Winter clothes fly off stores’ shelves

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Winter clothes fly off stores’ shelves

Park Dae-young, who is in charge of buying outdoor fashions for Hyundai Department Store, visited a warehouse of an outdoor clothing company more than 10 times last month to make sure it was sending out his orders in time.

“Winter clothes, like down jackets and sweaters, have been much popular than what we expected,” said Park. “The department stores are fiercely competing on sourcing to secure a wide variety of designs and sizes in winter outdoor fashions.”

Unlike the stores earlier expectations, the recent drop in the mercury is prompting shoppers to open up their wallets even with gloomy economic projections for the near future.

Hyundai Department Store saw a 180 percent jump in its sales of outdoor fashions in the first 19 days of November compared to the same period last year.

Sales of men’s winter jackets went up 200 percent, hats and gloves were up 255 percent and fur coat sales increased 102 percent.

As of Nov. 22, the average overall sales of the three major department stores - Hyundai, Lotte and Shinsegae - were up 13.4 percent compared to last year.

Lotte’s overall sales were up 14.1 percent, while Shinsegae’s followed at 13.7 percent and Hyundai with 12.5 percent. Last month was a real relief for Shinsegae: in previous months, sales failed to see double digit growth.

Clothing was the most popular product. In the first 10 months of this year menswear grew at 2.5 percent and women’s clothing at 1.7 percent.

However, last month menswear sales were up 32 percent while sales of women’s clothing went up 34 percent.

Shinsegae saw its clothing sales up 23 percent on-year.

“Sales increases were up largely thanks to the popularity of winter coats,” said a Shinsegae official. “We were once again reminded that department stores’ overall sales do well when fashion products sales are good.”

Sales at the shoe department were up as well thanks to winter boots, which are more expensive than other types of footwear.

Lotte saw shoe sales in November grow 20 percent compared to the previous year. This is a significant increase from the average 4 percent of the previous months.

Until last year, products with slim padding were a hot item. This year, thick jackets are the fad.

“In the past, heavy jacket sales increased by 30 percent on-year, but this year they grew more than 50 percent,” said Kang Seon-hee of the marketing team of Millet, a outerwear manufacturer.

Slim winter jackets retail between 100,000 won ($92) and 200,000 won while thick jackets are sold between 300,000 won and 700,000 won.

As the average temperature last month was roughly 4 degree Celsius lower than a year earlier, customers went for the thicker jackets.

Another reason for the increase in sales of thick winter clothing is the changed attitudes of women customers and new approaches to designs of the jackets.

“Padded jackets weren’t that favorable among women because it was a fashion style that made women look fat,” said Yoo Jae-hyeon, a women’s clothing buyer.

“But this year, the popularity of padded jackets is rising as designs and technological changes are slimming down the jackets’ silhouettes. Adding cashmere also made it lighter and warmer than previous products.”

However, there is a question as to whether the buoyant sales will continue for much longer.

Last year, when the temperature was 2.9 percent lower in December compared to previous years, sales at department stores expanded by 11 percent on average.

But in the following month, the growth dropped to 4.2 percent and dropped further to below 2 percent in March.

“Even though we are not sure if this trend is a temporary phenomenon or a signal of a reviving economy, we still need to put all our efforts on year-end sales to give further momentum to the sales,” said Lee Jae-jin, an executive at Shinsegae Department Store’s business strategy division.

So department stores will try to take advantage of the cold weather a bit more to sell more winter items through a variety of promotional events.

Until Dec. 9, Hyundai will hold 19 promotional events focusing on those items. It had 10 last year. The number of jackets prepared for the event is triple last year’s.

A total of 50 billion won worth of fur coats will be on sale this year, while Hyundai prepared 40 billion won worth last year.

By Kim Ho-jeong [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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