PJ Elbing, Wetsuit/Mountainwear Product Manager:
What are the three biggest trends you see shaping the market and what you are doing to meet them?
1) We have seen the trends over the last few years moving away from all over yardage prints to color blocking and now towards a focus on fabric textures. A few of the key trends this year and moving into next year will be focused on these fabric textures and new high tech materials. We have focused heavily on our new 4 way stretch EX fabric which takes comfort and durability to a whole new level.
2) Fits have been adapting over the years and continue to move more toward the streetwear inspired look. We are seeing the trend move away from the baggy, slouch fits in pants to more of a straight or skinny fit. The hoody style, long length fits in jackets have been popular with a lot of riders wearing their jackets full time from the mountain to the streets.
3) There has been a shift toward high quality, technical products at a low pricepoint. Everyone is battling at the pricepoint and the consumers are now getting amazing products for their money. Higher waterproofing and breathability for a lower price. This is obviously a key segment but we are also heavily focused on high end stretch products at a great pricepoint.
What are the biggest changes in the outerwear market you’re seeing for this winter on the business front?
Last winter was a bit of a tough year for Outerwear in North America and that has been the general trend for about three years, although, we are feeling the confidence shifting. The economic problems over the last few years have made both wholesalers and retailers really focus on the bottom line, tightening up inventories and cutting expenses. This has actually changed the marketplace in a way that allows brands like ours to thrive. There will always be the go to brands but Retailers are looking for some differentiation as well, looking for products that stand out and set them apart from the others. I think this offers huge opportunities.
What fabrics, colors, and technologies are you focusing on for next season?
Our major focus right now is on stretch fabrics. This year we introduced our four way stretch EX fabric and the response was amazing. We will continue to focus on technical stretch fabrics as the cornerstone of our technical styles. Another focus will be fabric textures that have a great look and feel and really scream quality. Colors will vary from nice printed twills to earthy tones with a mix of pop colors on linings and zippers.
What are pricepoints doing?
The low end price point has become extremely competitive. Brands are offering higher waterproofing and breathability ratings with all the standard features for prices that are scary low. It’s a very competitive market and the detail that goes into these price point jackets give the consumer some insane product at a great price.
We are adapting to the price point game but have put a lot of focus into high end stretch fabrics at extremely reasonable prices. We have a tradition and commitment as a brand to develop high quality, innovative products and we expect to do that in every category. So, our focus on stretch materials will be a major push moving into the next few years.
How have you responded to the current market and the decrease in prebooks?
We have been able to increase our business substantially over the last few years, but, there has been hesitancy to prebook. We have focused on key styles and committing to having inventory in those styles. The risk we take on inventory in fringe styles has definitely decreased and we are concentrating on decreasing overall sku counts but we are committed to buying enough product to fulfill our retailer’s needs.
Have you changed your distribution at all from last season? Why or why not?
There are obviously some substantial changes happening in the marketplace due to the Internet and closeouts boxes but at this point we are small enough to not have this affect our relationships. We are heavily focused on growing our presence in the resort markets and partnering with them to help establish Rip Curl as a premium brand in the mountains. The Core market will continue to be our focus while growing distribution in areas where the brand is not seen as much.