The ‘H’ in H&M is short for “Hennes” — it’s the Swedish word for “hers” and the original name of the retailer when it was founded in 1947 as a womenswear brand. However, the fast fashion retailer is on a quest to entice its male shoppers, using splashy collaborations and a revamped social media presence.
While H&M began offering menswear in 1968, the brand just debuted its menswear Instagram last week under the handle @hm_man. The new account, which has just over 1,000 followers so far, was timed in accordance with the release of H&M’s new spring collection, including its collaboration with The Weeknd, which is available in stores today. H&M also showed both men and women’s styles in tandem during its first see-now-buy-now show at Paris Fashion Week yesterday, making looks from the runway immediately available online on both the men and women’s sides.
“When it comes to style, Instagram is a firsthand source for inspiration to our customers,” said an H&M spokesperson. “The aim is a lively lifestyle account, with a mix of must-have goods and inspiring fashion stories.”
Though H&M is seemingly amping up their menswear efforts, they haven’t actually increased available products for men — new arrivals have actually decreased by 8 percent, according to data from Edited. However, though menswear only comprises about a third of the brand’s products, it sells well. Men’s items sell at a higher price point than women’s garments on average, at $24.99 versus $18.62, and a higher rate of replenishment than womenswear, at 18 percent versus 16 percent. (H&M was unable to provide its percentage of male shoppers and a breakdown of sales by gender.)
“The increased efforts in social and marketing are H&M’s acknowledgement that male shoppers are increasingly engaging with trend content,” said Katie Smith, senior analyst at Edited. “We’re seeing menswear trends being picked up by consumers at a pace much more aligned to womenswear trends, and that’s completely facilitated by online.”
Despite H&M’s foray into male-driven social content, launching standalone accounts tailored to men isn’t anything new. Forever 21 created a spinoff account in 2015, after first offering men’s clothing in 2006. Within two months, @Forever21Men gained 38,000 followers. Today it has 213,000, and the retailer’s menswear is experiencing double-digit growth, a Forever 21 representative told Digiday last year. On the flip side, companies like Nike that traditionally catered to men have started launching separate women’s accounts, like @NikeWomen, which also started in 2015.
Jake Woolf, style writer at GQ, said H&M’s menswear efforts mirror those of brands like J.Crew that have also put a concerted effort into menswear. (J.Crew announced last month that it would begin adding male athletic clothes to its athleisure offerings.)
“It sends a message to their customer that they’re taking menswear more seriously,” Woolf said. “A lot of guys, when they think of H&M, they think of going to the mall with their girlfriend and popping into H&M quickly. Just the mere fact of adding a platform specific to men sends a message: If you’re a guy who shops at H&M, obviously you don’t want to be looking at a feed of just women.”
Woolf noted that partnerships with designers like Alexander Wang, Kenzo and Isabel Marant — who designed for men for the first time through her collaboration with H&M — have helped the retailer build itself as a destination for men’s apparel. Ultimately, H&M will have to continue to figure out how to find a competitive edge, he said, as the market continues to be inundated with high-low collaborations for both genders.
“The challenge — not just for H&M, but for all of the brands in this space — is so many brands are offering stylish products that have a celeb name and are offered at a great price,” Woolf said.
Smith echoed Woolf, noting that, as fast fashion retailers continue to amplify their menswear efforts, they need to consider ways to carve a niche.
“Any retailer with a menswear offering needs to think about collaborations and content that educate their consumers on new trends and styling,” she said. “Efforts there will be rewarded with a customer who seeks out newness each season, breathing life into a retailer’s offering.”