Why Shoes Are the ‘Gateway Drug’ to Shopping for Men

WWD brought leaders in men’s fashion yesterday to New York City for its Men’s Style Summit 2019 to discuss the drivers, challenges and areas of opportunity of the business.

And the timing of the event couldn’t have been better. According to First Insight chief commercial officer Jim Shea, who was a speaker at the event, menswear is outpacing the womenswear market in terms of growth and will continue on this path for at least the next two to three years.

Here are five key takeaways from the summit.

Retail Merchandising Is Challenged

“The way that stores are set up is by department, and that is not the way men dress, particularly in this day and age. You think about it, a grown man who is very stylish but also in charge might be wearing a sport coat, might be wearing tailored trousers but might be doing it with sneakers. Nobody dresses head to toe in any one brand, so the way stores are set up now make it a challenge for the customer to find what he’s looking for. He has to go to the suit department for a sport jacket if he wants it, he needs to go to the sneaker department for something else, he needs to go to the trousers or the jeans to find something, and if he doesn’t find what he’s looking for, it becomes very challenging.” — Josh Peskowitz, men’s fashion director at Moda Operandi

Brands Need to Move Quicker, Be More Fluid

“The business world isn’t set up for the speed in which we move. You guys didn’t set your businesses up to move how we move. You set your businesses up to buy in these little boxed seasons — spring/summer, pre-, mainline, this line. F**k all that. We come in and move how we move, we get what we get, we want what we want when we want it. That’s why malls are shuttering, that’s why Amazon is beating people’s a** — it’s not that Amazon has great product, it’s just that you can get what you want, when you want it, how you want it. … The speed of change is what most people weren’t ready for in this business. Most people aren’t ready to sprint a marathon. Today’s business is a marathon, but it’s no longer a slow go. You have to sprint a marathon, stop, pivot, then sprint the other way. If not, you can’t keep up with today’s business.” — James Whitner, owner of The Whitaker Group

Talk to People Is a Must in Retail — but Not Easy to Do

“I was very influenced by my father and by what I heard as a kid about service. I started on the sales floor, and I had very specific ideas about what service was and the art of the sale and catering to people, which I always loved doing. I believe in talking to people when they walk into a store. Today, talking to people when they walk into the store is a loaded thing — are their AirPods on, are they talking on the phone, do they not want to be disturbed, are their AirPods just in their ears so you don’t talk to them? Today, the art of the sale is this huge delicate dance that I’m not always sure how to do. But I do think that if you can sell somebody in a store, particularly something new and different and what they didn’t walk in for, that you can make an impact and really make a customer. And they’ll come back for you because I think the store’s greatest inventory are the people who work in the store.” — Jeffrey Kalinsky, president and founder of Jeffrey USA, and VP and designer fashion director of Nordstrom

“Shoes Are the Gateway Drug”

“I think the shoes are the gateway drug, I think that for a lot of guys who have never spent money on fashion, that they’re going start with even a [Adidas] Yeezy sneaker or a Balenciaga sneaker, then the sneaker is not going to be enough. Then they’re going to need that piece of clothing. The shoe is the way to the pocketbook sometimes for guys.” — Jeffrey Kalinsky, president and founder of Jeffrey USA, and VP and designer fashion director of Nordstrom

Be About More Than Just Product

“People want more from the brands that they buy [from] than just pure sporting achievement. We worked with Alex [Honnold] because there was what we thought was a noxious conversation going on in political discourse around walls and building walls. Our whole business is about bringing down walls. Our business is about exploration, it’s about travel, it’s about people moving around the planet, it’s about people doing hard things, it’s about people changing their lives. We decided to hijack this. We were like, forget about this, this was the worst thing we’ve ever heard of. We’re going to take our platform and commit it essentially to protest against this notion of building walls.” — Tim Bantle, global GM of lifestyle with The North Face

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