Warm Up Your Sales With Outerwear and Jackets
Seasonal changes represent a big opportunity for distributors when it comes to branded merchandise. As the summer months wrap up and we say goodbye to warm weather, businesses and organizations are preparing their cool-weather campaigns. That means instead of umbrellas and coolers, they’re looking for scarves and fuzzy blankets.
When it comes to branded apparel, outerwear and jackets make ideal items for promotional campaigns, gifting programs and more. Whether it’s adding knit beanies to a local business’s offerings or quarter-zip pullovers to an employee or corporate swag bag, distributors must keep up on apparel trends to complete their fall and winter packages.
In order to offer the latest and greatest outerwear styles, promotional products distributors have to know what’s trending this year. In sticking with the theme of 2022, vintage seems to still be on top.
“We are seeing the trend of vintage clothing — more and more of the ‘what is old is new again,’” says Kelly Yarborough, CEO of Sock 101, Lee’s Summit, Missouri. “A perfect example of this is the new-found popularity of the Starter jackets.”
Another movement influencing jacket and outerwear trends this year is the reemergence into the public space following the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. Not only has the world become more accustomed to comfy styles (think fleece hoodies), but they’re now looking for ways to take those styles public.
“People being out and about with regularity has gained excitement for having something different,” says Greg Brown, chief operating officer of Citadel Brands/AWD in Kingstree, South Carolina. “Working from home created the relaxed work environment, and for many businesses, [allowing comfortable styles] helps create the willingness to come back to the office.”
But that doesn’t mean clients want their employees to look like they just rolled out of bed. Comfy outerwear can also provide an upscale look, especially in corporate environments.
“Now that we are back in the office, we have learned to elevate the outfits to look nice and work within a corporate setting,” Yarborough says. “For example, [celebrities like] LeBron James and Stephen Curry have been wearing hoodies under their blazers, elevating it with jewelry and other accessories.”
Also top of mind for most clients are sustainability and ethics. “Products that are made from a place of human and environmental responsibility and ethics matter,” says Sue Timbo, co-founder and CEO of Boulder, Colorado-based Hexa Custom.
For her company specifically, she points to the importance of working with fabric and material partners that provide transparency and a deep commitment to manufacturing their raw materials in innovative ways that align with Hexa’s commitment to human and environmental sustainability and ethics.
Distributors should also note that today’s styles are all about standing out.
“Fully printed jacket styles are growing in popularity simply because they haven’t been done as often as the traditional cotton one-color printed jackets,” Yarborough states. “More and more clients have been looking for completely customizable and unique jackets that aren’t seen every day.”
Timbo feels that this is where the wow factor plays a role in selling outerwear.
“In order to make an impact on the recipient of the promotional product, it must have a wow factor,” she says. “Right now, we are seeing a lot of interest within the realm of both versatility and style … we’re [also] seeing our customers get energized by our urban style options.”
Once distributors are up to speed on what’s trending in outerwear and jackets, sparking creativity for their clients’ campaigns is the next step in pitching these products. It’s simply not enough to offer a hoodie screen printed with an event logo.
One key to selling these products is customization.
“The days of having to select a pre-manufactured style off the shelf (in blue or black) and hoping [for] the gender/sizes that you need can finally be a challenge of the past,” says Timbo. “It’s now possible to hand over the design reins to corporations or end recipients to select the styles, added features, and color application that bring their brand or personality to life. Customization in outerwear has arrived in a way that’s never been done before, and for companies that value individuality, they can finally create an experience for their employees or recipients that will leave a lasting impact that they will never forget.”
Customization might be a major player in pitching these styles to clients, but making sure they’re part of a complete kit also helps secure the sale. And since outerwear and jackets often go hand-in-hand with holidays, there is even more opportunity here. Try creating an entire experience that goes beyond the quarter-zip.
“When pitching holiday ideas or kit ideas, custom jackets or printed scarves are perfect,” Yarborough says. “The printed scarf can be a cheaper add-on to a kit and is easy to fit into a box.”
“You must give options and think out of the box,” states Brown. This is particularly crucial when working within budget constraints. “Have items that are somewhat affordable — full-zip jackets, quarter-zip fleece jackets and letterman fleece jackets give many opportunities that are within the budgets that have cut from marketing spend.”
Ultimately, it comes down to meeting expectations when selling outerwear and jackets.
“When it comes to outerwear, recipients … expect it to keep the wind off their back, the rain from dampening their clothes and the cold from making them uncomfortable,” Timbo points out. “They also expect it to look stylish, fit well and feel great. Hitting on every one of these needs can be a challenge. … In order to have a successful experience selling outerwear and receiving repeat orders, taking the time to understand how the product is made and the guarantee behind it will make a difference.”