By Matthew Boyle and Alexandra Stratton
(Bloomberg)—You couldn’t pay some guys to wear clothes from Target Corp.
Andrew Aragon, a 26-year-old business-development associate in Washington, recently stumbled on a $40 Target gift card left at a city metro station. He went to his local Target and couldn’t find any duds worth buying, so he went home with teeth whitener instead.
“I just don’t think of it as a place to go for clothing,” Aragon said.
Guys have never really cottoned to Target. Women make up about 55 percent of the chain’s core customers, according to an industry study by market researcher Magid, a greater share than that at competitors Wal-Mart Stores Inc. or Costco Wholesale Corp. For years, cheap-chic women’s fashions from in-demand designers like Isaac Mizrahi and Jason Wu were enough to keep the cash registers ringing.
But a misguided foray into food, a hacker attack and the encroachment of Amazon.com Inc. have damaged Target’s cachet -- and its shares, which are down 16 percent over the past two years, as the S&P 500 gained 12 percent. Only about one in three Americans now get to Target each month, compared with a decade ago, when about half the country did. Ignoring guys is no longer an option. Chief Executive Officer Brian Cornell calls them “white space” -- retail jargon for an unrealized opportunity.
“Target has always had this fashion-forward reputation for women -- why not for men?” said Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail in New York. “They’ve had men’s clothes before, but I don’t remember any of it being interesting. What have they been waiting for?”
Target is betting the wait is over. The retailer has unveiled Goodfellow & Co., a line of stylish everyday shirts, pants and shoes. With $23 slim-fit chinos and $50 herringbone blazers, the prices are well below J. Crew while the styles are on par with fast-fashion emporium H&M. More than 80 percent of the assortment is available in big and tall sizes.
Target is reaching out to men with ads in GQ Magazine and during televised football and baseball games, hoping to lure guys like Andrew Hart, 23, an analyst in Dallas, who shops at J. Crew and Banana Republic and said he “would never buy clothes at Target,” damning it as “both less stylish and lower quality.”
But the Goodfellow brand has clicked so far -- sales are up more than 10 percent compared with Target’s previous men’s offering.
“I’m a clothing snob and I would consider buying it,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at researcher NPD Group.
Goodfellow & Co. harkens back to Target’s roots. The name comes from a late nineteenth-century dry-goods merchant that sold out to Dayton Co., the Minneapolis retailer that opened the first Target in 1962 and was eventually subsumed by its more successful offspring.
Even skeptical millennials like Aragon, who found the gift card, are coming around. “I would totally wear a lot of this stuff,” he said after checking out the Goodfellow website.
While the $87 billion U.S. menswear market is smaller than the women’s, it’s been growing at a faster clip, according to researcher Euromonitor. That’s not lost on Target’s chief merchandising officer, Mark Tritton.
“The market has changed and so has the guest,” said Tritton, who joined Target in 2016 from high-end department store Nordstrom Inc. “More men are purchasing clothes and they are more discerning. So it was time for us to do something new.”
The stereotype of the clueless dude whose wife or girlfriend -- or mother -- buys all his outfits has faded like well-worn denim. Almost 90 percent of men buy most of their own apparel, up from three out of four in 2000, according to a survey from Cotton Inc., an industry group. Among millennials, it’s well over 90 percent.
“These men grew up very differently from their fathers,” Corlett said. “Their moms had jobs and if they needed new jeans, they went and bought them. They are shoppers and they are getting married to women who expect them to be shoppers.”
Target’s courtship of men goes beyond clothes, to beard wax and craft beer. Last year, the retailer brought in shaving products from Harry’s, an online purveyor of affordable, German-made razors that’s sliced into the market share of Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette. Since then, Target has added other high-end brands like Bevel, Beardbrand and Cremo and built an in-store male-grooming display area that’s now in 40 locations, with more to come.
In Target’s new store in Manhattan’s Herald Square, guys can relax in “Harry’s Lounge,” where shaving kits mingle side-by-side with Goodfellow shirts. Before walking out, they can pick up a six-pack of local beer, part of a broader push into booze that’s helped lift sales in the grocery department, a perennial underperformer for Target.
Even with the beer, beard wax and blazers, Target remains a long way from becoming a mecca for men.
“This is still very much a women’s discounter,” said Leon Nicholas, an analyst at Kantar Retail.
Cornell, the CEO, admitted as much. “There is more that we can do with men,” he said.
The next stop on Target’s testosterone train could be more adult beverages beyond craft beer, although a company spokesman said there are no specific plans for, say, Target Tequila or Bullseye Bourbon. If that works out, men won’t be spending their Target gift cards on teeth whiteners without making a side trip for booze.
To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Boyle in New York at [email protected]; Alexandra Stratton in New York at [email protected] To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at [email protected] Bob Ivry, Lisa Wolfson
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