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Warm weather be damned.
This story first appeared in the December 15, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That’s the opinion of outerwear manufacturers and retailers who depend on cold temperatures to spur sales of coats and jackets. With the mercury hovering above normal for much of the fall, the outerwear business has suffered in many cases, although retailers are finding that innovative styles are still drawing fans. Shorter lengths, faux fur collars, puffer blazers and technical influences, particularly at the higher end of the price spectrum, are among the stars of the season.
That said, outerwear sales overall have been down in November and December, according to Planalytics, which provides business weather intelligence. “It’s pretty challenging,” said Evan Gold, senior vice president of client services. “Most seasonal product is running negative to last year.” In November, outerwear sales were down 18 percent in Boston, 12 percent in New York and 8 percent in Atlanta, the company said, while so far in December, sales are down 19 percent in Atlanta, 7 percent in New York, 6 percent in Philadelphia and 4 percent in Minneapolis. “If there’s any place that is performing better, it’s the West,” Gold said, because temperatures in the region are colder than last year.
As a result of the warmer temperatures, retailers are running aggressive price promotions on outerwear in order to generate sales. “They need to move product and they’re using price as a motivator,” Gold said.
Craig Andrisen of Andrisen Morton in Denver said outerwear sales have been challenging, but he has seen success from high-end brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Brunello Cucinelli and Loro Piana. “You have to have something really special,” he said, “something he doesn’t already have.” Top performers include knee-length car coats, cashmeres and technical outerwear. “But leather has struggled this season.”
Bryan Reynolds, divisional merchandise manager of men’s wear for Scoop NYC, is bucking the trend. “Our business has been amazing,” he said. “We’re up in the high triple digits over last year.”
He said the store has had good results with puffer blazers from Moncler, Woolrich and Rag & Bone. Parkas with fur trim from Woolrich and Dsquared, shearlings, two-in-one jackets from Moncler and Dsquared, and puffer vests from Hartford, Belstaff and Penfield have also been standouts this season. Technical jackets from Zegna Sport, Belstaff and Stone Island are also connecting with customers.
“Fashion items and unique pieces sell for us,” Reynolds said.
Stephen Weisbuch, executive vice president of London Fog, has seen a shift away from wool toward cloth outerwear. Down coats are struggling because of the warm temperatures. Instead, poly-bonded products have done well because they’re “not as weather-sensitive,” he said, and everyday value-priced coats are also outperforming. “The consumer is still frugal with his money and if there’s a wool coat on the floor at $79, he knows that’s a good value.” Faux fur did well in the better market, and shorter-length raincoats and wool jackets with leather trim have also been strong sellers.
Looking ahead to fall 2012, Weisbuch said the brand will inject its wool offering with colors such as camel, light olive, mocha and navy. “It’s not just about having black and gray.” Bibs will be prevalent, as will technical components to attract a customer looking for activewear influences.
At Rainforest, top sellers include water- and wind-resistant and breathable down parkas with removable hoods and leather collars, as well as a mélange down toggle coat and a three-in-one parka with a down liner, said president Jack Wu.
Looking ahead to fall 2012, Wu said there’s a movement toward “rugged elegance. We’re going back to our roots and updating them with fresher fits and an outdoorsy appeal,” he said. Toggle closures, fur-trimmed hoods, waxed cottons and suede twill are being offered in a variety of colors, including burnt orange, dark olive, dark brown and navy. Wu said jackets that offer versatility will attract customers who are looking for pieces that can be worn for different occasions.
Freddie Stollmack, president of Weatherproof, said the company’s heat-generating line of apparel has proven especially popular. The company recently opened a pop-up store in SoHo for the brand, which has been “unbelievable,” he said. Other trends include waxed cotton, primarily in 32-inch, four-pocket models; casual raincoats in sportier, shorter lengths; faux shearlings, and stretch fabrics.
“There’s a cozy, vintage feeling to our outerwear,” he said.
Hawke & Co. has really benefited from the trend toward hybrid jackets, which double as sportswear and outerwear. Michael Rosenberg, president, said, “Value, newness and freshness appear to be working.” While wool and pleather are downtrending, cloth, down and functional pieces are gaining in popularity. Looking ahead, durable, rugged workwear influences and textured fabrics will continue to gain in importance, along with color. “Color has woken the consumer up,” he said. “It’s familiar and comfortable but still different. You have to keep pushing the envelope.”