The Road To Retail Recovery Part 1: Menswear


Since vaccine distribution began in the U.S. on December 14, more than 116 million doses have been administered, reaching over 22% of the total U.S. population, according to the CDC Covid Data Tracker. The U.S. is currently administering over 2.3 million shots a day. By May 1, the Biden administration said every American adult would be eligible for the vaccination.

Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, said on Bloomberg this week: Credit card charges are back and growing over the pre-pandemic shutdown. Boomers and seniors are getting vaccinated, credit card sales are up, and travel statistics are also up from the TSA report. Groceries sales are down a bit; that’s an implication that people are getting out and spending after the vaccination.

Combined with the newly signed robust stimulus and unemployment benefits package, the drop in unemployment rate to 6.2%, and warmer weather, these are all positive signs pointing towards the road to our economic recovery. Consumers are ready to get back to the next normal, and we should be poised to see retail sales pick up again.


(Source: The NPD Group/Point-of-Sale Early Indicator Report, NPD Universe, WE March 6, 2021)

During covid, while we might put on a Zoom-friendly top but most of us lived in our sweatpants and slippers. NPD reported that while 2020 total apparel sales declined by 19%, “comfy cozy” categories were up significantly. Sweatpants +17%, sleepwear +6%, sports bras +10%. Fashion footwear such as heels, sandals, and boots dropped 27%, while slippers increased by 21% and clogs were up by 33%.

NPD’s survey also stated that 70% of consumers reported that they plan to dress just as or more casually than before the pandemic once they return to work and other activities.

Classic menswear got hit particularly hard last year, but we saw the decline of tailored clothing even pre-pandemic. Casual and activewear dominated the menswear market for years. With work-from-home, there is even lesser of a need to put on a suit. Will the pandemic accelerate the growth of online casual wear and the death of the men’s suit business?

Tim Reid is the Head of Brand at State of Matter Apparel, a menswear e-commerce retailer ( He is optimistic that men will be shopping for new clothing. He said, “the place that you will see it the most is in items to get dressed up again to go out, have fun and celebrate. Think about first dates, Friday nights, and parties for all sorts of occasions. That’s where dressy has a chance. I think casual will still be king as people will want to be as comfortable as they have been this past year. Even when people return to work, they likely will still be working from home 2-3 days per week, so the need to “dress up” is still down 40-60% from when everyone was at work every day.”

The Millennial Dress Code

Jordan Sarwkin, a 35-year-old senior private equity executive who shops online at Bonobos and J. Crew, wears knit henleys and jeans to work, said: Business attire policy has changed over the last few years. Financial firms no longer want to be stodgy and stuffy. We are all competing with big tech firms like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Apple for the best new talent. The next wave of talent wants a relaxed, flexible, and entrepreneurial career with a balanced lifestyle. Suits are not something they want to wear to work daily. “I can think and function better when I am in comfortable clothing.”

Client meetings still require a more formal dress-code. Jordan likes his suits and shirts made with stretch materials, but ties are no longer needed.

Relaxed informal IT business startup company meeting. Team leader discussing and brainstorming new … [+]

Zack Werner, (Forbes 30 under 30), CEO and Founder of The Maze Group, a technical, strategic consultancy focused on public and private equity-owned businesses. His clients include JC Penny, LVMH, Dior, and G.E. The Maze Group CEO often wears skinny jeans,