Saturday, December 22, 2007

Weather Insurance for the Apparel Industry

So the $200 billion American apparel industry, which is filled with esoteric job titles like visual merchandiser and fabric assistant, is adding a more familiar one: weather forecaster.

Liz Claiborne, the apparel company, has hired a climatologist from Columbia University to predict weather for its designers to better time the shipments of seasonal garments to retailers.

The discount retailer Target has established a “climate team” to provide advice on what kind of apparel to sell throughout the year. More and more, the answer is lighter weight, “seasonless” fabrics.

And the manufacturer Weatherproof, which supplies coats to major department stores, has bought what amounts to a $10 million insurance policy against unusually warm weather, apparently a first in the clothing business.

Fredric Stollmack, the president of Weatherproof, said that unseasonable weather, once a widely mocked excuse for poor performance in the industry, is the new norm, forcing companies to make sweeping changes in how they manufacture and sell clothing.

“I have been in this industry for 40 years, and during that time, we always knew it got cold in December and stayed that way through January and February — and that was that,” he said. “Now, it’s a crap shoot.”

-Meteorologists Shape Fashion Trends

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