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Early Arctic Blast Heats Winter Coat Sales Up From Chicago to New Orleans

November 14, 2019, 7:20 PM UTC
Chicago weathers winter advisory
A maintenance worker spreads salt in the area around Cloud Gate during a morning rush hour snow storm as a winter weather advisory is issued for the Chicago area on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Antonio Perez/ Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Antonio Perez—Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Arctic blast and frigid temperatures that swept across the Midwest and East Coast this week brought an early holiday gift for apparel retailers: a surge in winter coat sales.

“It’s the one thing that’s been up in business, also long underwear, which we don’t usually sell much of until Christmas time,” said Bob Olson, owner of Chicago-based Viking Ski Shop, a winter sports gear and apparel shop that’s been in business for 53 years.

The store sells a variety of jackets and coats to wear on the slopes or, as has become the norm, on city streets from brands like The North Face, Descente, Killtec, Obermeyer, Fire+Ice by Bogner, and Skea.

“We all do things when we need it, so the cold temperatures stimulated the clothing business. It’s Chicago, next week, it will be 40 [degrees] I’m sure,” said Olson, who estimated his business saw a 20% increase in winter outerwear sales due to the inclement weather.

According to Planalytics, a global firm that measures the financial impacts of weather for business, no other outside variable influences consumer buying as immediately and directly as the weather.

“The weather coming in this cold, this early is really great for outerwear firms,” said David Frieberg, vice president of marketing at Planalytics.

Indeed, as the temperatures dipped across the Midwest and central states, the coat business picked up speed, said Roseanne Morrison, fashion director at The Doneger Group, a New York City-based retail consultancy firm.

“This week, the Northeast mirrored that trend,” said Morrison. “Puffers are the outerwear item of choice, from brands as elevated as Canada Goose, Moncler, Moose Knuckles, and Mackage to Uniqlo and more.”

Until this recent cold surge, the coat business was “flat to down,” she said. Now it’s “up in the single digits” compared to last year.

Freeport, Maine-based L.L. Bean, which was founded in 1912, said whenever bad weather hits, whether it’s cold, rain, or snow, there’s an impact on business, but this arctic blast was “early and extreme.”

“We have seen growth in our coats, primarily our 850 down and Primaloft winter coats, as well as other areas such as jackets, hats, gloves, flannel, and boots,” said Amanda Hannah, director of public relations at L.L. Bean.

Planalytics’ weather-driven demand (WDD) research measures the increase or lift in sales, or decrease, due to the weather.

For the week ending Nov.9, the WDD for winter coats is up 15% for the U.S. overall. Retailers in Memphis, Little Rock, Houston, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Detroit saw a 21% to 30% boost in coat sales, while shoppers in Philadelphia, NYC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Nashville, St. Louis, and Charlotte gave the category a bump of 15% to 20%.

“They’re moving through that inventory at full price versus heavier markdowns during the holidays. It’s a win for the category,” Frieberg noted.

That’s clear at the Space 519 boutique in Chicago. “I didn’t expect to be sold out of coats this early. Three of my vendors I already went back to them and asked for more coat stock,” said owner Jim Wetzel.

And when it comes to cold weather, some shoppers will pay extreme prices to stay warm.

Toronto-based Canada Goose’s parka, the “Snow Mantra,” retails for $1,650 and is almost sold out in all sizes and colors online. The coat was designed for workers in the Canadian Arctic, field-tested to protect them from temperatures down to -70° C.

“We’ve never relied on weather to drive our growth—we’ve grown through ‘warm winters’ and ‘bomb cyclones.’ But do I love a cold, snowy day? For sure,” said Dani Reiss, president and CEO of Canada Goose.

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