Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '07 Trends: Kids' winter footwear and apparel

It's good to be an outdoor kid these days, and for the most part your parents don't have to be uber rich to afford the new offerings that SNEWS® saw at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. Overall, kids' apparel, footwear and gear are more technical than ever and like women's apparel, extremely fashionable.
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It is Winter Market trends wrap time again, and yes, your committed SNEWS® team of editors (some of whom should be committed, no doubt) fought through beer, sushi and dueling espresso parties to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out -- or you get bored. No, each report does not name every company with new product, and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned when it should have been. So if you're not mentioned, our brains were either too fogged out from the smog to think straight or we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently to garner a mention -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on noteworthy trends and new products for kids' apparel and footwear:

It's good to be an outdoor kid these days, and for the most part your parents don't have to be uber rich to afford the new offerings (unless you want to buy the gorgeous Joey boots from Patagonia Footwear -- and while we're on the subject, why didn't they make the powder pink Cub in women's sizes!?).

Overall, kids' apparel, footwear and gear are more technical than ever and like women's apparel, extremely fashionable. For parents who are forever scarred by their parents donning them in the plastic bags in the '70s (learning to ski in the northwest without Gore-Tex comes to mind), companies are now offering a plethora of opportunities for your customers to be able to get it right with their own kids.

On the apparel front, independent veteran Molehill Mountain Equipment owner, Doug Faude, was particularly excited to introduce his company's new Grow Outside initiative, which involves a partnership between Molehill and three other kid-focused manufacturers in order to leverage each company's marketing capabilities and to improve their offerings to retailers. The companies involved include Tuga (the sun protective swimwear line for kids), Lucky Bums, which makes kids' performance backpacks and ski harnesses, Molehill, and the newly formed Sitka Kids, a joint venture between Molehill and Sitka Mountain Gear (which makes camouflage apparel for adults) to offer camo apparel for kids. Faude commented that retailers from Alaska, and other hunting-focused states, are excited about the Sitka Kids line.

Following its purchase by BlackHawk Equity last summer, Mountain Sprouts has significantly expanded its line (and Outdoor Retailer booth presence) to include base layers, more rainwear and lifestyle apparel for an improved year-round store presence. It also introduced the Ullr series (the Norse God of winter) -- weather-resistant, insulated and fleece-lined winter ski apparel to round out its fleece and soft shell standbys.

With kids' apparel being more technical than ever, other outdoor companies are increasing product offerings such as White Sierra (still the champion of affordability), Sierra Designs (with a new line of insulation rainwear and two new kids' sleeping bags), and 66 Degrees North -- one of the only companies to offer Gore-Tex Windstopper product for kids. Other kids' lines, such as those of Cloudveil, Patagonia, The North Face and Icebreaker, continue to successfully benefit from the trickle-down-effect of technical adult product revamped for kids.

Although Columbia made the decision to stop exhibiting at Outdoor Retailer (and all other major trade shows for that matter), the company did have a media booth at Winter Market. Like the revamp that has hit the company's entire outdoor offering, Columbia's kids' line is refreshingly small for next season, but well thought out and like White Sierra, accessibly priced.

On the sport-specific front, Spyder is offering its new Journey suit or jacket for kids that has a built-in harness and strap system that folds in and out of a pocket running across the shoulder blades. A smart product for sure, but at $175-$205, we kind of like the hula hoop $5 option that Gardner Flannigan, communications manager at SmartWool (and who lives in Steamboat, Colo.), turned us on to.

The real story in kids, however, is in footwear. The trend is toward more offerings that are both technical and cool looking, and not just downsized adult offerings (although many of those products are cool, too). Jaime Eschette, public relations head for Teva, told SNEWS®, "Kids shoes is the fastest growing business for Teva right now."

This could explain why Vasque introduced its first kids' line at the show, a conservative offering of three new well-designed shoes at accessible prices (MSRP $40-$60). Patagonia, too, has included kids in its line-up of outdoor and lifestyle shoes. Similarly, kids' shoes and boots have never looked better at both Keen and Merrell where they cater to both outdoor and fashion-forward kids (or moms).

And then, there's Hi-Tec, who contributes a percentage of its Phibian collection of boots and shoes to Leave No Trace, which has resulted in more than $20,000 being donated to the Boulder, Colo.-based, non-profit. The company's kids' selection extends far beyond this collection and includes nine new styles for next year, not including color ways. Like White Sierra in apparel, Hi-Tec comes in at very reasonable price points (MSRP $33-$55) and it is also increasing its size range with the new Carbon Infant, offered in toddler sizes 5 to 9.

Lastly, on the telemark front, Scarpa introduced the TJ kids tele boot (MSRP $199). Meanwhile Garmont has done away with the Teledactyl and the Telesaurus to offer the G-Rex, which has a toe piece of adult boot thickness, meaning you can now match any binding with these boots.

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