Promotional Jackets and Outerwear: Trending Styles, Selling Tips and What to Do About Warm Weather
Jackets and outerwear have gotten a major upgrade since the days of the Thunderbirds and the Pink Ladies. While the looks are still sought out as statement pieces, they also feature technical specifications that make them must-have additions to any ensemble. With the right knowledge, promotional jackets and outerwear can help you achieve year-round success.
To clue you in to what’s trending and how to make the sale, we spoke with Cynthia J. Baker, public relations and promotions manager for Heritage Sportswear, Hebron, Ohio; Lauren Cocco, director of merchandising for Vantage Apparel, Avenel, N.J.; and Marci Newsom, western regional sales manager, also for Vantage Apparel.
What's Trending in Promotional Jackets?
The jacket is no longer an afterthought—it’s the center of an outfit. End-users are designing their wardrobes around their staple outerwear pieces, and as a result, you need to know exactly what styles are in demand. Thankfully, our experts have the trend reports.
“In-demand outerwear are those products that are fashionable, functional, technical and versatile,” said Cocco. “Garments like [our] Anorak Jackets check all these boxes. They have updated styling details like a mock cape with a hidden front zip pocket for men, and a drop-tail bottom on the ladies’ for additional coverage. They are water-repellent and both have a hidden microfiber cleaning cloth ... for cleaning screens or glasses. The fabric is also a polyester/spandex blend for ease of movement during activity.”
The need for versatile options has a direct correlation to the athleisure movement’s continuing dominance. And with athleisure setting the streetwear standards, end-users are demanding outerwear looks that are also comfortable. Baker pointed out that comfort is a top priority for outerwear at every geographic location, and she provided some examples of how to capitalize on these opportunities.
“If you live in Florida, a lightweight quarter-zip or fleece jacket works,” she elaborated. “In Seattle, the jacket better be wind- and water-resistant. In Ohio, bring on the heavyweights. But regardless of where you live, comfort is a must. Having sleeves that are long enough with tabs at cuffs to prevent cold arms, and having room to move your arms to drive, open doors, etc., is necessary. Being long enough to cover the top of your pants is needed. No constant tugging or tightness when moving is something a distributor needs to consider.”
Baker also said that sizing is a key component while dealing with promotional jackets. She suggested a size run in XS to XXL to accommodate a variety of body types.
Cocco also noted that Vantage Apparel unveiled two new on-trend styles for fall. One is a flannel-lined shirt jacket inspired by workwear called the Boulder Shirt Jacket, and the other is a quilted jacket with a water-repellent finish called the Everett Quilted Jacket.
The Warm-Weather Solution
When we reminisce about the days when our parents commanded us to wear our jackets, we conjure up images of snowy landscapes and ice on the windshields. However, outerwear promotions can thrive without taking time off to hibernate in the warmer months.
“Layering is a huge trend in apparel/retail right now,” said Newsom. “Customers sell all over the U.S., so climates change earlier in some areas, and colder months last longer in others. There are also events that may be early in the morning or last late into the night, and a lightweight jacket is a great option for this. An outerwear style is something everyone loves to get, and this can range from a lightweight jacket, to a puffy vest, to a better sweater-style jacket.”
When it comes to selling promotional jackets and outerwear, the most important step distributors can take is to ensure their apparel promotions are top quality.
“Quality is especially important in outerwear,” said Baker. “It’s on display every time [end-users] put it on, and if it fits poorly and doesn’t look like it’s held up well, no one is going to want it. Outerwear is an investment—it more than likely will be worn for multiple years, and choosing quality style makes a difference.”
Once your quality control is in order, our experts suggested a tried-and-true pitching strategy: upselling.
“If a customer is asking for a woven style, pair it with an outerwear style that would look nice with it,” said Newsom. “They may not purchase right away, but if it looks good together, they will certainly remember it. I would also suggest layering pieces together when showing apparel to end-users. Just because they don’t ask for it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show other ideas when it comes to apparel options. … End-users are looking for brand-like garments that are quality driven, so sales reps should try giving visual comparisons during their pitch to really tie in the retail elements of that garment.”
In addition to upselling, Baker suggested that distributors should capitalize on repeat orders by keeping best-sellers in the catalog.
“As new employees are hired at companies, that company will look to you to outfit the new hires,” she said. “Offer jackets that are easy to decorate—room for logos, access for embroidery hoops. If coats decorate well, employers will come back for that same style. Let your current outerwear customers/clients know if you pick up a new color, are going to have a price increase or have added features to a coat they’ve purchased. And if you decide to discontinue a jacket that you currently have in a program, be prepared to offer them a substitute that’s as good or better than what they’re wearing.”
Like Baker said, success in promotional jackets hinges on decoration. Cocco had some further advice for the decoration process.
“Jackets make a great canvas for heavier decoration, like cotton or twill applique, and tech patches,” she said. “You can get very creative with placements, such as split chest or vertical chest/sleeve placements. You can also mix up your decoration with a unique applique/embroidery combination.”
Make your promotional jackets and outerwear stand out beyond the logo with some embellishments and details, as well. Cocco suggested add-ons like zipper pulls that offer customers more customizable options. And if you still need convincing that outerwear is a promotional opportunity worth your time, Baker made a strong case.
“[These apparel options are] valuable—everyone needs an outerwear piece,” she said. “Plus, the embellishment shows the entire time [end-users] are wearing the piece. (A tee or polo may get covered up by a jacket—the jacket is what you see.) For example, you go to a football game, and you sit behind someone in a neat jacket that has their business’ logo on the sleeve. You will probably sit there for a couple hours, and that logo is a constant reminder of the company that gave the wearer the jacket. It’s good exposure, and people think highly of companies that take care of their employees by providing outerwear.”