Are men ready for Shopbop? Shopbop sure hopes so. The online retailer is looking for a Divisional Merchandise Manager for Menswear, and confirmed the launch on Twitter. What brands are they looking for? It's anybody's guess at this point, but Fashionologie has some great ideas. Let's break it down. Who's the competition?
Online-only retailers that cater specifically to men, like Mr. Porter, are few and far between, especially after Gilt Groupe closed down their full-priced men's site, Park & Bond. Net-a-Porter, sister site to Mr. Porter, caters to a somewhat older, more affluent customer than Shopbop currently does. Net-a-Porter and Mr. Porter both have a strong emphasis on designer in their editorial features and merchandising, with a scattering of contemporary (and an assortment of J. Crew pieces) to lower the entry price point for basics. Conversely, Shopbop has a predominantly contemporary slant with an assortment of designer items, mostly in accessories. I expect the new menswear site to also have a heavy contemporary focus with a smaller assortment of designer key items (think sunglasses, shoes, wallets). The new site should skew younger and be significantly more affordably than Mr. Porter.
Specialty stores with a strong online presence like Azalea in San Francisco or Revolve Clothing are definitely in the same game in terms of price point and merchandising. This is a big player coming to the market that the specialty stores should be cautious of, especially because none have the buying and logistics heft behind them that Amazon provides for Shopbop.
There should be healthy competition from department stores, who have been stepping up their designer and contemporary game for men, especially Bloomingdale's, as well as Saks and Nordstrom. These three department stores I predict will have the most merchandising overlap with Shopbop. They cater to men who have an awareness of fashion and trend, and are comfortably incorporating key items into their wardrobes every season, but are unlikely to look for brands like Givenchy or Lanvin. Beyond that, Neiman-Marcus' men's department is more staid and Barneys' is more advanced than what Shopbop will probably carry.
What brands will they carry?
My guess is that there will be some overlap with Shopbop. Any big brand that also has a men's line, like Vince, T by Alexander Wang and Rag & Bone, will likely show up. Taking a quick look over Shopbop's designer list, this could also include brands like Opening Ceremony, Vince, Acne, A.P.C., Theory, and James Perse. There's likely to be a strong denim component, probably basics from 7 for All Mankind, J Brand and Joe's Jeans, plus trendier items from Rag & Bone and BLK DNM. I'm not sure what designer brands will be the first to sign up, but I think their chances for Maison Martin Margiela, Viktor & Rolf, and Yigal Azrouel are good, considering they're already carried in women's. I expect the merchandising to be fairly core at first, with a certain amount of trendier items to showcase on the front page.
Will they succeed?
Most men aren't really familiar with Shopbop, but that's probably the least of their worries. With Amazon (which owns Bop LLC) on their side, they could surely launch a heavy marketing campaign. The Shopbop buyers are already established and they could buy deep and at their usual discount for brands they already buy. They have the warehouse and logistics prowess and the ability to invest heavily without expecting an immediate return on investment. International customers could be accommodated from the start. And, really, the competition is still sparse at this point. I give them more than a fighting chance, a better chance than Park & Bond, as long as they can build a strong brand and convince men who might otherwise be turned off by a brand they associate with their sisters, girlfriends, and female peers. If they can pull it off as well as Mr. Porter, I'll be a loyal shopper. At least, during sale season.