When I was growing up my dad and grandfather owned a small men’s clothing store in New York City. They started the store in the mid-1950s, before the rise of the mall. I spent a lot of time in that store helping men match ties to their shirts, and introducing them to the “innovative” brightly-colored Qiana shirts.
Like many small retailers at the time, my dad had to close shop in the mid-1970s, when most consumers stopped shopping in their neighborhoods, and started heading (en masse) to the malls.
Today there’s another shift in the buying habits of America’s men. As recounted in an article in The Tampa Tribune, there’s a “new generation of guys avoiding the mall, but helping spur a torrent of innovative, guy-oriented style retailers in the digital realm.”
As with so much in life, timing is key. As we emerge from the economic consequences of the Great Recession, luxury sales are on the rise. The Tampa Tribune reports that consulting firm Bain & Co. says men now account for more than 40 percent of revenues in the luxury-goods market, up from 35 percent in 1995.
There’s still a lot of opportunity to be found in this market. The Tampa Tribune cites the recent success of Gentlemint, which is loosely defined as a male-oriented version of the wildly popular Pinterest, and Manpacks, an entrepreneurial endeavor where men can subscribe to regular deliveries of essentials like underwear, socks and condoms.
It doesn’t take a lot to get started catering to men. As one of Manpacks’ co-founders told the newspaper, they “bought a box of 500 pairs of Hanes underwear, shirts and socks, and put 100 hours into building the site.”
And while the young and cool seem to be driving the trend, you can make money appealing to a broad swath of American males. Few men of any age have the time or the will to schlep through the malls. And few small retail shops can offer the variety of merchandise a website can.