How To Sell Outerwear

Brick-and-mortar shops have an advantage over big-box outlets. They’re able to provide better, one-on-one service in a more specialized environment. Your shop’s success depends on the quality of your service, as well as the product you carry.

Outerwear is a substantial investment for most snowboarders. On top of dropping close to a grand for a board, boots, and bindings, customers reach even deeper into their pockets for outerwear. For this reason, retailers should know the ins and outs, the bells and whistles of the outerwear you sell. You want to make your customers feel confident about their purchase, and a big part of that feeling stems from your knowledge of the product. If you don’t know jack about a jacket, your customers will be just as confused¿if not more.

The first time you show outerwear to a customer shouldn’t be the first time you’ve seen it yourself. Be well-versed in the fabrics, cinches, and zippers of each piece. Take the manufacturers’ catalogs to the can, attend clinics, test out the jackets yourself¿do whatever you need to do to beef up on the outerwear you’re selling. Note the questions you have about the product¿chances are your customers will have the same ones.

But before your first customer walks through the door, there are many steps you can take to get your shop selling savvy.

IN STORE

Floor Space

You’ve forked out dough to get outerwear into your shop¿make it count. Give your outerwear some room to shine.

Dedicate a section of your store to pants and jackets. No matter how big (or small) your store is, having clearly marked departments makes for a more efficient shopping experience. It helps to put your apparel sections at the front of the store, because it’s often an impulse buy. Remember to have a separate section for women. There is nothing more embarrassing for a dude than to get psyched on a jacket, only to find out it’s for a chick. Trust me.

Fixturing

Presentation is a key element to successful sales. Make sure your displays are clean and uncluttered. Broken, scratched, and clustered racks convey a discount-store feeling. Remember, you’re selling top-quality goods.

Use different types of fixturings for different products, too. Some racks are perfect for highlighting related items like high-end waterproof jackets. Other racks¿like sloped or cascading ones¿are ideal for showing the same model in different colorways.

When you consider your fixturing, don’t forget about your walls, either¿they offer outstanding visibility and are an excellent place for cross-merchandising hard- and softgoods.

Lighting

It seems very subliminal, but lighting has a definite impact at the register. Poor, inadequate lighting will discourage sales. Flattering lighting will make your customers feel good about themselves, which translates to dollars in the cash drawer.

Create a mood. Enhance the ambiance in your store by using a combination of incandescent and color-correct fluorescent lighting. Aim a halogen on your best product. Shine some floodlights on a wall display. Try colored gels. As customers walk through your shop, they will by drawn to well-lit areas.

In addition to lighting on the floor, fitting-room lighting is just as crucial. Avoid overhead lighting¿it is the most unflattering. The best lighting is above eye level, or around a fitting-room mirror.

Dressing Rooms

Dressing rooms are often as hard to find as the Holy Grail¿they shouldn’t be. Your fitting rooms should be centrally located, adjacent to the apparel area. This reduces the time your staff will spend running around the store looking for additional sizes.

Comfort is key. Customers should be able to get in and out of the outerwear with ease. Throw in a bench to sit on, and add some hooks for your customers’ clothes and bags.

While many retailers use partial doors as a way to deter shoplifting, many customers fl uncomfortable changing when their legs or head are showing. Consider a full-length door. Your dressing room must have a mirror, too¿preferably a full-length one. Most shoppers want to see how they look in private. A customer that has to leave the dressing room to find a mirror will be less likely to buy.

Remember, the inside of the fitting room is a reflection of your shop. Keep it clean. Pick up fallen tags, pins, and hangers. Remove rejected clothes from the dressing room.

Displays

For the best visibility, displays should be elevated. Products should be eye level¿approximately four to six feet off the ground.

Store walls, the top of racks, and dressing-room doors are also ideal spots to set up displays. Incorporate P.O.P., and merchandise, merchandise, merchandise.

“My suggestion would be to prep a garment in a display with the items that garment features,” says Burton Sales Manager Clark Gundlach. “Insert a pair of goggles into a goggle pouch. Put a Motorola in a cell-phone pocket. Use a Mag light to show the garment’s reflective piping. Put a coupon in the pass pocket.” This way of “silent selling” gives the customer a better feel for the product in a nonconfronting manner. It’s also a perfect opportunity for prompting add-on sales.

Generate excitement for snowboarding. That could mean playing a snowboarding video or doing a product demo. “You want to make the shopping experience a little more interactive,” says Gundlach. “That’s what makes specialty shops special.”

CASHING IN

Making your shop look pretty is only half the battle. You need the product and the service to back that look up. Here are some tips to help you get what need and move it.

PRESALE

Order Wisely

Not every snowboarder needs a 300-dollar jacket. Think about your clientele. How many of your customers ride more than ten times a month? Are most weekend warriors? “Retailers need to look at who their customer is and make sure their products fit that profile,” says Columbia/Convert Outerwear Merchandiser Bill Inman. “Not everyone’s hardcore.” You should order accordingly.

Remember that women shop differently than men. While men tend to buy in pieces, women usually purchase outfits or coordinates. Women also shop more and expect to see new styles frequently. You may want to order your women’s product shallow and broad so you can introduce new colorways and styles throughout the season. Take advantage of multiple delivery dates.

Beef Up

One jacket alone can have upwards of twenty technical features, from goggle squeegees, to pass pockets, to Lycra hand-gaiters. And let’s not forget about the fabrics: Gore-tex, Toray Demizax, microporous laminates, etc. You should know what this jargon means and which products carry what features. “The biggest recommendation to retailers is to learn how to pick out the features of a jacket and be able to explain to the customer what the benefits of that feature are,” says Inman. “If the technical aspects are over your head, then they’ll clearly breeze by the customer’s.”

In addition to knowing all the technical hee-haw, you and your staff should know what’s in stock, and how it fits in with other products you carry. An employee’s confidence will be projected onto the customer.

You’re So Hired

You’re not the only one who should be schooled in outerwear. Your employees should be able to talk the talk, too. After all, they’re the ones on the floor.

Hire snowboarders¿they’ve been on the mountain, they’ve tested the product, they know what works and what doesn’t. “It’s important that shop employees all ride so they can understand what kind of environments they’re dealing with,” says 686 Sales Director Jono Zacharias. “If you send a beginner to Baker in a 3,000 mm waterproof jacket, that person might get cold and wet. If they have a bad experience, they won’t stay in the sport”¿which means they won’t be back in your shop, either.

MAKING THE SALE

Greet Your Customers

Your employees don’t have to pretend like they work at Gap, but they should personable. There’s nothing worse from a consumer’s standpoint than feeling intimidated by the staff. Positive interaction is key to making the sale. Make your customers feel welcome.

What’s Your Sign?

You don’t want to burn your customers by sending them up the mountain in the wrong gear. You should be in tune with them and the conditions they’ll encounter¿what works in Jackson Hole may not be so hot in So Cal, and vice versa.

Find out a bit about the customer. Where do they ride most often? If your customers plan to ride in the Pacific Northwest, they’re going to want a hooded jacket with a substantial amount of waterproofing. The East Coast is cold and windy, so too much venting will do more harm than good. In So Cal, pricepoint models with an adequate DWR (durable water repellent) coating is often enough to get by.

How many times a year do your customers ride? Do they need the high-end product, or will the middle-of-the-road be good enough to last them a season or two?

What kind of riding are they doing? If the customer’s going to be in the park all day, they’ll do a lot of hiking¿which means breathability and venting are major selling points.

Are they new to snowboarding? Then they’ll be falling and sweating a lot, so set them up with a waterproof jacket with adequate venting.

Many women have poor circulation¿they may be good candidates for layering. “Women like to be warm and dry,” says Zacharias. “Our women’s pieces are very warm.”

Ask for the who, what, when, where, how, and why from your customers before selling them anything. It’s basic reporting, and it’ll help you to better fit your customers into the right pair of pants or jacket.

Offer Suggestions

Many customers don’t know which products are best for them. And even if they do have an idea, chances are they’ll be wavering between a couple of choices. Make it easy for them, and winnow down their choices. If you’re confident a particular jacket will work for them, they’ll be more inclined to buy it.

Also, if they’re psyched on a particular color but it’s not available in their size, tell them you can special order one. Give them the sense that you’re there to help them get exactly what they want.

Trial

Once they’ve narrowed down the field to two or three pieces, have them try it on. Don’t just point them to the dressing room¿walk them there. Let them know you’ll be nearby to track down additional sizes, if needed. Don’t force them to leave the dressing room just so you can get a look. But if they do ask for your advice, pick your words wisely. A safe bet is to ask them what they think of the garment.

Closing The Deal

After the customer has decided on a particular piece, it’s a good time to suggest an add-on. Good outerwear add-on sales could be a beanie or a matching pair of gloves, for example. “Be creative,” adds Gundlach. “A coupon in the pass pocket is the perfect prompt for an add-on.”r.

MAKING THE SALE

Greet Your Customers

Your employees don’t have to pretend like they work at Gap, but they should personable. There’s nothing worse from a consumer’s standpoint than feeling intimidated by the staff. Positive interaction is key to making the sale. Make your customers feel welcome.

What’s Your Sign?

You don’t want to burn your customers by sending them up the mountain in the wrong gear. You should be in tune with them and the conditions they’ll encounter¿what works in Jackson Hole may not be so hot in So Cal, and vice versa.

Find out a bit about the customer. Where do they ride most often? If your customers plan to ride in the Pacific Northwest, they’re going to want a hooded jacket with a substantial amount of waterproofing. The East Coast is cold and windy, so too much venting will do more harm than good. In So Cal, pricepoint models with an adequate DWR (durable water repellent) coating is often enough to get by.

How many times a year do your customers ride? Do they need the high-end product, or will the middle-of-the-road be good enough to last them a season or two?

What kind of riding are they doing? If the customer’s going to be in the park all day, they’ll do a lot of hiking¿which means breathability and venting are major selling points.

Are they new to snowboarding? Then they’ll be falling and sweating a lot, so set them up with a waterproof jacket with adequate venting.

Many women have poor circulation¿they may be good candidates for layering. “Women like to be warm and dry,” says Zacharias. “Our women’s pieces are very warm.”

Ask for the who, what, when, where, how, and why from your customers before selling them anything. It’s basic reporting, and it’ll help you to better fit your customers into the right pair of pants or jacket.

Offer Suggestions

Many customers don’t know which products are best for them. And even if they do have an idea, chances are they’ll be wavering between a couple of choices. Make it easy for them, and winnow down their choices. If you’re confident a particular jacket will work for them, they’ll be more inclined to buy it.

Also, if they’re psyched on a particular color but it’s not available in their size, tell them you can special order one. Give them the sense that you’re there to help them get exactly what they want.

Trial

Once they’ve narrowed down the field to two or three pieces, have them try it on. Don’t just point them to the dressing room¿walk them there. Let them know you’ll be nearby to track down additional sizes, if needed. Don’t force them to leave the dressing room just so you can get a look. But if they do ask for your advice, pick your words wisely. A safe bet is to ask them what they think of the garment.

Closing The Deal

After the customer has decided on a particular piece, it’s a good time to suggest an add-on. Good outerwear add-on sales could be a beanie or a matching pair of gloves, for example. “Be creative,” adds Gundlach. “A coupon in the pass pocket is the perfect prompt for an add-on.”