The Wall Street Journal reports today that luxury good firms Hermes and Coach plan to open stores catering specifically to men. The strategy has a number of appealing features. Certainly, they appear to have evidence that many men do not enjoy having to shop for themselves in a store predominantly catering to females. Perhaps more importantly, data clearly show that more men are shopping for themselves when it comes to apparel, as opposed to our parents' generation, when wives often did a great deal of the apparel shopping for their husbands.
What challenge will the stores face? The last line in the article struck me as perhaps the most important one: "Still, there is one kind of customer brands are careful not to alienate in the men's stores: 'women who want to buy gifts for a guy,' Coach's Mr. Tucci says." Herein lies the critical issue facing these luxury retailers. How does one create a store atmosphere and shopping experience that caters to men without alienating the female shopper there to purchase for her husband, son, etc.? These luxury retailers will have to strike a delicate balance: make the atmosphere highly appealing to men, and clearly distinct from their other stores that cater mostly to females, while not alienating women.