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Spring’s Outer Limits

RTW: Even though winter still isn’t showing any signs of waning, outerwear makers expect spring business to give the category a blast of fresh air.

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NEW YORK — Even though winter still isn’t showing any signs of letting up, outerwear makers expect spring business to give the category a blast of fresh air.

Lighter-weight, more versatile styles, such as reversible jackets and seersucker blazers, are expected to help keep the momentum going from a strong fall-winter season that’s wrapping up. Coat makers are more concerned about touching up their images than generating blockbuster sales. Spring sales, after all, typically comprise no more than 20 percent of total retail sales, which were $3.5 billion last year.

Some retailers have pushed back their spring deliveries by two to three weeks due to the “supercold weather,” said Glen Palmer, president and chief executive officer of the Amerex Group, which produces Weather Tamer, 1 Madison and the licensed Jones New York outerwear.

Amerex is counting on faux-suede walking-length raincoats to energize the rainwear business, which has suffered in recent seasons. A quilted reversible barn jacket, a faux-silk anorak and a poplin jacket with plaid detail are spring bestsellers, Palmer said. A barn jacket that appeared in a Jones New York national print ad has also spurred spring sales.

“We’re planning sales to be flat, but we’re [seeing strong] early trends,” he said. “Perhaps, it’s time to get the rainwear business to work again.”

Jeanette Nostra, president of G-III Apparel Group, is seeing interest in washed canvas, cargo details, safari looks and suedes with appliqués in its Nine West and Kenneth Cole lines. But spring sales are inhibited by cold weather.

“People are buying clearance fall items because it’s still so cold and spring hasn’t gotten much of a hold yet,” Nostra said.

Searle is rolling out its spring outerwear on Saturday, following continued strong full-price selling on shearling, down and wool coats at $425 to $3,400 through this past weekend, said David Lazar, director of retail.

“We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty now,” Lazar said. “There’s not much left.”

“No one is going to order typical outerwear for spring. It has to be a luxury,” said Jais Perdets, president of the Victoire showroom, which lists Salco, Kryos and Gruppo Marly among the lines it represents.

This story first appeared in the February 25, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Military looks like gold buckles, multiple pockets and camouflage patterns are doing well for Kryos.

“This spring, the military influence ranks high,” Perdets said. “In a time of trouble in the world, military is a little reassuring — for better or for worse.”

For Salco, Aspen-inspired styles that wholesale from $200 to $400 are important for spring.

Edward An, a company founded last year by Lori Schlachter, a former Kate Spade employee, expects spring sales to account for at least 15 percent of its projected $1 million annual business. About 45 specialty stores will carry the brand’s outerwear this spring, with a pink twill safari coat and seersucker blazers being key pieces, said Beth Stover, director of business affairs.

For spring, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are top markets. To try to build sales in other regions of the country, especially on the East Coast, Edward An has hired Showroom Seven as its new sales rep.

Tonight, the company will hold its first sale here at Ideya, a SoHo restaurant, to try to introduce the label to New Yorkers.

Outerwear is an important component of Bogner women’s sportswear, tallying 27 percent of the brand’s total business, said Homeira Lane, vice president of sales and marketing.

“Our strength is in suede and leather outerwear, ranging in price from $800 to $1,700,” she said. “The colors this season are bright: pink, baby blue and orange, as well as sand and khaki. Our most popular styles are the cotton safari trenchcoat at $1,200 and the lavishly embroidered, white fitted ‘Sonia’ coat at $3,000.”

Woolrich is planning for a 20 percent increase in spring sales, based on strong bookings for cotton canvas button-front coats, reversible jackets and waterproof hooded jackets with reflective tape that can be packed into its pocket, said Paula Kosmatka, director of merchandising and product design.

“Overall, fall was a little weird,” she said. “It was so cold after Christmas, I’m not sure anyone shopped. I think a lot of people decided to wait until spring, so there will be pent-up demand.”

Buyers at Schneiders showroom also favored soft polyester, three-quarter-length raincoats, as well as pastel fly-front cotton jackets. The collection will be offered in about 25 stores in the U.S. — one-third of the accounts that carry the line for fall, said Gisela Schwartze, vice president.

“Spring is not as dressed up as fall,” she said. “People don’t buy coats in the spring. They walk around in shorts, T-shirts, a little cardigan and not much more. That’s especially true on the West Coast and in the Midwest.”

Jamie Satnick, marketing executive at Alorno Coats, a third-generation family business, said department stores are reluctant to try new labels, especially for spring.

“Buyers kind of have preconceived notions of what they use you for. It’s very hard to come in as a new vendor,” she said. “The economy is very slow and buyers are very hesitant to commit.”

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