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Outerwear Makers Focus on Innovation and Marketing to Drive Sales

Outerwear makers are placing a greater emphasis on fashion and innovative marketing to generate sales next year.

Staggered by relatively temperate winters in recent years and huge markdowns at retail this fall, outerwear makers are placing a greater emphasis on fashion and innovative marketing to generate sales next year.

Burlington Coat Factory, a 407-unit chain in 44 states, is revving up its fashion range, said vice president of coats and outerwear Cynthia Dunham. Instead of relying on basics for misses’ customers, which have driven sales for years, Burlington is amping up its contemporary and junior businesses with labels such as Miss Sixty. Military styles and plaids are performing well at retail, Dunham said.

Next year, Burlington projects opening fewer than 10 new stores, though that could change if business gets a kick start. The plan is to keep its fashion focus fresh, by having buyers in the market all the time. “We have thousands of coats in each store all the time.…we are in the business of coats,” Dunham said.

Weatherproof Garment Co. also plans to play up fashion and create more weather-based marketing initiatives to capitalize on consumers’ preoccupation with the weather and global warming.

The company is focusing more on “third-quarter fabrics,” more seasonless ones that are suitable for transitional months, said president Fredrick Stollmack.

L.L. Bean, the Freeport, Maine-based retailer and mail-order business, is offering a greater selection of women’s sizes and fabrics as well, and more fashion-oriented silhouettes for outerwear. The company has built a loyal following partly because all merchandise has a money back guarantee.

L.L. Bean will up its full-price store count worldwide to 37 once locations in Dedham, Mass. and Rochester, N.Y. open this summer. The company also plans to offer more women’s-specific courses at the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, which are taught by female instructors. L.L. Bean will also expand the participant capacity to meet demand.

After more than 15 years at 525 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, Cinzia Rocca has moved its showroom to an airy space at 30 Central Park South near Mickey Mantle’s restaurant. The company’s 2,700-square-foot penthouse space is a short walk for buyers at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s, which are important accounts for the Italian outerwear designer.

On another front, the label’s namesake designer has created new uniforms and accessories for Air Dolomiti’s flight attendants. This is the first time the Brescia-based label has suited up staffers of an airline. With a strong following in Europe, Rocca was eager to work with the Italian carrier.

With distribution in about 100 doors in the U.S., Canada Goose is aggressively trying to boost business by playing up its authenticity and North American production. As stores continue to tighten their inventories, the accessibility of North American-made goods should only become more appealing, said president Dani Reiss.

On another front, the company last month launched Canada Goose Adventure Tours, which offers trips to northern Canada and other locales. Travelers are suited up in the brand’s apparel, which is part of the travel package.

Filson, a brand known for its rugged outerwear, has opened its third store, a 2,400-square-foot unit in the bustling Pearl District in Portland, Ore. The brand’s functionality is resonating with cost-conscious shoppers, said president and chief executive officer Bill Kulczycki.

After 10 years in business, ZeroXposur, an active-oriented label, plans to launch its first print, outdoor and TV advertising campaign next year, said Howard Grossman, executive vice president. Jason Worth joined the company as director of marketing to spearhead that effort. Adding a fashion spin is a priority.

Next month will also be a key one for selling. Grossman said, “January has become a very big month in terms of selling because that’s when the weather gets cooler. It used to be after Christmas, [winter] business was over. Now people don’t start coming into the stores until Christmas [shopping].”