The Rise of the Male Shopper

Men are ready to buy bracelets and handbags, and retailers are creating masculine versions of those traditionally feminine products.

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The male shopper is ready to splurge—and retailers are doing everything they can to tempt them with new items. The latest trend is in men’s accessories, which includes bags, bracelets, and scarves. The New York Times reports that sales of men’s accessories grew 14 percent, to $6 billion, in the second half of 2011, and that retailers from Coach to Diesel are jumping on the trend.

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This somewhat surprising turn of events—after all, bracelets are traditionally thought of as a feminine accessory—can be explained by the rise of the male shopper, which predates the recession. Way back in 2006, the National Retail Federation noticed that sales of men’s apparel were growing faster than that of women’s. In other words, men were buying more clothes than they had in the past. They wanted to look and feel good, too, just like women, and thanks in part to the “metrosexual” trend, spending money to do so became more culturally embraced.

Then the recession hit, and women and men alike tamped down on their spending. Now, as consumer confidence returns, retailers are picking up where they left off, and hoping to appeal to men’s sense of style and desire to spend on themselves with masculine accessories. At the same time, men are ready to shop again, after several years of holding back.

So far, the strategy seems to be working. The New York Times reports that Coach and Burberry are seeing rapid growth in sales of their men’s accessory items. Tiffany offers a handful of men’s silver bracelets, including a sterling silver and titanium option for $750. While high-end designers and expensive retailers seem to be leading the trend, it’s quickly spreading: Amazon sells men’s leather bracelets for $15.

This development is good news for retailers, who are hoping that the latest positive economic figures will translate into increased revenues in 2012. Men might represent a vast, untapped market that’s ready for growth. Only one question remains: How many men want to wear bracelets?

Twitter: @alphaconsumer