Ups and down(s): The skiwear market and fashion’s puffer focus

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Rossignol

One trend that’s hit the runways with a bang for AW16 is the puffer (or down) jacket and it’s been accompanied by that love-it-or-loathe-it key item, the retro ski pant. Which is good news.

How so? Well, we’ve heard a lot of complaints about too-warm weather from fashion retailers in recent months. But one group that has had a major reason to complain is anyone selling skiwear.

2015 wasn’t a good year for them so the market must be relieved that their products are seriously on-trend for later this year and into 2017.

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Moncler AW15

Sales down, but down jackets up

Apparently, the French skiwear market, excluding ski jackets, fell 5% in 2015, according to a report from the French arm of the NPD Group. But the jacket segment of the market was worth €165m and rose 12%, with much of the rise being accounted for by fashion rather than actual skiing. So with fashion fully behind the trend even more for the AW season ahead, it looks like jackets will come to the rescue again.

Part of the reason for the fall in other, less fashion-focused, items was low snowfall over Easter last year and in the run-up to Christmas. Let’s face it, if a touch of mild weather hurst sales of the looks-like-ski-but-isn’t-really ranges, then a lack of snow is going to be a bit of a problem if you’re trying to interest consumers in the actual skiwear.

Possibly the biggest surprise is that the market didn’t drop even more, especially when you add in the fact that Russian tourists stayed at home last year (if you live in Russia and are looking for snow but are short of cash, it probably makes more sense to stay at home than get on a plane to France, after all).

Interestingly, the market was rescued form an even bigger fall by the return of the French middle classes to the slopes and by British tourists too.

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Influencer Julia Sarr-Jamois at Fashion Week in Chen Peng puffer, pic courtesy Vogue Runway

Running the numbers

Last year, the skiwear market minus jackets was worth €250m to French retailers. If you take into account that jacket represent 40% of that market, then the total size is a little under €417m. The rest of the market was divided into accessories (29%), trousers (13%), suits (13%) and underwear (5%).

The impact of fashion was also made clear by the fact that in 2015, 42% of products sold were for men, 36% for women and 22% for kids That was a much more even distribution compared to other sports in which male-focused product is dominant.

But it looks like spending on skiwear by both sexes is going down in the Millennial age group. NPD said consumers aged 20 to 34 represented only 31% of spending, compared to 36% five years earlier. And the researchers said it’s the cost that’s putting younger consumers off.

But sales of pricier jackets and one-piece suits are still managing to rise – in fact sales of items costing over €100 represented more than 66% of total jacket/one-piece sales in Q4 2015, compared to 62% a year earlier.

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Carven, Balenciaga, Acne AW16, pictures courtesy Vogue Runway

The fashion factor

As we’ve already heard, a lot of this is about fashion rather than sport. NPD said that, just as 80% of general ‘sports’ jackets are worn for everyday life, 40% of ‘ski’ jackets never get near a ski slope.

That trend was obvious from the products shown at the big sports trade show ISPO where there were fewer technical product launches and more built around fashion.

The fashion bias accounts for the dominance of the jacket in the ski market because that’s the one item that’s most likely to adapt best to city life. And it’s the one that’s most successfully convincing us all to spend big, big, BIG.

As I mentioned earlier, the ski jacket market in France grew 12% last year to €165m and 3m items were sold at prices ranging from €40 up to over €1,000. Shoppers invested in products from brands including Moncler, Pyrenex, Canda Goose, Rossignol, Salomon, and The North Face.

But judging by what’s been on the catwalks in the past few weeks, they’ll be able to add a whole host of designer (and retailer) names to that list come next winter. Will that boost the ski specialist brands or dent their sales? We’ll have to wait until next winter to find out.

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Picture courtesy Moncler

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