NEW YORK — There’s no snowfall to speak of — yet — but that hasn’t inhibited shoppers in the Northeast from buying down jackets and ski-inspired looks.
Lightweight and practical, these options have become everyday staples for city dwellers who have no immediate plans to hit the slopes. Consumers’ fervent interest in down jackets continues even though they have been popular for the past few winters.
Wool coats, an area that has lagged in recent seasons, are rebounding, driven partially by fur-trimmed items, stores said.
At Bloomingdale’s, there’s been a move to more ladylike styles such as fur-trimmed coats, “good, Republican cloth coats” and swing coats, according to Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president for fashion direction. Max Mara is a best-selling label, especially for alpaca and other wools, he said.
Puffer or down coats also are doing well at Bloomingdale’s, partially because they’re lightweight and also due to the fact that people are used to them, Ruttenstein said. Ski or active styles from Moncler, Bogner and Burberry are gaining steam, as well.
Fashion magazines might clue in consumers to basic trends such as fur-trimmed items, but for the most part, outerwear options take some self-evaluation. “What they’re really doing is going to the coat department to look at the various categories. I don’t think they get a lot of direction on coats,” Ruttenstein observed.
Down jackets also are fueling sales at Burlington Coat Factory, the 360-store chain headquartered in Burlington, N.J. This category has been a winner for several winter seasons, but this year, the retailer is offering them in a lot more colors. That has resulted in “an important boost” in fall business, even though cold weather has yet to hit, said Monroe Milstein, president and chief executive officer of Burlington Coat Factory.
Retail prices range from $59 to $100, and Bubblegum and Donnybrook are two key brands, he noted.
“They are in beautiful colors and styles. They’re lightweight, very warm and easy to care for — just throw them in the washing machine,” Milstein said. “We’re selling them in all areas of the country. Usually, they sell when it gets colder in the Northeast and the Midwest.”Down jackets also are leading the charge at Up Against the Wall, a 21-unit specialty store operation based in Washington, which will open two stores in San Francisco this month. Co-owner Wendy Red said she has placed most of her outerwear buy with The North Face, a label shoppers were looking for as early as July. North Face jackets with technical features and fleece linings, and Enyce jackets in nontraditional colors such as bright green, are ringing up sales, she said.
“A couple of years ago I tried a few down jackets and they sold really well. The demand for it was crazy,” Red said. “Now it’s become a major business.”
She suspects that early sales are due to shoppers not wanting to be left out in the cold. “Maybe people are getting a jump on it because they know nothing will be left in January. If they see the style they want and the price they want, they buy it,” Red said.
Many women are buying blazers and wearing them as jackets, since the cool weather has not set in across most of the Northeast, she added. Nonbranded corduroy, plaids and pinstripes are popular options, and retail between $40 and $100.
Searle, an eight-unit chain and wholesale business based in Long Island City, N.Y., also has seen a surge in blazer sales, so much so that it has cut into the retailer’s peacoat sales, said Steve Blatt, owner. Many women are buying Searle’s cropped tweed jackets or ones from Trina Turk to wear with jeans, he said.
Other bestsellers include $900 to $1,900 Postcard active-inspired coats, $400-to-$900 Searle down coats, $275 cloth peacoats and $700 to $1,000 Moncler coats. Active-inspired styles from Bogner, which retail from $450 to $1,295, also are performing “extremely well” at retail, according to Steve Weinstein, director of sales and marketing for Searle.
“Active is really where the action — and the excitement — is. That’s where the real units are being churned out,” he said. “It fits into the customer’s lifestyle.”
Besides these types of casual pieces, Searle is seeing interest in alpaca coats, fur trims, novelty tweeds, shearling and fake shearling at various price points. Customers also are responding to interesting fabrics and colors such as red or white. Not banking on one specific trend is one of the reasons why the retailer’s fall sales are running 25 percent ahead of last year, Blatt said.
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