Suited and Booted. But for How Long?

Man being measured across his chest for a suit
Image credit: Adobe Image Stock

I read in many of the news outlets today that Marks and Spencer or ‘Marks and Sparks’ as it’s affectionately known to many, have decided to stop stocking men’s suits in many of its stores.

The reasons cited are falling demand, accelerated by the COVID effect as many office workers across the country continue to work from home.

It’s fair to say that, being an office worker myself and prior to the pandemic, a regular buyer of formal men’s attire including suits, I am part of that cohort. As I continue to work from home I, like many others, find there’s simply no need to get kitted out with any formal wear as we favour jeans or shorts and a t-shirt most days. Even when I do go back into the office, now that a workwear precedence has been set from being at home for the last 19 months or so, I can see myself donning a more relaxed look. Although I probably won’t stay loyal to the jogging bottoms and t-shirt look as I have been doing!

So M&S’s reasoning to cut back it’s range based on a growing trend is perfectly understandable. However it’s still a bit of an eye opener to read that the UK’s ‘go to’ retailer of men’s suits is scaling back its range in many of its stores. Other retailers will follow suit (no pun intended), and I’ll wager that some suit specialists with expensive floor space, will fall by the wayside as a result of changing habits.

Image credit:  Anucha Adobe Image Stock

The last time I bought a suit was just before lockdown which I wore to a couple Work related events. Since then it’s hung in its bag, untouched and accompanied by a sizable array of shirts and ties, whilst the world endured a lockdown.

The M&S suit story has stuck in my mind as Mrs B and I have been invited to a wedding in early September. This raises the question of what do we wear?

What to wear? Ah yes – I have a new suit hanging my wardrobe. That’ll do!

The ravages of the dreaded lockdown-lard has taken its toll on my body as I’ve previously posted about. This has manifested itself in one clear fact: my suits no longer fit, not even close. As for my shirts – don’t make me laugh!

As the wedding is in just a couple of weeks, the need to get suited and booted in something that fits me, was now imminent. So on Friday, just before the M&S Suitgate story broke, I went out looking for a new wedding guest wardrobe.

Despite M&S being the go-to suit retailer for many, I didn’t follow the norm. Instead, as per previous occasions, I opted for a local mill outlet which includes a Skopes concession. I’ve bought some decent suits from there before, so if they didn’t have anything in, my next port of call would be the UK’s favourite, M&S. But let’s try the Skopes store first.

Suits You Sir!

On Friday afternoon, I was the only customer browsing suits at the Skopes outlet. I tried a couple on in between wandering over to the DoubleTwo shirt concession store, again as a solitary browser.

How do these stores maintain their overheads, nevermind make a profit with such low footfall? In fact the whole mill-complex, stores spread over 3 floors: was a shadow of its pre-covide self. Many retailers had gone along with their customers. Clearance tat stores dominated the place and I felt there was an air of melancholy about the building.

Back to suit buying.

The sales assistant, pleased to be distracted from her ‘rail sorting’, did indeed get me fitted out. A proper sales assistant from the old school, one of those who could size you up by simply looking at you.

Never Say Never

Will this be my last suit? Probably not, as there are bound to be formal events, both socially and at work in the future that’ll warrant such formal wear. However I envisage my daily ‘smart trouser’ and formal shirt consumption dropping off to zero.

Pre-covid I would wear a fresh formal shirt each day, changing into a clean pair of formal trousers every 2-3 days. That’s a lot of weekly ironing, but beyond that – wear and tear would warrant replacements every 2-3 months or so. Multiply that up and that’s a decent turnover for a men’s wear retailer.

If every male office worker follows my behaviour, then that’s a big dent in the mens formal wear sector as M&S have figured.

Remember Tie Rack and how they suffered as a consequence of men’s tie wearing habits?

Looks like suits could be going the same way.