OUTERWEAR WEEK: Casual outerwear at retail

by Harry Sheff

This is the first in a series of outerwear stories this week, December 3-7. Check back every day for more.

Based on early fall 2012 selling the key word in outerwear is items. Warmer winters have impacted this business and made it more about special pieces than replacement. Retailers are reporting a better start to the selling season than last year (mostly due to under-buying for the season) and are hoping to keep the momentum going into the new year. Here, we talk to specialty store retailers about what’s selling, what’s not and their plans for fall 2013.

Melissa Austria, GotStyle

Toronto, Canada
“The weather is finally getting cold, so Nobis and Moose Knuckles jackets are starting to sell. They’re both down jacket companies from Canada that produce slim-fit coats. Nobis is great because their jackets are fully waterproof and offer removable fur [hoods]. Both are great options if you want to stand out from a sea of Canada Goose!

Moose Knuckles

We need to find an end to global warming in order to get outerwear sales happening! We start receiving outerwear in July and August when it’s still hot outside, and now it’s staying mild until November. Men, unlike women, only shop when they realize they need something, so by the time it’s really cold in Toronto (January to March) it’s all on sale and the selection is picked over (and our suppliers are shipping us shorts and T-shirts!). We didn’t go on sale with our down jackets last year and are hoping not to go on sale again this year. I’m going to be buying tighter for fall outerwear next year because of its short sell-time. In general, our casual outerwear didn’t move as well as compared to our top coats, so I’m concentrating more on dress outerwear [for fall ’13]. Guys have embraced the slim suit and now they need the proper outerwear to match.”

Mike Zack, Circa 2000

Plano, Texas
“A lot of people under-bought for the season so they’re selling what they have in stock. That’s at least true for us…we’ve already sold through almost everything. No one is coming in looking for a replacement jacket; it’s all about special pieces. We’re having success with Remy jackets in leather or microfiber with leather trim ($595 to $995 retail), reversible leather to cashmere styles ($395 retail), and distressed leathers.”


Alan Fernandez, Atrium

New York, New York
“In outerwear, Canada Goose and Penfield dominate for us. However, this season we’ve seen G Lab take a part of the action, as well as more fashionable brands like Krane. Now that we’re in December (and the weather has been mild all season long), it’s a bit early to predict fall 2013, but what I need from the outerwear market is a better delivery schedule.”

Stuart Segel, Mr. Sid

Newton, Massachusetts
“Outerwear hasn’t been selling until now, but we’re already up from last year. We’re having success with three-quarter length leather jackets from Gimo’s ($2,500). It’s a dark brown leather with a shearling collar. Corneliani’s ID jacket is still strong ($1,695 retail). For fall 2013, I’m looking for innovative outerwear with a contemporary flair. I’m always looking for new brands with a luxurious feel.”

Peter Rose, The Chelsea Group

Wyandotte, Michigan

Andrew Marc

“My outerwear business has been anemic at best. My primary source is Andrew Marc in both leather and nylon, but it is increasingly hard to sell any outerwear outside of items. Everything is a piece here, a piece there. For us, there is no outerwear category any more. I keep thinking I can change reality through different selection of merchandise, but really, very little has meant anything over the last three years, and it’s getting worse. Meanwhile, everywhere I look I see North Face logos.

I’m going to buy very little for fall. Hopefully, what I do buy will be backed by some kind of an in-stock program. In clothing, in-stock works great: small advance orders, re-order as needed. I would love a program like that [for outerwear], although admittedly, that’s what I want for the whole industry. Advance dollar commitments are a killer, and when those dollars that are tied up don’t turn, it is awful.

“Our women’s outerwear business, by the way, has been very strong.”