FOR A LONG time, outerwear has been somewhat on the outskirts of the promotional apparel landscape. Much more attention had been given to its business-ready, corporate casual counterparts. These days, however, promotional outerwear is charting its own course and marching to the beat of its own drum. With a rise in environmental awareness and a greater focus on fabrication, outerwear has redefined its role in promotional apparel, and thus distributor profits.
“Fabrications are the big story in promotional outerwear,” noted Cathy Groves, vice president of marketing at Overland Park, Kansas-based Dri Duck Traders. “Bonded soft-shell fabrics, cotton canvas waterproof and fabrics with any type of performance feature,” are all the rage, she added.
Various apparel suppliers have taken the environmental sustainability cause by the horns, creating whole new lines of organic or eco-friendly apparel. Outerwear suppliers are no different. “Developing out of the consumer demand for cotton products are the organic cotton products,” continued Groves. “The promotional products industry is moving away from synthetic nylon golf-type jackets into cotton jackets that are inspired by the outerwear/lifestyle/work jacket looks, which have a broader appeal as far as styling and functionality,” she explained.
Like Groves, Doree Wendling, director of marketing at PremiumWear, Minnetonka, Minn., said fabrication in general, as well as performance features, are the latest and greatest in outerwear. “We are introducing several new styles … in the 2008 line, including soft-shell jackets with woven twill outside bonded to fleece inside lining,” she explained. In addition to the aforementioned styles, such new features as reverse zippers, laser-cut and fused components will be added to PremiumWear’s outerwear offerings.
IN FOR THE LONG HAUL
Jackets and outerwear serve promotional purposes well. The primary function of any promotional item is to keep advertising messages or logos in front of end-users. “Jackets last ... so the investment in their purchase will be repaid over [an extended] period of time,” said Wendling. The average life for jackets is three years—double that of the typical promotional product, added Groves. “The items are functional and they have a perceived high value—perfect for client appreciation gifts,” she said.