It's taken about five years or so, but men are finally making their way back into the South Sound's fine clothing stores.
Sales at McCausland's in Tacoma, for example, were higher last month than they've been since the recession started.
“It's been a pretty tough four or five years — ever since 2007,” said owner Brent McCausland. “Our business dropped off 40 percent, and it's stayed there for four years. The good news is this July is the best July we've had in six years.”
McCausland said that he hasn't made money in the last several years, but he knows he's not alone.
“It's tough in all men's clothing,” he explained. “The first thing people quit buying is men's clothing.”
McCausland was able to keep his shop open, though, while many of the other upscale men's clothing retailers in the city, like Klopfenstein's, closed.
“I haven't made in money in the last four or five years, but the people who work for me are getting paid,” said McCausland, noting he's had other revenue streams to help him pay the bills while he's waited for his customers to return.
Now that McCausland has stuck out the recession, he's spotting clients that haven't been in for three or four years.
“We're seeing an upswing a little bit for the first time,” McCausland said. “It's feels good.”
Sales aren't back to where they were in 2006, he said, but there's reason to be optimistic.
Industry sources say men often lead a downturn and lag an upturn — that is, they're the first to quit shopping and the last to return — but the good news is, when they finally come back, they'll need to replenish their wardrobe.
Greg Miller, principal at Olympia-based fine men's retailer G Miller, said this is exactly what he's seeing.
“Men are the last to buy in the family. Guys put things off and, all of a sudden, it was like, 'now I need something,'” Miller said. “I think there was a pent-up demand.”
His sales have been steadily climbing in recent years. They were up five percent in 2011, 12 percent in 2012 and 25 percent in the first quarter of 2013.
Along with men returning to his shop, Miller said his clients are also willing to spend a little more, particularly the younger professionals.
“If they're spending the money, they're a little bit more particular about it,” Miller said. “I think a lot of guys are more serious about finding a job. Instead of khakis and a golf shirt, maybe he's showing up for his interview in a sport coat and trousers or in a suit.”