COLD WEATHER HEATS UP GLOVES

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Fashion and cold weather have meant a comeback for the glove business this fall, say key makers, as they voice optimism for plus results through Christmas.
Sales of both basic and novelty styles have moved along at a nice pace since earlier this fall. Vendors reported that they continue to receive reorders on a regular basis and expect to see gains of between 10 and 30 percent, compared with last year. This is in spite of the fact that vendors said stores generally ordered conservatively after being burned by excessive inventory levels last year, resulting from one of the warmest winters in decades.
Fashion looks, which had taken a back seat to basics for the last several seasons, have returned to glove departments with a vengeance. While the basic commodity glove business — quality dress leather with silk or cashmere lining — has remained strong this year, there has been a high demand for fashion and novelty in styling and fabrication. Among the leaders are animal-printed fabrics, bouclA, chenille or cashmere knits, velvet, nylon, Lycra spandex and the runaway hit this year, fleece.
Another area of opportunity that vendors plan to further exploit next year is dress casual, to coincide with the demand for looks that are appropriate for both the newly casual workplace and weekend, lifestyle looks.
“We’re very excited and running ahead by mid-double digits versus a year ago. Our WonderFit, WeatherShed and new Classics collections are all selling very well,” said Joyce Darkey, vice president of marketing for Aris-Isotoner. “The new styles have given people reasons to buy Isotoner again, and on top of it all, it has been cold.”
The company’s latest collections pair fashion looks with the benefits of fit, comfort and now water repellency. Isotoner is also pleased with the performance of its core Lycra spandex blend business.
“We expect to see increases in the core area in the mid-20 percent range compared to a year ago. It’s interesting because with all things being equal, the general rule of thumb is the colder it is, the more leather is sold, but the newness in the Lycra spandex line has really boosted sales,” Darkey noted.
Carolina Amato, designer and president of the firm bearing her name, expects business to be up between 10 and 20 percent compared with last year. She cited animal, fake fur, chenille, cashmere knits and clean evening looks as the trends driving her business.
She is also still receiving reorder requests from stores and has been particularly impressed with the action in the evening and special occasion segment.
“Women are definitely more interested in wearing gloves at night and are focused on the clean, classic looks in luxury fabrics like silk, velvet and leather,” Amato said.
The combination of new product in the better casual segment, point-of-sale packaging and cold weather has driven business for Grandoe, according to Ken Friedman, corporate vice president.
“Based on current sell-throughs, we expect business to run about 5 to 10 percent ahead of last year,” Friedman said.
The firm upgraded its quality and design detail in order to capture the emerging better casual arena. It focused on deerskin, nubuck, sherpa cuff treatments and lambskin leathers in casual and even work glove looks, which turned in sell-throughs as high as 70 percent.
Stephanie Wilsker, managing director at Portolano, agreed business has been strong, although she declined to provide specifics.
“We hope we’ll go ahead against last year. That’s likely if the weather remains cold, and since we’re in stock, we should be able to take advantage of every reorder,” Wilsker said.
She said basic business has been strongest in two- and four-button cashmere-lined leathers. On the novelty side, items that combine textures have done well. Style pairings that have been well received include bouclA with a pig suede palm, fleece with a suede coin pocket and microfiber fleece combined with nylon and chenille in a wide variety of colors ranging from neutral brown tones and champagne to turquoise, ruby red or raspberry.
Trends already emerging for 1996 include focusing on even more fashion and novelty looks, with color and fabrication playing key roles.
Color will generally be more vivid — bright yellows and purples, unusual pinks and greens and contrasting black and white.
Important fabrications include nylon, velvet stretch or microfiber jersey, and lots of fleece, which vendors say took on a life of its own this year. In 1996, it will be expanded to include more prints and new textures derived from mixing it with other fabrics.

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