While good-looking jackets are abundant in our industry, to find the perfect item, you have to consider the end-users. How old are they? What retail trends are they likely to care about? What do they do for a living? They're simple questions, but also ones that should dictate your purchasing decisions.
It's natural that different generations disagree on what clothing styles are best. Heather Brunner Kelly, marketing manager for Charles River Apparel, Sharon, Mass., pointed to "tight, form-fitting cuts, unique performance fabrics and flashy embellishments, decoration and colors" as the top trends with the 20-something market. "The older market seems to prefer more conservative jackets—both in style and color," added Susan Farino, account manager, MV Sport/Weatherproof, Bay Shore, N.Y.
Every season brings a new look that makes last year's jacket look outdated. Paying attention to upcoming trends can help you avoid having an outerwear program look passé. Brunner Kelly predicted that traditional coats in brighter colors would be popular this winter season. She listed longer jackets and trench coats, apparel with performance features (such as water-repellant cotton), textured fabrics and unique and vibrant colors and patterns as leading items for winter 2014.
His vs. Hers
A tricky thing about choosing outerwear that flatters both genders is picking the right color. "Color differences between male and female buyers are dramatically different," Farino said. "Females are very fashion-conscious and color coordination is extremely important. Males are much more basic in color," she said.
Their Line of Work
You must understand who the end-users are and how they're going to be wearing the jackets. Are they wearing them while working outside on construction, or are they wearing them to walk from the office building to a subway? This information will dictate the right material and style for the program. "For rainwear (landscapers, construction, recreational sports/teams), new microfiber fabrics and laminates allow for breathability and air-flow and have wind-breaking and waterproof properties without being as bulky and heavy as traditional waterproof rainwear," Brunner Kelly said. "For work wear (outdoor workers, industrial/mechanical, emergency service and response) the traditional materials such as cotton duck, flannel, denim, synthetics, ring-spun cotton and insulated linings continue to be the best materials to offer protection from hazardous materials and extreme weather conditions," she added. For everyday jacket use, Brunner Kelly suggested insulated materials. "Materials including fleece, down and synthetics (Thinsulate, etc.) offer breathability, wind repellence and warmth, and are lightweight and condensable," she explained.
Not all markets are willing to spend big money on jackets, but there are some standouts. "Sporting goods (including outdoor recreation and golf) and corporate/promotional products tend to spend more on outerwear, as jackets and coats have a higher perceived value to end-users," Brunner Kelly noted.