Gentleman's outfitter falls out of fashion

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The Independent Online

The days of the traditional British "gentleman's outfitter" are coming to an end.

The days of the traditional British "gentleman's outfitter" are coming to an end. According to a survey by Verdict, the retail consultants, specialist menswear retailers will find it increasingly difficult to survive as men increasingly buy their clothes from unisex stores.

The key factor in the outfitter's demise is the decline of formalwear, such as suits, which previously attracted customers who then also bought casual clothing. The survey says in future virtually all casualwear will be bought from stores that stock men's and women's fashion. Verdict estimates a third of women buy menswear for their partners while another third go shopping with them. It is only formalwear that requires the man to be present, the survey says.

The trend has seen the decline of long-established men's retailers such as Moss Bros, which includes the formal hire business as well as the Savoy Taylor's Guild brands. Its profits have fallen and the group has axed its Code casual chain after an experiment which only lasted a year. It is now the subject of takeover attention by the Joe Bloggs fashion entrepreneur, Shami Ahmed.

Elsewhere Ciro Citterio, which was bought out of administration last summer, is now trying to reposition itself in the casual market rather than in suits. Arcadia has axed its SU214 chain as well as Principles for Men. It has also cut back on space at its Burton Menswear and TopMan chains. Those growing their market share include Next, Debenhams and George at Asda.

The survey comes as the Peacock Group, the high street discount retailer, is to rebrand its stores in an attempt to modernise its image and help drive sales.

The company, which has 344 branches, will introduce the new look on all new shops with a plan to have 50 open by the end of this year. The initial programme will cost £2m with the first redesigned store set to open at the end of April.

Peacocks is also set to sign a new five-year contract with Woolworths to supply clothing to its Big W chain of hypermarket stores.