Costume companies are adapting to market changes due to the pandemic

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Models doing one-arm handstands, frozen in backflips and wearing no pants represent a shift to a more casual look in the menswear industry.

Sales of men’s suits and other formal wear have plummeted, especially with the spread of telecommuting and other diverse work styles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Men’s suit companies now offer clothing with an emphasis on flexibility and comfort to appeal to younger consumers and women.

Based in Fukuyama, Hiroshima prefecture, Aoyama Trading Co., Japan’s largest chain of men’s clothing stores, said the idea of ​​having models strike unique poses in one of its Aoyama Tailor outlets were suggested to show the lightness and functionality of the company’s products. .

Photos of the models have gone viral on social media.

A Home Affairs Ministry survey of family income and spending showed that households of two or more people spent an average of 2,721 yen ($20) on suits in 2021, a third of 20-year spending. earlier.

“A dramatic paradigm shift has occurred,” said Akihiro Aoki, chairman of Yokohama-based Aoki Holdings Inc., operator of Aoki Costume Stores. “People’s lifestyle after the novel coronavirus outbreak is totally different from before the pandemic.”

His remark came at an event in late April to announce the company’s new business strategy.

The company expects demand for office wear that can double as everyday wear to grow as the practice of remote working has become widely accepted and people venture out for meetings less often. business and travel.

In November 2020, Aoki Holdings released its Pajama Suit characterized by the typical comfort of sleepwear and the stiff print of formal jackets.

The bid proved successful, with 100,000 units sold in March this year. A pair of pajama shoes were released under the same line.

Aoki Holdings plans to triple its casual goods department in about three years. The pajama suit is considered a mainstay to achieve the goal.

The company’s fashionable goods division will be reconfigured so that workwear will make up 40% of the section, while womenswear and casual wear will each make up 30%.

“We will abandon the conventional business model for a change,” Chairman Aoki said.

Aoyama Trading released Zero Pressure Suit for sale last July. Using a high performance textile used in swimwear, the garment is six times more flexible both vertically and horizontally than regular wetsuits.

A jacket and pants set has an affordable price of less than 10,000 yen. Zero Pressure Suit became so popular that it was temporarily in short supply.

Haruyama Holdings Inc. in Okayama, which runs Haruyama clothing stores, released Ractive Suit, emphasizing its lightness and ease of care. It was developed under the theme “’raku’ (comfortable) and active.

Konaka Co. based in Yokohama has made available a similar product named Ultra Work Suit.

Supported by strong sales of these casual apparel, companies’ business results improved in fiscal 2021 compared to the prior year.

Demand for costumes declined in fiscal year 2020 as coming-of-age events and entrance ceremonies at schools and businesses were canceled due to the pandemic.

Aoyama Trading’s business apparel section, which accounts for 70% of the company’s total sales, went into the black for the first time in two years for the fiscal year ending March 2022. It posted its first net profit in three years.

Aoki Holdings also reported net profit for the same period, according to financial data.

Haruyama Holdings forecasts net profit of 200 million yen for the fiscal year ending March 2023.

For fiscal 2021, its net loss worsened from the prior year due to the costs of closing unprofitable outlets.

All companies in the sector said they were aware that the market environment may never return to what it was before the pandemic.

Costume companies are now moving away from the conventional business model of setting up stores in suburban areas, resulting in huge operating costs related to rent and human resources.

In addition to targeting younger generations and female consumers with casual wear, they are trying to increase their presence in new areas including bespoke suits which require smaller inventory and entice customers to spend more money.

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