The Malaysian fast fashion realm is an interesting study. As fashion in general is still a growing market, fast fashion has to figure out how to adapt to the environment here. In other words, they either thrive along with the demand, or fall short in supply. For example, the plus size industry here is not as lucrative as the Western region, but there is potential if fast fashion gets it right. On the contrary, the sportswear industry is growing so fast that even high-street brands are taking over athletic apparel sports houses for women. How about fast fashion for menswear in Malaysia?
Are high street brands and retailers doing well for menswear… or is there another market that’s taking the lead?
Before we go into specifics, there’s another bigger question we should address: Is there even a market for menswear?
Menswear On A Global Level
The short answer here is yes. The current fashion market may come across as a female-dominated sector, and that menswear – a term popularised by users of social network Tumblr – is just a subordinate category. The conventional thought of consumer behaviour, especially in eCommerce, is that women shop more than men.
A study by Business Insider Intelligence proved that men may potentially overpower women in shopping. It acknowledged that, yes, there seemed to be an accepted truth that females “control” the spending in a household. However, the report detailed that in the United States alone, men drive “nearly as much overall spending online” as women.
Image Source: Data from IBS World, taken from Quartz
Additionally, data from IBIS World showed that the growth rate in online sales for men’s clothing took the top spot at 17.4% in five years time, outpacing other items such as groceries, alcohols and computers. It also stated that menswear will continue to dominate in 2020. Data from Euromonitor backed this, as the menswear category is expected to reach a staggering $460 billion worldwide by 2020 as well, a growth that is much faster than its female counterpart. A quick scroll on social media will show that the menswear topic is buzzing. The ‘#menswear’ tag garnered over 21 million posts, with similar tags such as ‘#mensweardaily’ and ‘#menswearfashion’ receiving much attention too.
Eshopworld’s whitepaper on menswear broke down the numbers by country, covering Asia as well. In 2014, China actually outstripped the USA in the menswear market. The next year saw the Asia Pacific region reaching a total value of $162 billion USD, with China contributing almost half of it: a 52% slice of the pie chart. Coming in second was Japan with its leading retailer Uniqlo, followed by India.
Image Source: EShopWorld
So, there’s a market for menswear across the globe. However, does the same apply in Malaysia?
According to Omnilytics, fast fashion may be a few steps behind sportswear brands. Two high-street retailers, Zara and Uniqlo, have a menswear line with similar price ranges, thus becoming fierce competitors. Nonetheless, there are still discrepancies all over the market, namely in stocking issues and understanding how men shop. Interestingly, on the other side of the market, sportswear retailer Adidas Originals is taking the lead.
Zara Is Still Female Dominated, While Uniqlo Prioritises Both
For Q1 of 2018, Zara had the most available SKUs amongst the rest, while Uniqlo stocked less than the 1,000 mark. Initially, this painted the former as a fashion retailer that emphasised more on menswear. Nevertheless, in the words of Eric Feinberg, the VP of Marketing at ForeSee: “entering a category is by no means equal to competing in a category”. Once womenswear was added in, the data told a different story.
For Zara, the differences were evident. Zara stocked thrice of menswear’s amount (2,911 SKUs) for womenswear (6,011 SKUs), which indicated that the retailer is still quite female-dominated. Uniqlo, on the other hand, had a more balanced assortment. Even though the total number of SKUs were much smaller, the latter brand seemed to have priorities for both genders equally.
Jarring Rates for Sellouts & Replenishments
Zara and Uniqlo both saw lower numbers during Q1 of 2018. Uniqlo had an average of 300 sellouts, from 2,911 SKUs, with their pants & leggings seeing the highest number. Zara, on the other hand, saw the least numbers, as only 87 products went out-of-stock during the same time period. Both had smaller sellout rates, but higher replenishments. In addition to that, 53.10% and 50.90% of products for Zara and Uniqlo respectively were discounted, with the former brand discounting at a higher range of 50-54%. The data here can be interpreted in two ways:
(1) both retailers preferred to keep the cycle going, instead of letting their products go out-of-stock.
(2) men were not affected much by discounts. After all, an article by CPC strategy did show that men are in fact “less motivated by discounts”.
Of course, out-of-stock issues are not always good factors, since there needs to be a right balance of supply and demand. Still, if the weighing scale is heavier on one side, the system will be imbalanced. The data above showed that both brands replenished in-stock and out-of-stock items, which implied that the retailers intended to keep the cycle going.
Unsuspecting Rise of Athleisure On Menswear
The disruption that caused fast fashion’s low numbers may be due to the rise of the athleisure trend in Malaysia. This trend has not only served an impact for women, but on men too.
Images Source: Adidas
Adidas Originals, a sub-brand under Adidas, features athleisure wear that men seem to be favouring in Malaysia. Across two different retailers – JD Sports and Adidas – the sellouts and replenishments rates for this brand were higher than fast fashion standards.
According to Omnilytics, Adidas Originals saw a 61.2% sellout and 64.4% replenishment, a higher number than both Zara and Uniqlo. As for discount ranges, if placed on a scale, Adidas Originals actually released the least amount of discounts, but saw a more positive outcome. Again, as this sportswear retailer intended to keep the cycle going by replenishing, out-of-stock issues will be curbed.
What Does This Mean?
The market here, yet again, is an interesting one for menswear. The numbers proved that maybe men aren’t shopping in fast fashion, and more on athletics apparel… at least, during the period of Q1 2018. Traditional fast fashion retailers should take note of the force of athleisure, as men may be more inclined to shop for sensible apparel. The activewear lifestyle is on a rise here, and this may shape their purchase decisions.
Or perhaps, the fast fashion retailers here aren’t picking up the speed. With menswear on the rise to outperform womenswear in the near future, fast fashion in Malaysia, and any other parts of the world, need to be faster in understanding this particular market.
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The data above was obtained from Omnilytics, real-time market data platform. The numbers and statistics may vary, as the platform is updated every day. The time period of the information taken was between 1st January, 2018 to 31st March, 2018.