By  on December 2, 2010

November’s big chill heated up sales for outerwear manufacturers and retailers, and they’re looking for more of the same from Mother Nature.

After a warmer than usual start to fall in much of the country — an average October temperature of 56.9 degrees — the weather turned more wintry. Although there were a few days of springlike readings this week, weather forecasting firm Planalytics said that last month was the coldest in the U.S. since 2002 and Black Friday weekend was the coldest in three years. The combination generated an estimated 11 percent spike in outerwear sales compared with a year ago. Forecasters predict colder temperatures starting today.

Planalytics reported that outerwear sales climbed in several cities, including Los Angeles, where temperatures were in the 40s and volume was up 90 percent over last year; the Seattle region saw a 43 percent increase, Cleveland, 39 percent and Boston, 21 percent.

“It’s completely weather-dependent,” said Ken Giddon, president of Rothmans in New York. “When it’s cold, people buy outerwear. And men shop when they’re moved to shop.”

Giddon said the outerwear business hasn’t been “truly exciting yet,” but in the past few weeks, he has experienced “nice action” with Spiewak’s $175 retro-inspired wool peacoat and jackets from Cole Haan. Dress overcoats in shorter, tighter models from Hugo Boss, which retail for $645, are also standouts.

Stuart Segel, president of Mr. Sid in Newton Center, Mass., has seen an uptick in outerwear sales since the colder temperatures arrived. “The little leather we had we sold quite well,” he said. Coats in technical fabrics or waxed cotton finishes also connected with customers.

Shoppers seeking versatile pieces because of lingering economic uncertainty are still gravitating toward hybrid jackets that can double as outerwear or sport coats, such as Corneliani’s ID jacket, Segel said. Zegna’s Elements coat, which retails for $3,200 and features special weather-regulating qualities, also has been popular. And he singled out Schneiders’ classic loden car coat as a strong seller.

“Sportswear is really driving our business, but outerwear is a nice component to add,” Segel said. “It’s not a huge part of our business, but it is growing. People are looking for more medium-weight coats such as Corneliani’s ID jacket, so that’s done well.”

Freddie Stollmack, president of Weatherproof Garment Co., said after a soft October and early November, retailers experienced “an incredible spike” in outerwear sales last week when the weather turned in their favor.

Among Weatherproof’s top sellers at retail is the company’s Ultratech jacket, the model that drew attention when President Obama wore it in China and Weatherproof slapped the image on a Times Square billboard without White House approval.

Sales have improved since Weatherproof tweaked its mix by updating silhouettes, color palette and fabrics to appeal to a younger customer. “We used to cater to the 50 year old, but now we’re going for the 30 year old,” Stollmack said. “We’re seeing soccer dads buying Weatherproof.”

The company’s new activewear division, which is performance-driven and colorful, is also popular with the younger customer. Available at Macy’s and Lord & Taylor, Weatherproof will be looking to expand into specialty and sporting goods stores and plans to exhibit at the Outdoor Retailer show in January. “There’s a real trend out there to active outerwear, so we got in at the right time,” Stollmack said.

Other trends for 2011 include military-inspired, four-pocket models in wool, faux leather, waxed cotton and antique canvas. “The two strongest trends for fall are military and retro,” Stollmack said. “In fact, we’re planning our fall 2011 fall campaign around a vintage 1940s theme.”

Stephanie Mollison, a spokeswoman for Andrew Marc, said that for next fall, the company will continue with its heritage collection, a capsule group that is rugged and motorcycle influenced. There will also be aviator styles offered, she said.

Other trends for the season will be British rocker style — pieces that will sport “a rebellious attitude,” she said — along with frontiersman. The brand will offer a mix of materials, such as wool with oxford or cotton, as well as interesting details for a “rugged, masculine vibe.”

Also for fall, the company will be unveiling its new tailored clothing and denim collections, she said, and these outerwear pieces will work well as a complement.

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