Outerwear brands are stepping up production of transitional and lightweight jackets for autumn 16 after a succession of mild winters that hit sales and forced discounting across the market.
Many are hoping an increased focus on features such as detachable linings, as well as innovations on fabrics and greater support for in-season buying will steady retailers’ nerves for the season ahead.
Last year was the warmest on record, according to the Met Office, and forecasts suggest 2016 is going to be even more temperate.
In January several multiples, including Debenhams and Fat Face, revealed plans to cut back on orders for heavy knitwear and outerwear to reduce discounting.
According to data from WGSN’s InStock service, which monitors online activity, the number of coats bought by retailers during 2015 dipped 0.5%, making up just 6.2% of new-in categories between September and November.
“It is quite challenging for outerwear in the UK,” said Carlo Piras Lo Presti, UK distributor for Italian outerwear brand and manufactuer Sealup, which is launching in the UK for autumn 16. “If brands aren’t agile to the changing weather sales can be affected. Sealup had to consider the weight of its products. The autumn 16 collection features jackets with detachable cotton linings.”
He added: “Retailers also want to be able to buy in-season. Sealup makes around 20% available with a short turnaround time of four to six weeks, but going forward this will be needed even more so - around half the range.”
Daniel Cook, key account manager for Aigle, said: “We’ve always tried to have all bases covered with heavy, lightweight and transitional pieces. Over the last season or two we’ve been trying to offer those as one product. We’ve previously done 3-in-1 jackets but they didn’t come with the same protection. Now they do and production of these has increased about 30% from autumn 15.”
Meanwhile Alpha Industries is making its lightweight MA-1 TT bomber jacket available all year round. It was previously only available in spring.
“We are also developing more lightweight jackets than in previous years to accommodate this changing environment,” added Alpha Industries’ marketing manager for Europe Ben Birkl.
The lightweight bomber wholesales for £44 compared to £54 for a classic MA1 jacket. “As we are selling lightweight styles throughout the year we are looking to sell higher quantities of these lower price point pieces,” Birkl added.
“The focus for us has been on fabrics,” said John Wright, UK and Ireland sales manager of Swedish outdoor brand Didriksons. “Being able to offer products that are light to the touch and breathable while still making sure they still offer the same quality is key.”
Premium lifestyle brand Belstaff is also working to include lighter jackets such as bombers from autumn 16, which chief executive Gavin Haig said would give the category, which traditionally comprised leather jackets, “a longer wear time”.