Warm hats should be available all year round

Melissa Burrowes, Contributor

It’s springtime in Buffalo, but you’re thinking ahead.

After all, the weather is fickle, and even spring mornings hold a chill in the air. To that end, you’re off to buy a cold weather hat.

You soon discover you can’t because they’ve all been removed from shelves.

In a few words, the paradox of Buffalo’s seasonal retail.

In a city that prides itself on being the nation’s snow capital – even if many often refuse to admit that they like the designation – it is a veritable puzzle why many large retailers don’t continue selling winter hats and accessories year round. Besides being practical, hats offer a stylish touch to a wardrobe intended to fend off the polar temperatures.

When one considers these points, it only adds to the confusion. Many retailers don’t think they can sell hats outside of winter. Buffalo’s own climate contradicts this supposition.

The reality is that keeping winter hats available for customers to purchase may actually be a clever and viable business strategy.

Just because department stores push their cold-weather hats off the store shelves and racks to make room for fashion more suited to the warm weather, doesn’t mean the market isn’t there. In fact, this lack of headwear in larger stores creates a business niche, which is open for smaller retailers to fulfill.

Holly Henderson is the owner of Simply Natural Clothing, which sells hats made of alpaca wool and natural fibers. Her business began in 2012 when she became fascinated with the alpaca animal and the qualities of its wool.

Unlike other businesses, her hats are available for purchase regardless of the season.

“We sell hats not only to people who come in, but also wholesale,” Henderson said. “Our wholesale buyers are looking six months in advance, so to sell them beginning more in the fall season.”

Henderson added that many large retailers are mistaken in the way they view hat sales.

“They think people think of hats as just a winter item,” Henderson said. “It’s kind of a misperception.”

In reality, most customers interested in buying an alpaca wool hat will do so regardless of the season, Henderson explained.

“These fibers can be worn year round in different climates,” Henderson said, adding that alpaca fiber “keeps people warm in the winter, cool in the summer.”

The typical business logic is that since the weather is gradually becoming warmer, demand for winter hats will decrease; hence, there is no business sense in keeping them on shelves where something in higher demand could go. The problem with this reasoning is that it overlooks customers who may not have been able to afford winter hats in the ‘proper’ season. Or the astonishing truth that Buffalo’s unpredictable weather may mean freezing wind and sleet outside of winter.

It’s illogical to dress as if it’s 90 degrees outside just because it’s summer. If the weather forecast is calling for temperatures to dip by nightfall, one needs to wear a hat for chilly weather to avoid catching a cold.

Wearing a hat is beyond a fashion issue in this case. It’s a necessity, and it’s one that often arises in Buffalo.

The seasonal retail mantra also overlooks tourists from warmer climates. Someone from a southern state would find 60-degree weather in Buffalo horrendously cold. Meanwhile Buffalonians would be trying to find a way to cool off.

So, why can’t southern tourists just buy warm hats before coming up north? Simply put, the cold-weather hats in the south are made like autumn hats in the north; they keep out the light chill, not the minus 32-degree wind. The writer has personal experience with this.

Buying northern-style hats over the Internet is also a moot point in many instances, since many travelers don’t have time to wait a month until their purchase arrives in the mail. Unless our hypothetical tourists are originally northerners who moved south and still have their old arctic clothes saved in the back of their closet, they have no choice but to go shopping when they arrive at their destination.

In that case, let’s hope stores haven’t replaced the snow hats with sunscreen yet.

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