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OUTSIDE CHANCE

It’s shaping up to be a prime season for parkas and puffers as Covid-19 keeps us outdoors

Jackets hang in the showroom of the Canada Goose factory in Toronto, Ontario
Reuters/Mark Blinch
Outerwear makers such as Canada Goose anticipate the rise in outdoor activity due to Covid-19 will fuel demand for their products.
  • Marc Bain
By Marc Bain

Fashion reporter

Because of Covid-19, crowded indoor spaces have become a serious health hazard. The situation has prompted an upswing in outdoor activities and forced everyday behaviors, such as eating at a restaurant or working out at a gym, to take place outside.

In the northern hemisphere, where spring and summer have been the backdrop of the pandemic so far, the weather has been generally amenable. But businesses and shoppers will have to adjust as it turns colder. Sales of patio heaters are already surging, while makers of outerwear are also expecting a new crop of customers.

Demand for coats and jackets is already on the rise, according to Edited, a retail technology company that analyzes e-commerce activity. Across the 2.5 billion items it tracks globally, it says parkas sold out 89% more times between late June and late September in the US compared to the same time last year. In the UK, sellouts of leather jackets had more than doubled, while in France, sellouts of coats were up 92% and in Spain sellouts of puffer jackets jumped 44%.

On earnings calls, companies have told investors and analysts they expect the boost in outdoor activity to feed their outerwear sales through fall and winter. “We are one of the core brands that our retail partners have indicated will drive their own recovery this fall,” Dani Reiss, CEO of Canada Goose, said during a call in August.

Scott Roe, CFO of VF Corp, which owns brands such as The North Face and Timberland, pointed out on a late July call that shoppers, having already gone on a shopping spree for tents and sleeping bags, were starting to spend more on items such as outdoor apparel. “And we think that lines up extremely well for where we will be in the fall as we start to bring in our insulated outerwear, our mid-layers, and clearly our rainwear and performance ski wear,” he said.

Clothing sales overall have struggled as many stores shut during lockdowns and shoppers pulled back on non-essential spending. But there have been some bright spots—activewear, for instance—as consumers adapt to new lifestyles amid the pandemic.

Robin Yates, a former Canada Goose executive who co-founded high-end outerwear company Nobis in 2007, says demand has been stronger than expected for their parkas and puffers despite the uncertainty of the market. Shoppers, he says, are making function and comfort a priority in their purchases, and they’ve been willing to invest more on items they think will last. (Edited’s data has recorded a rise in the average sales price of puffers.)

According to Yates, the pandemic has even opened up a new customer for outerwear makers. Many “snowbirds,” who normally escape frigid parts of the US and Canada to warmer climates in the winter, plan to skip air travel this year. “We’re seeing a rise in the demand from this affluent crowd particularly—as they spend on winter jackets and cold-wear accessories when in the past they may not have needed to make those purchases,” Yates said in an email.

And even those who have a coat in the closet may need to upgrade this year as they plan for a winter outdoors.

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