Retailers Set Their Sights on Men

Retailers Set Their Sights on Men

Retailers, it seems, have found a new demographic to target: men. While there were always stores targeted toward male shoppers -- and not just those featuring tools, cars, or things that explode (insert Tim Allen grunts here) -- previously female-centric retailers are suddenly catering to a male audience.

Coach wasn't the first woman-oriented retailer to understand that a man might like a nice "murse," or man-purse, but its results show that this is a niche other retailers would do well to take notice of.

Full-year sales of Coach men's bags and accessories increased almost 50% in North America for the year, hitting more than $600 million at retail, well ahead of China, its fastest-growing segment, which grew 40% and reached about $430 million in 2013. The men's premium category grew 25% overall into a $1 billion opportunity, and the handbag maker believes it can hit $1 billion in sales itself in three years' time.

Specialty retailer rue21 sees the opportunity too. While it's always offered clothing for males across its 959 stores in 47 states, guys only account for about 17% of its revenues. Yet it will be opening new stores that are specifically geared toward male consumers. The first ones just opened in Texas and Ohio with five more scheduled to open by the end of the month and a total of 20 by year's end.

Elsewhere, retailers typically considered "women's fashion" outlets are discovering that men shop too, with designers like Dolce & Gabbana and shoemaker Jimmy Choo opening flagship stores that are male-oriented. Even more mainstream retailers like Macy's have begun opening men-only stores and lululemon athletica plans to open one of its yoga clothes stores just for men by 2016.

Perhaps this new wave of focus got its drive from the creeping advance of the metrosexual industry, which really gained strength more than a decade ago. While you won't catch me carrying a murse or pulling on a pair of yoga tights, I do admit my Ugg slippers are some of the most comfortable footwear I've owned, and not surprisingly, Deckers Outdoor opened its first men-only store on Madison Avenue last year.

Even so, like Tim the Tool Man, I'm still more at home in the hardware and power tool section of my local big-box DIY store than in a shop brimming with male fragrances, rubs, moisturizers, or handbags. But only time will tell whether this new male-oriented retail focus catches on.

The retail space is in the midst of the biggest paradigm shift since mail order took off at the turn of last century. Only those most forward-looking and capable companies will survive, and they'll handsomely reward those investors who understand the landscape. You can read about the 3 Companies Ready to Rule Retail in The Motley Fool's special report. Uncovering these top picks is free today; just click here to read more.

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Fool contributor Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Coach and lululemon athletica. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coach. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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