Fashion Drives Father’s Day Sales for Retailers

Father’s Day may not pack the same punch as it used to, but it still provided a bump to business for menswear retailers.

Major department and specialty stores reported that sales were strong for the holiday, both as a result of gift-giving as well as men shopping for themselves. Promotions were held in check and inventories are in decent shape heading into the summer.

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Across the board, stores said that after a few years where men were opting to buy for basics and replenishment items, fashion pieces have now emerged as the winner. Of course this is still menswear, so that meant linen shirts, Johnny collar polos in more seasonal colors and performance shorts.

The National Retail Federation predicted that Father’s Day spending would hit $22.4 billion this year, about equal with last year’s record $22.9 billion.

“Father’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the fathers and paternal role models who have played such a positive role in our lives,” said Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the NRF.

The federation projected that of the three-quarters of consumers who planned to celebrate Father’s Day, 54 percent were expected to buy apparel, followed by a special outing at 52 percent, gift cards at 48 percent and personal care items at 31 percent.

“While spending on these gift categories is mostly in line with last year’s record numbers, they are still significantly above pre-pandemic spending,” said Philip Rist, executive vice president of strategy for Prosper, which conducts the survey for NRF. “This is especially true in clothing, personal care, tools and appliances, electronics, home improvement items, gift cards and special outings, which have all increased by half a billion [dollars] or more since 2019.”

In terms of retailer, online continued to be the most important with 42 percent saying they would buy on the internet, followed by 38 percent at department stores, 24 percent at discount stores, 22 percent at specialty stores and 19 percent at small local businesses.

Ken Ohashi, chief executive officer of Brooks Brothers, pointed out that the company’s Father’s Day campaign — which featured celebrities such as New York Knicks star Jalen Brunson, with their fathers or children and kicked off earlier than usual this year at the end of May — had a marked impact on sales. “The campaign was a huge success,” he said. “We went really heavy in New York City where we were on 60 super-buses around the city. It was really big for us.”

Rich and Jalen Brunson for Brooks Brothers.

Ohashi said suits did well along with the recently launched performance collection of pants, shirts and blazers. “That was a huge unlock for us,” he said.

Ohashi said that while traffic has been inconsistent in the stores, Brooks Brothers is still performing above plan year-to-date, and it’s not being driven by promotions. “Full-price continues to be very strong. When we first came out of bankruptcy, we had to promote to clean up the inventory but now there’s very little clearance. We’re less promotional than last year and inventories are well controlled.”

Another big shift he is seeing includes the popularity of fashion. “It was heavy replenishment for the last two to three years, but now the fashion piece of the business is working,” he said. That translates into Johnny collar polos, shawl-collar jackets and linen shirts. Non-iron dress shirts, which has traditionally represented the bulk of the business, is being upstaged by regular-finish dress shirts, he said.

“Two-thirds of our customers are loyal shoppers and if they had bought navy or black shirts before, now they want seasonal colors,” he said. “And that’s good for business.”

So while much of that business may be guys updating their own wardrobes rather than gift-giving for Father’s Day, he’ll take it. And it’s leading to optimism about the summer into fall. “I feel very good about August in particular,” he said, hinting that the company is planning to release a new marketing campaign positioning itself as the Ivy League destination for back-to-school merchandise.

The situation was just as bright at Bloomingdale’s. “It was a good Father’s Day,” said Dan Leppo, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s, kids’, cosmetics and home. “The summer categories were performing including linen shorts, and short-sleeve camp shirts that started spiking around mid-May were even better.”

He said customers have taken “a real fashion stance,” and snapped up sweater-knit polos as an updated alternative to pique in brands ranging from Bloomingdale’s private label to Armani.

Collection sportswear from Zegna, Theory, Vince and Peter Millar was also popular with shoppers as were shoes from Ferragamo, On, Birkenstock and others, reversing a trend of softness earlier in the season. And men’s fragrance, from Creed, MFK and Jo Malone — which launched a campaign with actor Tom Hardy that helped spike sales — experienced an uptick in sales.

Looking ahead, Leppo said: “Every retailer is guardedly optimistic.” There will undoubtedly be distractions, which happens every presidential election year, he said, but he believes the assortment Bloomingdale’s has prepared for fall — new brands and updated offerings from existing vendors — will leave the company “positioned very well.”

Louis DiGiacomo, senior vice president of men’s for Saks Fifth Avenue, characterized Father’s Day as good for the company. Saks had prepared for the holiday with a “curated assortment” of apparel, accessories and gifts across a wide range of categories — and it paid off.

Like the other merchants, DiGiacomo also saw a change in interest among customers. “There’s been a shift from quiet luxury to more fashion,” he said, particularly in “beach chic” items for vacations this summer. Novelty swimwear in prints and colors was strong, along with linen shirts, and short-sleeve camp-collar shirts from Eton, Armani, Isaia, Kiton and Saks private label. Polos are also experiencing a surge in sales, he said, but this time around it’s fine-gauge knitwear with texture from Loewe, Ralph Lauren Purple Label and Zegna.

In footwear, there has been a move toward elevated dress sandals from Prada and others, as well as “cleaner” sneakers from Zegna, Cucinelli, Santoni and Ferragamo. He’s seen a renewed interest in sunglasses from Tom Ford and Loewe, and necklaces from David Yurman or Bernard James to finish off the outfit. DiGiacomo also noticed a “resurgence of writing instruments” from Montblanc, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its Meisterstück pen.

The strong sales indicate that customers were buying for their fathers as well as themselves, he said, a good sign heading into fall. “We’re cautiously optimistic and excited about what we bought for fall,” he said.

Sam Archibald, general business manager of apparel for Macy’s, said the company is “pleased with our men’s business and Father’s Day in general. We’re a gift destination and when we get to key dates in the calendar, customers depend on us.” He said Macy’s serves a diverse customer base and “life events” are very important to them — “and Father’s Day is part of that.”

He said among the bestsellers were fragrances from Dior Sauvage, and Chanel Bleu and team sports merchandise.

“It was newness across the board that has been checking,” he said. “People want more novelty.”

In knits, for example, the business had been driven by core basics in traditional colors such as black but now shoppers are gravitating to brighter colors and Johnny collars in shirts; performance fabrics with a higher rise in shorts; printed swimwear from Chubbies and others, and linen. “The linen season was very strong,” he said, “which feels very special. The last couple of years, customers have been rebuilding their core, but now they’re building on that with newness and new brands.”

While some of the strong sales may have been men shopping for themselves, there was undoubtedly a lot of gift-giving.

Looking ahead, Archibald said he’s “very pleased with where we are” and feels good about the mix of products that will be offered this fall. He said Macy’s will introduce a new men’s private brand later this year that will feature relevant, contemporary product, which he expects to help boost business even more.

John Tighe, president of Tailored Brands, which operates Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank and Moores stores in North America, said: “Father’s Day is not the spike to business that it used to be.” That being said, the sportswear business from Kenneth Cole Essentials as well as the new Joseph Abboud Indigo Blue collections were among the bestsellers. Specifically, white denim, woven tops in synthetic fabrics or linen, quarter-zips, full-zip bombers and vests with four-way stretch were the highlights of the season.

Joseph Abboud Indigo Blue at Men's Wearhouse.
Joseph Abboud Indigo Blue was a strong seller at Men’s Wearhouse.

“It was mostly men buying for themselves,” Tighe said, adding that he’d like to develop more gift-giving business in the future.

Chris Riccobono, founder of Untuckit, which operates 88 stores as well as a robust online business, said the company experienced a “bump in business in June compared to the rest of the year. Even if the economy is not great, people have a reason to buy. Was it historic? No, but it was strong and we expect that to continue.”

Riccobono said that because Untuckit’s shirts and complementary products can be worn in a variety of places — at work, after work, on vacation — it gives the customer a reason to buy. “We’re not a product for special occasions. It’s something you can wear in so many places, and it’s inexpensive,” he said, noting that most shirts retail for under $100.

Untuckit polo shirt
Polo shirts were popular at Untuckit for Father’s Day.

He said polos were selling at around 4 percent above last year, and printed button-downs and linen were all strong. Some 55 percent of Untuckit’s business is online and 45 percent in stores where traffic has been off, he said. “But it’s all about conversion.”

Looking toward fall, he said there’s a lot of uncertainty around the economy and the election, leading to a big question mark about the second half of the year. “Fifty percent of the people will react badly if their guy doesn’t win,” he said. “But if inflation comes down and interest rates drop, I think next year will be great.”

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