt: in July 2012 it retailed at £16 (two colour) or £18 (three colour). Previously, in early 2011, a two colour stripe tee was £14 and multi stripe was £16 – 12.5% and 14.3% increases.
Urban Outfitters Womenswear
Retailing in both the US and the UK, Urban Outfitters are an interesting case study. In the past year womenswear’s most invested-in garment type has switched from jeans to dresses: reflected in the most-stocked brand switching form BDG to Sparkle & Fade. The most-frequently used price point for dresses currently in the UK £88 and US is $69 (£44): quite a difference in the two markets! A year ago, the most represented dress price point in the UK was around £50 (76% increase) and in the US, $59 (16.9% increase). These results suggest the UK and US strategies, and indeed markets, are very different.
Urban Outfitters Menswear
Urban Outfitters have extended their menswear range at every price point and have quite noticeably extended the upper end of their pricing. In 2011 the most invested in category was the £13-£19 bracket, whereas in 2012 the largest category is £23-£31.
Instore this is visible in the maintenance of the lower-end prices; looking to a core category, t-shirts, the lowest priced men’s t-shirts on the US site have remained at $18, though in the UK the cheapest in 2011 was £16, increasing to £20 in 2012. Urban Outfitters have grown the mid-range of the men’s, with the most common t-shirt price being £30 in the UK this year. In the US this has been handled with the introduction of a two-for-$28 offer on their plain basic $18 t-shirts, whilst the most common price on tees outside of this offer is $24. In August of 2011, the most expensive t-shirt being retailed in the US was $34. In 2012, this now stands at $90 – a growth of 164.7% and much higher than their womenswear increase!
This American retailer has managed to keep their women’s prices the same since 2011. Their Blythe shirt is still $98, despite seeing many new colours come in this season and the Keeper chambray shirt is consistently retailing at $78. The $118 pencil skirt in Super has maintained its price in the last year, despite restocks and new colours being introduced (a good opportunity to raise price). Although the US Consumer Price index states womenswear pricing has decreased by 0.5%, J.Crew have managed to avoid this in their core collection and are still selling well.
It’s a different story for the menswear. Secret Wash shirts, which in Autumn of 2011 were $59.50 and $62.50, have shifted up to $64.50, and in September 2011 neck ties were $49.50 until May 2012 when they increased by 20% to $59.50. A cotton shawl collar cardigan which was $108 in February has been re-run and the current version is $198, and the cotton Victura jacket which was $138 when it arrived online in February increased this July to $148, with new stock not yet in.
J.Crew have maintained their womenswear pricing but raised their menswear. They’re also in the process of launching the second of their menswear standalone suiting stores: a tangible sign they value the growth in this segment.
The results show that J.Crew, Urban Outfitters and Topman have all upped their menswear pricing. What all three retailers have shown is belief in the menswear market, with confident pricing and investment in their menswear lines, whilst womenswear is treated more conservatively. Men’s means business: don’t stand in its way.