SIC 5611 Men's and Boys' Clothing and Accessory Stores


SIC 5611

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of men's and boys' ready-to-wear clothing and accessories.



Men's Clothing Stores


Clothing Accessories Stores


In 2003 Americans spent $10.5 billion in retail establishments specifically devoted to men's and boys' clothing, an increase for the first time since 1998. That year, $177 million was spent on suits, $611 million on coats, $3.1 billion on shirts and sweaters, and $4.5 billion on pants. After several years of the trend toward discounters, upscale was returning in 2004 and 2005, as luxury and specialty items were hot again. Women were no longer buying most of the clothing for the men in their lives; the men were buying for themselves. Competition for customers was heating up as well, as retailers struggled to stand out from the crowd.

Although the industry is notorious for its aversion to trends and shifts in fashion, men's apparel is offered in a wide variety of retail formats, including upscale design and specialty shops, department stores and retail giants, and discount men's clothing stores. Casual attire continues to be khakis and a polo shirt, but the suit is beginning to make a comeback.


The men's and boys' segment of the apparel and accessories industry was relatively small. Historically, marketers focused on the women's market, assuming that they were more concerned about fashion than men. In 1990, the men's and boy's category generated just over 10 percent of total sales in the accessory and apparel category. At that time, the women's ready-to-wear and specialty stores commanded close to 67 percent of the category, while the family clothing stores garnered roughly 29 percent. Businesses in the industry hoped that growing fashion awareness among men and boys would increase the industry's percentage of sales.

Since they carried narrow product lines but great depth within those lines, men's and boys' apparel and accessory stores were classified as specialty retailers. Historically, retailers of men's and boys' clothing and accessories focused on particular segments of the industry. These segments usually mirrored the five divisions into which menswear manufacturers were divided: tailored clothing, including suits, overcoats, topcoats, sport coats, and separate trousers; furnishings, including shirts, neckwear, sweaters, knit tops, underwear, socks, robes, and pajamas; heavy outerwear, including jackets, snowsuits, ski jackets, and parkas; work clothes, including work shirts, work pants, overalls, and related items; and other, including uniforms, hats, and miscellaneous items.

For nearly 150 years, these categories prevailed at the retail level. Even department stores organized their men's and boys' wear departments according to these categories. Beginning in the late 1960s, however, men's and boys' wear stores moved away from specialization into more diversified retail formats that offered a variety of clothing lines.

The trend toward large diversified stores accelerated during the 1980s. By the 1990s, superstores offering huge selections at discount prices were flourishing. Companies such as S&K Famous Brands, Inc., Today's Man, Inc., and The Men's Wearhouse, Inc. that were started in the late 1960s and early 1970s enjoyed tremendous growth in the 1990s as consumers flocked to the stores in search of stylish clothing at a discount. Although these stores focused on the tailored wear segments, they also carried huge selections in all categories in an effort to provide convenient one-stop shopping for customers.

The locations of men's and boys' stores underwent changes as the superstore format became popular. Many men's and boys' wear retailers moved out of the high-rent cities and malls into less expensive, but larger, suburban locations. The new superstores, which were sometimes more than 20,000 square feet, were often located in strip shopping centers or stand-alone buildings. To avoid high rents, these superstore retailers were quite willing to locate off the beaten track.

Competitive Structure

Owing to an increase in the overall fashion consciousness of American men, the industry experienced a rapid growth stage during the 1960s. The nature and intensity of competition in this industry has varied considerably since then. During most of that decade, rising demand for men's clothing and accessories encouraged new entrants. By the 1970s, however, the number of menswear stores was decreasing. Competition increased during the 1970s as department stores and specialty retailers battled for market share in a declining market. Demand picked up again in the mid-1980s resulting in a rapid increase in the number of stores.

Throughout the 1970s, department stores, which enjoyed the advantages of location and customer recognition, appeared to have a competitive edge over the specialty stores. For this reason, many retailers that entered the industry in the 1970s were off-price stores that hoped to compete with department stores by offering low-priced merchandise. It was not until the mid-1980s that department stores were the main competition of the men's and boys' specialty retailers.

The downward economic trend of the late 1980s, however, was a boon for discounters. By 1990, many off-price specialty retailers enjoyed a competitive advantage over department stores whose merchandise was often priced 30 percent higher than that of the discounters. Heading into the mid-1990s, market conditions favored the discount retail formats. Since even affluent customers were increasingly willing to shop at off-price stores, traditional retail formats continued to decline.

Financial Structure

Businesses in this industry were often small, privately owned stores, although there were many chain stores in operation. In 1990, the smaller businesses typically generated more than $1 million on an initial investment of approximately $295,500. The sales figures for chain retailers were quite disparate owing to the varied size and success of different chains; some of the larger chains grossed upwards of $300 million in sales, while industry-leader Hartmarx Specialty Stores generated over $1 billion.

Statistics showed that men's and boys' wear stores were more expensive to operate than women's or children's wear stores which led to the financial structure of businesses in this category differing from other segments within the retail category. Annual payroll, for example, in men's and boy's stores averaged $13,274 per employee, while women's accessory and specialty store payroll averaged about $10,000. Inventory costs were relatively high in the men's and boy's segment as well. The short fashion cycle and resulting quick turnover of merchandise in women's apparel explains much of the disparity in inventory ratios. Men's fashions changed so infrequently that stores could carry inventory without worrying about significant changes in customer preferences.


Developed in the late 1700s, the menswear industry is the oldest of the domestic apparel industries. The industry began in the northeast, where Samuel Slater built the first textile mill and where sailors off ships needed ready-to-wear clothing when they arrived in port. As the seamen could not afford custom-tailored clothing, tailors in port cities like New Bedford, Boston, and New York made standard size suits for them to wear as soon as they arrived on land. These early garments were made of the roughest cloth and were also frequently purchased by southern plantation owners for their workers.


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