Strategies - Warm Up To Winter Sales

How To Sell The Latest Trends In Cold-Weather Apparel

It might seem counterintuitive, but spring is the ideal time to begin planning wearables packages for the upcoming colder months. It gives your clients a chance to browse the offerings, discuss the options and decide on a complete program in time for November. We talked to several industry suppliers who offered tips on effectively selling fall and winter wear.

Consider these points when pitching fall/winter garments to your clients:

1. Emphasize the benefits of layering, namely that the logo can be placed on multiple pieces and the wearer has more options in changing weather.

2. Look for comfort, like ease of movement and versatility, so the wearer will feel comfortable moving from the workplace to happy hour, or even from the fall to the winter months.

3. Start planning early and encourage spending a little more for a garment that will last.

4. Know your target audience and the weather conditions in which the garment will be used.

Layer Up
In the fall, says Shelley Renning, general merchandise manager at SanMar (asi/84863), look for layering pieces which will give your client some adaptability when clothing its target group. "Properly outfitting your team in Florida is just as important as making sure your team in Montana is warm," she says. "Layering allows for better consistency for teams around the country with enough flexibility to support regional trends."

Gina Barreca, marketing director at Vantage Apparel (asi/93390), sees this trend continuing further into 2012 and possibly picking up some speed. "We can expect to see it show up in performance styles as well," she says.

In addition, says Laura Turner, vice president of marketing at Ash City (asi/37127), down and insulated jackets include a focus on versatility, warmth and comfort. "We're also seeing a trend toward crossover styles, which includes apparel designed to be worn both in the corporate world and on weekends," she says. "It's all about articulating value by offering apparel that makes the end-user and the brand image look good."

Danny Tsai, vice president of merchandising at supplier Tri-Mountain (asi/92125), says soft-shell bonded pieces are popular this season and will remain so next fall and winter. "Any time you can insulate a jacket without creating too much bulk, whether through bonding or thinner insulation, consumers will gravitate toward the product," he says.

Have an Open Mind
It can be difficult to convince a client to sit down and discuss cold weather wear in the spring, but suppliers say it's necessary.

"Try to think six months ahead," says Taraynn Lloyd, director of marketing at Edwards Garment (asi/51752). "While your clients select spring styles, take a moment to discuss how they'll transition from spring to fall with their apparel needs. Discuss how certain garments transition to the cooler months and what customers may expect if they make the decision to purchase earlier in the season."

Tsai says sometimes clients balk at the price point on fall and winter wearables. "There seems to be a perception that these garments are too expensive for most budgets, so far too often the offerings are simply glossed over," he says. "Our most successful distributors focus on showing the styles, pointing out the attention to detail and then educating their end-users about the value proposition. A jacket, especially a nice one, is always going to cost more than a golf shirt, but it will last longer. Longevity is worth the incremental investment to get into a fall and winter style."

But the challenge can also move in the other direction: Clients might want all the bells and whistles when they're not wholly appropriate. "Many customers want to offer an expensive technical jacket when they don't need it," says Jason Neve, graphic designer and art director at ECO Apparel by Boardroom (asi/40705). "It might perform at minus 50 degrees, when what the customer actually needs is a slim-fit jacket to wear either indoors or while traveling. The hard part is convincing your customer to tone it down on the winter part of the outfit and to put together a program that the end-user will feel comfortable wearing in more general and varied conditions."

Neve adds that an important part of pitching winter wear is knowing the target audience and the weather conditions. "If it's a ski coach standing on a run all day in the freezing cold and rain, I'd say fine, let's get a seam-sealed insulated jacket," he says. "But if it's a valet driver working under cover and getting in and out of cars and buildings, I would suggest something a little less ‘winter' and a bit more appropriate for that kind of urban environment."