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I just got back from a 3 weeks on the trade show circuit - Dallas, Chicago then Charlotte. “Market” happens twice a year. This is where small brands like PennBilt and bigger brands like Peter Millar, Faherty and Johnny-O show their wares to store buyers for the upcoming season. Buyers typically take notes and plan their buys at home. If you’re lucky, retailers “leave paper” a.k.a. orders. We came home with more than expected.

This was our first market since shipping our first deliveries late last year. Retailers can’t plan ahead until they know if a product is good and it sells. Of the 24 stores who sold PennBilt in ‘22, all reordered. The second order is more important than the first.

(@chicagocollective L-R: Greg Miller - @millerbrothersltd ATL, @scott_pyburn, Bill and @whmatt @harrison_limited, Mountain Brook, AL.)

Before the trip, I purchased a massive hockey goalie bag for samples. Rather than shipping the bag from show to show, I wheeled it through airports. Bags weighing 50 to 70 pounds will run you $100 per flight. Over 70 is $200. I had to remove a roll of monster tape in Philadelphia to get under 70. Lugging that beast was my exercise for the trip.

As for the shows, retailers keep telling me the timing is right for PennBilt. For most of the last 10 years, 5 Pocket “jean-like” chinos have had a run. Most every pair of traditional khakis now buried in men’s closets are out-dated and worn.

PennBilt offers khakis in 2 fabrics: 100% cotton twill, and 97% cotton/3% stretch twill. The latter has sold great as expected. The former has surprised me. Apparently, there are a lot of guys out there looking for an authentic all-cotton twill. Prior to launch, I wondered if there was still a market for this cloth. There is. Call it traditional, call it trad, we’ve upped our forecast for the “Authentic” this spring and plan to add a Stone color in April.

I received a text from a customer yesterday saying he wore his PennBilt khakis for the first time. He hadn’t bought a pair of non-5-Pocket chinos in years. He (and his wife) liked them so much he wore them two days in a row. He said it feels good to park his hands in his pockets again. I hadn’t thought of that, but he’s right. What good are 5 pockets that you can’t get your hands into them?

~ Bill

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