Retailers are discovering that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his accessories
In 2009, while Marie Helene Morrow was on safari with her family in Kenya, she was intrigued by the Swahili word kiyume. The owner of Reinhold Jewelers, a chain of high-end jewelry stores in Puerto Rico, inquired about its meaning and was told it meant, simply, “male.”
“I tucked it into my head and said to myself, If I ever have a men’s store, that’s what I’m going to call it,” Morrow says.
In November, she turned that if into a when, unveiling the first Kiyume boutique in Plaza Las Américas, the largest mall in the Caribbean. She says she opened the 650-square-foot men’s store, which occupies a former pen shop adjacent to Reinhold’s flagship, because the men’s retail scene lacked anything “fun.”
“I didn’t want the store to be structured like a Brooks Brothers,” Morrow says. “I wanted it to be a place where men could go and laugh. That’s why I have a card table and the open bar. Men are so happy when you say, ‘Do you want a drink?’?”
Flowing booze notwithstanding, there is much to recommend Kiyume, which is among the best of a new breed of men’s lifestyle stores changing the way jewelers cater to male clients.
While Morrow is best known for her superb taste in designers of women’s jewelry, she has built Kiyume around mostly one-of-a-kind merchandise that fits loosely into the men’s lifestyle-accessory category. From Taschen coffee-table books to elk horn–accented barbecue tools handmade by an Idaho craftsman to miniature resin sculptures of human organs (believe it or not, a gynecologist client recently requested a uterus), the goods on display adhere to one simple rule: “There are no collections,” she says. “It’s whatever you stumble on.”
|To create a laid-back atmosphere for her male customers, Marie Helene Morrow set up, among other things, a card table and an open bar in Kiyume.|
Morrow herself has clearly stumbled on to something. All around the country, designers from Coach to Michael Kors are realizing the untapped potential of the men’s market. Tory Burch, for example, is reportedly on the verge of debuting men’s accessories, which WWD called “one of the fast-growing markets in fashion—and an increasingly competitive one.”
The best way to court male clients, as retailers are learning, is to woo them with a multifaceted selection of accessories of a manly persuasion. At Kiyume, watch winders are a hot ticket, as are bow ties, playing cards, and unique cufflinks. “Oh my God, I didn’t know that so many men had helicopters,” Morrow says. “My helicopter cufflinks—I can’t keep them in stock.”
Kiyume carries just one watch brand, Shinola, whose own savvy men’s merchandising scheme is a model of lifestyle curation. Its two stores—a flagship in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood and a boutique in its hometown of Detroit—are the quintessential modern man’s playground. Although they are not, strictly, men’s boutiques—the brand makes a few ladies’ watches, including, ahem, The Gomelsky—the stores boast a manly vibe thanks in large part to the merchandise: Shinola shoe polish, rucksacks, bicycles, leather coin trays, and, of course, the oversize American railroad-style watches on which Shinola has staked its reputation.
|In Manhattan, Shinola chose to set up shop in one of the city’s perennially hip ’hoods: Tribeca.|
The Shinola website continues the lifestyle story. Under the “Curated” tab, shoppers can add a $40 Shinola baseball, $400 leather-covered bike U-lock, or $424 men’s varsity jacket to their carts.
Shinola’s Motor City store opened in late June 2013 in midtown Detroit, less than 2 miles from its factory.
Daniel Caudill, Shinola’s creative director and curator-in-charge, has described the New York store, designed by the Rockwell Group, as “the intersection of clean minimalism and 1930s industrialism.” But he might have summed it up with a single word: masculine. The walnut wood shelves, leather chairs, and accent decor—note the enormous cast bronze world map—are styled in the vein of a slightly nerdy (cue the pencil sharpeners), slightly macho (cue the sporting goods) hipster.
Soon enough, the space will house even more merchandise to appeal to male shoppers, including footwear, home goods, and clothing. “We are a multi-category brand,” Caudill says. “The Runwell is one of our iconic watches—we have a Runwell bike. Eventually, we’ll have a Runwell bag, a Runwell shoe.”
The future site of Todd Reed’s L.A. store
One reason a lifestyle store works so well in the men’s space: Men shop differently than women. They’re not inclined to spend a whole afternoon cruising the mall; they usually want to get the shopping experience over with. So the smartest retailers are giving them a single space that accommodates all the things they may be inspired to purchase. As Morrow told the men at her opening party, “You’ve been underserved. You have shoes, shirts, belts—but you don’t have a clubhouse!”
Todd Reed belt buckle in sterling silver with 13.41 cts. t.w. blue sapphires and 0.01 ct. t.w. raw diamond; $17,545
Jeweler Todd Reed, one of Morrow’s key vendors at Reinhold, has taken the same tack at his flagship in Boulder, Colo., which opened in 2010. Though the store sells mostly women’s jewelry—using the raw diamond aesthetic he practically invented—Reed recognizes that men are among his best clients, so he’s merchandising the store with certain “enticements” designed to help them relax.
“Everything I’m doing is related to the experience around my company,” Reed explains. “Jewelry is part of it. In Boulder, we want to attract different groups that may not be savvy about jewelry. There are certain drinks or smokes on offer. It’s not just macho men’s men or gay men. It has what guys like: books, coffee, and food. Not just women and fast things.”
Todd Reed link bracelet in sterling silver with 3.37 ct. green jade; $2,200
With male clients, Reed says the goal is to make them feel comfortable by employing a customized sales pitch. “I keep minor products—watches, bracelets, and rings—throughout the store,” he says. “No case ever holds more than three to five pieces. Then we have a vault racked out with jewelry, and we cater the presentation to them.”
Later this year, when Reed opens his second boutique (in Venice, Calif., along trendier-than-thou Abbot Kinney Boulevard), he’ll make men an even bigger focus with a new men’s jewelry collection—featuring jade fashioned into links and chains—that will be a centerpiece of the new space. “For me, L.A. has always been a very men-centric city,” he explains.
Todd Reed men’s ring in 18k yellow gold and silver with patina and 2.59 cts. t.w. diamond cubes; $6,930
Even as Reed embraces the men’s jewelry category, his retail vision is clearly evolving beyond jewelry. “I think the store is going to be very lifestyle-oriented,” he says. “I make so much stuff: leather, watches, jewelry. I make sculptures and I do paintings. I make all our window displays. We want to give people an experience; we want to show them that we’re about more than just products.”
Reed has chosen the right category to bring his new retail vision to life. By all accounts, the men’s segment lends itself well to an experiential retail model. “There are more seasonal things for me to do at Kiyume,” Morrow says. “Soccer season, football season, tennis championships, skiing”—each of those times of the year presents an opportunity to stock seasonal merchandise and hold an event pegged to the festivities.
Men’s ring in 18k yellow gold and palladium and 3.34 cts. t.w. diamond cubes; $16,500; Todd Reed, Boulder, Colo.; 303-442-6280; toddreed.com
For Father’s Day, for example, Morrow has a special father-son promotion planned around matching socks—because they’re never too young to learn about accessories, and Morrow, as her clients well know, is the right woman to teach them.
“I feel like PR is stuck in a fashion rut right now, and your store has finally helped elevate the standard,” Sarah N. Balzac recently wrote on Kiyume’s Facebook page. “Quite frankly, your employees are some of the very few fashionable men out there. Now, please send out a flyer telling men to stop wearing polos, khakis, and their cell phones strapped to their belts!”