By  on January 18, 1994

NEW YORK -- Although the selling remained highly promotional, coats and outerwear had their second straight plus year at retail in 1993, posting gains that generally ranged as high as 10 percent, and sometimes went higher.

A survey of some major retailers showed the strength of the market was in two basic areas -- long precious-fiber coats, especially cashmere and cashmere and wool blends, and active outerwear such as down-filled and polyester fiberfill parkas and anoraks in polyester microfiber with real or fake fur trim.

Rainwear and leather and suede coats were spotty. Shearlings showed some signs of life, while fake fur coat business was virtually nonexistent.

Beth DiSabato, buyer for misses' outerwear at J.C. Penney Co., said it's been a good season, with increases of more than 10 percent over last year. Top-selling labels include Alorna and Larry Levine, she added.

"Wool coats have been in the forefront," DiSabato said. "Long wools with shawl collars using pile trim or fur trim and any kind of novelty treatment have been the top looks."

Leather jackets and coats are "holding their own," she said, led by three-quarter-length silhouettes. Active outerwear is about even with last year, paced by lightweight "grunge looks at a price point." This includes polyester microfiber anoraks and other casual bodies that use suede and leather trim, and mix fabrics such as wool and cotton with the microfibers.

Rainwear has seen "huge gains, close to 50 percent over last year," DiSabato said, particularly a polyester and cotton poplin trenchcoat with zip-out pile liner, sold under the Worthington private label. Available in black, pewter and teal, the style retails at $129, with an end-of-season promotion at $99, and has been the best coat in the chain, the buyer said.

Fake fur coats, which did well last year in novelty prints, bombed this year, and DiSabato said she's not going to recommend a buy for next year.

Mike Fine, senior coat buyer for Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's, Minneapolis, said, "It was a pretty good coat year that came on strong in the fourth quarter." Business in the third quarter was slower than last year, which Fine attributed to "customers buying closer to need."

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