“Guys hate shopping,” said Brian Spaly, the chief executive of Trunk Club, a shopping website for men, “but love to look good.”
As retailers have come up with new ways to target men, Nordstrom has been riding the wave. It announced Thursday that it has agreed to purchase Trunk Club, a 5-year-old website that sells about 100 brands of men’s apparel, for an undisclosed amount. It is the latest sign that men are not the only ones taking their sartorial habits seriously.
“It’s never going to be what women’s is, but it’s probably been neglected for the past few years,” said Paul Swinand, an analyst with Morningstar. “In general, all my companies are saying, ‘The men’s business is looking good, and we want to do more.’”
Large retailers are now devoting more square footage of their stores to menswear, and some luxury clothing lines have introduced more items directed at men. But the trend extends beyond the established brick-and-mortar giants of Bloomingdale’s and Barneys. In the past few years, a number of clothing sites like Gilt Groupe and Net-a-Porter, too, have started spinoffs aimed at men.
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“I would say that we’ve seen in the last 10 years sort of an explosive growth in terms of the interest in menswear,” said Michael Hainey, the deputy editor at GQ magazine. Hainey said the shift was particularly noticeable among young men.
“I think they distinguish themselves in a way that their parents didn’t,” he said.
While some of Trunk Club’s higher-end peers may cater to men who have knowledge of luxury clothing labels, Spaly says his company can reach a wider audience by targeting men who may not know as much, but have the money and motivation to look good.
Spaly describes his target customer as an “urban professional” who “generally uses Trunk Club because he doesn’t have time to shop, he doesn’t know where to shop or he doesn’t actually enjoy shopping at all.”
After signing up, clients are interviewed by a stylist over the phone, who takes inventory of their personal tastes, preferences and measurements. The customer is then sent a trunk full of items and pays for whatever he does not mail back within 10 days.
Follow-up support, too, is only a click away.
“We get text messages at seven in the morning from customers saying, ‘I have a big meeting today, what shirt should I match with this blazer?’” Spaly said. “There’s so many things we can do for a guy with new technology.”
Two years ago, Nordstrom invested in the online men’s clothing brand Bonobos, of which Spaly was a co-founder and left in 2009. In 2011, the department store bought HauteLook, a flash-sale shopping site, even though the service was not profitable at the time.
Trunk Club is profitable, although barely, according to Spaly, who says that the company is on track to double its revenue to slightly more than $100 million this year.
Erik Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Direct, says Trunk Club can get on Nordstrom’s UPS contract, for example, and take advantage of its larger supply chains and infrastructure.
One challenge for the online segment, according to Richard Jaffe, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus, is that about half of all the money men spend goes toward clothes that need to be altered, like suits, which are less likely to be bought online.
Casual wear is also tricky, Jaffe said, because it is much more brand-driven. “Guys don’t shop, they buy,” he said.
Nordstrom says Trunk Club’s customers will have access to the tailors available at many of its department stores. Allowing customers of HauteLook to return items to Nordstrom Rack locations helped drive “a lot of traffic” to the physical outlet stores.
Trunk Club already has showrooms in Dallas, Washington and Chicago where men can try on their selections in person, and it plans to open a fourth location in Los Angeles next month. The company could add to the approximately 100 brands it carries by including more from lines available at Nordstrom. The biggest challenge the company has had thus far, according to Spaly, is keeping enough merchandise in stock.
“Twenty years ago, my dad was not spending $120 on AG Jeans,” he said. “And today, he is, and so are my friends.”