How Fleece Apparel Can Boost Your Bottom Line
We’re captains of Team Cozy. We turn the air conditioning down until we’re chilly enough to wear pullovers, we walk the boardwalk at night so we can wear sweatshirts, and we count down the days until fall—our favorite season—kicks off.
What did we choose as our team uniform? Fleece—the perfect fabric to cozy up with.
And we’re not alone. Fleece is a mainstay of fall weather apparel because even those who
lament the end of summer welcome the comfort of the fabric when the temperatures cool down.
We caught up with Danielle Nicole Burrage, sales administrator; and Cameron Niederhauser, sales executive, of Overland Park, Kansas-based Dri Duck Traders; Margaret Crow, director of marketing for Bolingbrook, Illinois-based S&S Activewear; and Tony Lee, western regional sales manager for Burnaby, British Columbia-based Stormtech, to uncover how fleece benefits your clients, your end-users and your bottom lines.
Top of the Pile
How does fleece remain a dominant player in the promotional market? It comes down to two of its key attributes: versatility and comfort.
From basic microfleece to performance polar fleece to premium knit mélange fabrics, there is a large variety of fleece options that incorporate those two characteristics, Lee pointed out.
Think how many different ways people can wear the same fleece. They can wear it over a T-shirt or button-down, as a jacket, or layered under a heavier piece for colder temperatures, Niederhauser explained. “For the client, [this versatility] means the product is worn more often [and] in more places per year,” Burrage said. “For the end-user, a fleece is a no-nonsense, simple-solve to a variety of fall and winter weather woes.”
Now think about what clothing you wear most often. It’s probably something comfortable, isn’t it? According to Crow, the comfort and softness of fleece appeals to every demographic.
“Remind your customers that if they put their logo[s] on a stylish, soft, comfortable fleece style, it will be worn again and again by the end-user, adding value to fleece as a branding vehicle,” she said.
But there’s a third aspect that keeps fleece at the top of the end-user’s pile of clothes: It adapts well to trends.
One of those trends is athletic and performance-driven apparel. (Yes, athleisure is here to stay!) “Things like soft shells and seam-sealed jackets are no longer reserved for just outdoors enthusiasts—end-users everywhere are seeing the value of these pieces’ performance-driven properties,” Niederhauser said. “There’s a continued demand from consumers for brands to breathe some functionality and technical performance into workplace and lifestyle apparel.”
Crow agreed. “Performance fleece is in demand—100 percent polyester fleece not only wicks moisture away from an [end-user’s] body, it looks sharp,” she said. “On the outside, it maintains its shape and color, and on the inside, spun polyester is super soft and comfortable.”
Layered looks are another area where fleece excels. Soft shell jackets, a layering staple, provide style, warmth and performance, Lee explained. Similarly, he said, three-in-one system jackets are the perfect way to account for the changing temperatures of the season. They arm end-users with three separate, removable layers, so wearers can remain warm and comfortable in varying environments.
Fleece also integrates well into more stylish looks—think ponchos, tunics, wraps and oversized shirts that can be paired with leggings. Crow recommended these options as ways to dress-up the fleece look. Burrage also suggested incorporating other stylistic details—including rich jewel tones, color blocking, and pockets and patches—to keep fleece on-trend in fall 2016.
Top of the Sales
In a sector with so much variety, increased competition is inevitable. So, Niederhauser suggested asking yourself this question: “In a competitive marketplace, how do you develop and sell [fleece] product that stands out and performs, while still offering a fantastic value proposition?”
Niederhauser’s answer? Effectively communicate the unique features and design elements of the product. “If you can educate your customer as to what’s available, you can help them choose a product that really stands out from the crowd and makes branding pop,” Crow agreed.
There are several ways to do this.
• Know your stuff.
To start, you first need to know the features to be able to educate clients about them. “Knowing [what] you are selling and how it differs from the competition is key,” Lee noted. “ ... Partnering up with a supplier who is dedicated to offering elite customer support, deep inventory, full size ranges, selection of price points and a full freight program can make things a lot easier.”
Fleece has many inherent factors that make it a tried-and-true fall weather mainstay. For instance, it has wind-resistant properties and a durable, water-repellant finish. But knowing your product also means knowing the technical and performance features that can enhance its use—even if it’s something as simple as a pocket with a media port on a performance fleece so that runners could use their headphones on the move.
Stormtech offers technical features, including premium polyester knit mélange fabrics, tonal cover stitching, convertible hand-warmer cuffs and reversible designs. And, for the fall 2016 fleece line, Dri Duck Traders has integrated performance features, like anti-pill technology, anti-static technology and UPF 50+ sun protection.
• Please touch.
Samples and prototypes can go a long way for any sale, but it’s especially true of fleece. The ability to touch the piece will reinforce the distributor’s product pitch.
“When you’ve got excellent product with great fabric and construction, getting the customer to feel the product is really important,” Niederhauser explained. “Have a customer move around in a four-way stretch jacket or feel the warmth of a well-insulated puffer. When selling a really well conceived and developed product, take the time to let the piece do some of the talking for you.”
• Layer it on.
Emphasize the apparel’s versatility—but tailor it to what best benefits the client and end-user. “Showcase its application in a scenario applicable to the customer,” Burrage explained. If a client in Georgia is leaning toward a fleece product, don’t only focus on its heat-retention qualities, she cited as an example. Customize the product for the end-user’s experience.
Similarly, distributors should showcase the many ways the item can be used, and the many apparel options it could be used with. It could lead to bigger sales. “Show the multi-functionality of a product throughout the year; this will not only highlight the product, but also showcase additional products that can be bundled with it,” Burrage said.
“Layering is an excellent way to add onto sales with additional pieces, offer product bundles and build relationships with return customers,” she continued. “… Not only does [layering] promote the versatility of a single piece, but it also showcases other supplementary products in the line.”
As such, fleece is a great vehicle to lead to add-on sales. Crow suggested coordinating T-shirts, knit caps, scarves, outerwear and matching fleece items as good options to recommend.