Friday, October 27, 2006

The most wonderful time of the year…. Merry Halloweemas?

Yes, I know, I’m mixing up my holidays, but then again so are your customers. Don't worry, it’s all good.

We are wrapping up the Halloween holiday, a favorite of Army/Navy and military apparel retailers, and one that has been particularly strong according to most of those I talk to. And there’s even BETTER news on the horizon for the 2006 holiday shopping season.

Here’s the upside: according to a National Retail Federation survey reported on, the average holiday shopper is planning on spending $791.10 this season, about 7% more than last year. The interesting (and confusing) thing is that over 40% of these shoppers plan on beginning their shopping in October or before. I guess that’s why I’ve already seen ads from Lowe’s home improvement stores on TV.

But I have even better news for all of you independent retailers out there. According to the survey (you can see it here ), 66% of buyers 18-24 and over 50% of buyers 25 - 44 plan on doing their holiday shopping at Specialty Stores including specialty CLOTHING retailers. That would include just about every retailer currently buying from Rothco or reading this blog. What’s more, older shoppers are LESS likely to do their holiday shopping at specialty stores.

What should YOU do about this? Start stocking product and marketing towards younger consumers. You can begin with some of Rothco’s Vintage Fatigues and Women’s Clothing. Pick up some of our Hooded Sweatshirts (the kids love da hoodies!) or some of our great new Vintage Canvas Bags. Put some of this exciting new product in your store window. Collect your customers’ e-mail addresses on a list near the front register and send out new product announcements and specials each month. Put an ad in the local high school or college newspapers.

With cooler-than-normal weather already covering most of the U.S., a bright holiday forecast and sharply lower gasoline prices, there is every reason to be optimistic about the upcoming holiday season. If you need more ideas on how to have a great 2006 holiday season, check out or give us a call at 800-645-5195.

Enjoy the holiday, whichever it is!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It’s still Halloween, it’s just a little greener

A few weeks ago our founder, Milton Somberg, brought me an article from the New York Times entitled “Army’s Fashion Fatigue” where a career Army bride bemoans the passing of the traditional military Woodland Camouflage Battle Dress Uniform (B.D.U.) in favor of the new Digital Camouflage Army Combat Uniform (A.C.U.). While it was an interesting read, it really didn’t move me much since, being in the industry, I’ve already grown accustomed to the new Army uniforms. (You can read the article here:

Then, this afternoon, I was checking sales of our kids’ camouflage uniforms as we head into the last days before “the most wonderful time of the year” in the Army-Navy business, Halloween. This is our first year carrying the kids’ Army Digital Camouflage uniforms and sales have been just great, quickly becoming our second best seller to the ever-popular Woodland Camouflage. I also noticed that our sales of the kids’ woodland fatigues are down just a bit. Then it hit me. Not only will our soldiers look different, but now so will all those trick-or-treaters walking down sidewalk. More and more of them will be in the green and tan Army Digital Camo and less and less in the old Woodland. This is more of what I call the “CNN factor” where the latest military uniforms show up on cable news and create a demand in the local Army-Navy store. When we first went into Iraq, that meant tremendous demand for the Tri-Color Desert Camo. Now it means kids wearing the Digital Camo in big numbers. (For the record, that's Sales Manager Hans' son in the Digital fatigues. We call him "Pretty Boy" after the horse he rode in Zion Canyon)

I hope your Halloween season has been shaping up well, ours has been very strong. The National Retail Federation projected costume sales to jump 50 percent this year with princesses, pirates and witches anticipated to be the leading costumes. If you’ve been stocking any of the dozens of skull tees and headgear that Rothco has been offering, you still have a few days to merchandise these together as pirate accessories. Any one of our skull headwraps or bandanas makes a perfect accessory item to for all those pirate costumes folks will be putting together over the next few days.

I’d love to hear about YOUR Halloween success stories as the season winds down. Just click on the comments link below or e-mail me at

Have a very green Halloween!!

John Ottaviano

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We beat Katrina, but got edged out by the Calendar

It’s a fact of life in the Army/Navy and Outdoor industry that calamities around the world can cause a great upsurge in business. In April 2003, for instance, as the U.S. military was entering Iraq, Army/Navy stores around the United States were swamped with requests from both soldiers and the military for equipment from t-shirts and socks to backpacks and M-16 clips. Rothco and our thousands of dealers responded to that demand and provided thousands of our men and women in combat with needed equipment. While we were glad to provide this service, it is with heavy hearts that we see our young people go off to combat and the increased business is accompanied by sobering realities.

A similar situation occurred last September just after Hurricane Katrina and the other Gulf Coast storms that hit the Southeastern U.S. In the immediate aftermath, Rothco and its employees reached out to their customers in the area to offer assistance and donated generously to groups helping in the area. Businesses in the area that remained open placed large orders for emergency supplies such as cots, ready-to-eat meals and blankets as well as military clothing for soldiers, public safety personnel and relief workers.

Sales of our military and fashion clothing were already strong that month, so the additional sales from the emergency supplies gave us the strongest September in our history. This September, we released the new 2007 Rothco Catalog with hundreds of new products. Even we were surprised by how well you received the new merchandise. Items like our Vintage Long Sleeve Henley, Special Forces Vintage Fatigue Shirts, Black Vintage Fatigue Cap w/Jolly Roger, Pink Camouflage T-Shirts, Womens Vintage Flyers Jacket, Pink Tee w/Camo Army Print, Womens Subdued Pink Camo Vintage fatigues and all those great new vintage bags from our Classic Packs & Sacks line, along with our regular merchandise, were obviously just what you were looking for because you bought them in great numbers. Top selling items for September 2005 like cots and Ready-to-Eat meals were replaced by Messenger Bags, Vintage M-65 Field Jackets and the old classic, the nylon MA-1 Flight Jacket.

At the end of the month, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our sales per day in September 2006 were actually MORE than September 2005. Only the fact that there was one less billing day in September 2006 kept us from having a record-breaking September sales total. In the end, we were actually busier this September, during what is thankfully a very quiet hurricane season. We were all able to have strong sales without the mixed feelings that come from the business surge we see after an emergency.

If you haven’t received our new 2007 Rothco Catalog, go to and send us a catalog request. Current dealers should have received our 2007 New Products Flyer featuring the best of our new products for the season. If you haven’t received yours yet, shoot us an e-mail at and we’ll send you one.

October is the next challenge. Our biggest month ever was October 2001, when patriotic merchandise and Halloween soldier costumes were all the rage after 9/11. Nothing would please us more than to eclipse that number and we are well on our way. With Halloween coming soon and the National Retail Federation, saying that Americans will spend about $5 billion on Halloween costumes, decorations and treats in 2006, up 51 percent from last year, things are looking good. Especially if you’re a pirate. More on that in the next blogpost.

For more on the NRF Halloween Survey, go to

John Ottaviano