Fleece. It doesn't get the exciting ads like winter jackets do, all windswept peaks and grizzled mountaineers and danger. And it doesn't get the posh ads. Those are reserved for the polo shirts and cardigans, modeled by 20-somethings in white shorts holding tennis rackets on the deck of a yacht.
But that's not fleece's game. Fleece isn't flashy. It's not exclusionary. It's the everyman of apparel—its palms are calloused from its blue-collar job forging wrought iron by hand, but it volunteers at the animal shelter on weekends. It's functional, but it looks good. It's rugged, but it's soft. And as such, it's great for apparel promotions.
So how do you sell it? Start by ditching the tennis rackets. Then, check out the three sales tips below.
KNOW THE INTENDED USE
Fleece is versatile, sure, but not every fleece garment is suited for universal use. Different garments have different properties, and you'll need to know the intended use before you can select the right fleece apparel for your client. "It's important to understand the end use to avoid the pitfalls of promotionally priced fleece," said Jessica Strain, marketing manager for Dri Duck Traders, Overland Park, Kan. "If a fleece is going to be worked in, having an anti-pill finish becomes very important to maintain a professional and clean appearance," she continued. "If the fleece is going to be layered, having a two-sides brushed option will help eliminate any fleece remnants on the wearer's base layer."
PITCH THE RIGHT PRODUCT
Once you've identified your client's fleece needs, you'll need to know what items can actually meet those needs. Want something casual that can be worn around the house? It's all about texture. "Texture is king right now in fleece," said Mary Ellen Nichols, director of marketing communications for Philadelphia-based Bodek and Rhodes. "Products that feel wonderfully soft or cozy or have an unusually luxurious hand are the most talked about. For example, enzyme-washed fleece products are so soft, recipients want to sleep in them." She added that thermal- or fleece-lined apparel and heathered fleece products are popular in retail, making them good options for casual use.
If your client needs fleece for outdoor use—say, for workwear or athletics—you'll want to offer something sturdier. Nichols mentioned breathable fabrics like microfleece or wicking fleece, while Strain suggested items with technical properties. "Some features to look for include anti-static, anti-pill and UPF sun protection," Strain noted. "These properties can make an ordinary fleece more rugged and appropriate for the workwear industry."
Anti-static properties are particularly important for farm or agriculture markets. "Most fleece tends to attract animal hair and hay," said Strain. "Dri Duck's anti-static fleece is a great alternative to traditional fleece options because the anti-static finish helps repel pet hair and eliminates static shock and cling."
Strain recommended providing samples so that prospective buyers can compare fleece styles and features firsthand. "The most important aspect of fleece is comfort, and the only way to experience comfort is through touch, feel and wear," she advised. Nichols agreed, noting that "good, better, best" options should be included in any fleece pitch. "Many times, even if your clients say they have a tight budget, when they feel the difference they sometimes select a better piece," she said.
"Don't be afraid to show more upscale variations on fleece," she added. "Sherpa or thermal linings, fashion fits—you never know what the customer might upgrade to until you present it."