The Right Fit: Perfecting Jacket Promotions
Some people don’t like the end of summer. They’re dragged kicking and screaming from the months of shorts and sunblock into the cool breeze of fall. We’re not like them. We look forward to bonfires, football and needing a jacket in the morning for the walk to work, with jacket seasons arrival. Promotional jackets can be useful for company events, holiday gifts, uniforms and more.
We spoke to Carthage Barry, national sales manager for Landway International, South San Francisco, Calif.; and Charlie McGuinness, national sales manager for MV Sport, Bay Shore, N.Y., about new trends in the jacket and outerwear category, applications distributors might not think about, and valuable sales tips.
Stay Fashion Forward
Fashion has a cyclical nature. Things that were fashionable a few decades ago are coming back. Barry feels the resurgence of denim jackets is something distributors should be paying attention to.
“We continue to see the trend of blending technical outdoor fabrics into everyday garments,” Barry said. “For example, many retail brands are making traditional denim-style jackets with soft-shell materials.”
He added that manufacturers are creating more products with highly functional materials, too.
“We’ve seen water-resistant and breathable synthetic fabrics used for blazers and suits,” Barry said. “Look at Under Armour, Lululemon and Nike introducing their versions of the khaki pant using technical fabrics. This trend will continue, as people want outerwear that not only is functional but fashionable.”
In addition to properties, like moisture wicking and water-resistance, Barry noted that a lot of outerwear products include spandex, allowing end-users to do more without worrying about ruining the jacket. This means the jacket lasts longer, providing even more brand awareness for your clients, and making the end-user more inclined to keep the jacket for longer.
“Stretch is a key feature for many apparel categories this fall,” Barry said. “With stretch, it also allows tailored garments to be more comfortable and stylish.”
McGuinness pays attention to current retail trends to get a good look into what’s popular now. He’ noted there is a surge in demand for packable down jackets and soft-shell jackets.
“Both of these styles mentioned are popular because they offer fashion and function,” he said. “Although they are retail-inspired jackets, they can crossover as a uniform or promotional item. Retail-inspired outerwear that combines fashion and function will continue to be popular in this market and with end-users.”
Tailor Your Sales
Pardon the bad apparel pun, but there really isn’t a more appropriate word to use here. Just like how a one-size-fits-all jacket doesn’t really fit everyone perfectly, a one-size-fits-all sales approach likely isn’t the way to go with apparel sales.
With so many different materials, styles and functions, it’s imperative for distributors to consult with their prospective clients about how exactly they plan to use the jackets and what their end-users want.
“Outerwear is increasingly more specialized and, in fact, has many subcategories,” Barry said. “This includes light shells, winter system parkas, all-season soft-shells and waterproof seam-seal jackets. Distributors should ask [clients] more specific questions about intended use, target industries and audience. Promo jackets are not just giveaways anymore. End-users are looking for highly functional jackets that [they] can incorporate into their daily outfits.”
Distributors also should report back to their suppliers and ask about what kind of products they can provide to make sure the clients get exactly what they want.
“In the end, it’s all about communication and asking the right questions,” Barry said. “Outerwear is one of the most expensive categories in promo, so finding the right product for your end-user is important.”
Built to Last
Remember the episode of “Seinfeld” when Jerry spent an unknown, but supposedly hefty, sum on a nice jacket? No? Well, to sum it up, he decided that it was well worth his money to get a jacket that looked nice, was made of quality material and fit perfectly.
Your end-users feel the same. Because of this, it’s worth the end-buyer’s money to invest in a long-lasting jacket over a cheap product. That way, the end-user will hold on to it for a long time, and your clients will be thrilled by the amount of brand exposure over the years.
“Many promotional items are novelty toys or souvenirs,” Barry said. “They are fun for a short period of time, and that feeling of excitement wears off pretty quick. For outerwear [and] jackets, it’s an investment for the end-users. They are often used for a longer period of time, and if you select the right jacket, it’s worn in public. This category provides a deeper impression and relationship for the end-user.”
To provide a product that lives up to end-users’ expectations and desires, distributors should take extra time shopping around to make sure they’re providing the perfect product, rather than just the first one they see.
“This means selecting a quality product that is a close reflection of the company is very important,” Barry added. “As we all know, first impressions are often from the outfit we present ourselves in. Distributors should approach the product selection process much like the way consumers walk into a mall and shop for clothing that represents their style and personality.”