Western & English Today

FAL 2013

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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Shaping Straw Hats Becoming Priority D ick Atwood is old-school when it comes to hats, but as president of Atwood Hat Company, he knows how to keep up with the market. And that market is telling him this: "You'll see a lot more open-crown hats because youngsters have come up with the idea that they can make a really cool shape," he says. "More and more people need to pay attention to that." Steaming and shaping felt hats has long been a bonus for Western retailers, and now some buyers want to stamp their mark on their straws, too. "They don't want to look like their dad wearing a cowboy hat," Milano Hat Co.'s president Scott Starnes says. "They want to pull of diferent looks." This means retailers need to have personnel who can shape those brims and crease those crowns. "If a retailer wants to be serious about their hat business, they need to employ a knowledgeable hat shaper and provide that service," American Hat Co. president Keith Mundee says. "Those that order their hats with an open crown and fat brim can keep their inventories lower because each hat can be shaped to meet the customers' desires." Shaping hats isn't all that hard, either. "You just have to listen to and learn the fundamental techniques," says Hatco Inc. representative Curtis James, who — as can all Hatco sales reps — can teach retail personnel the art of shaping. "Out of repetition, you get better and better at it." The principles of shaping a straw and felt hat are relatively similar, with a few marked diferences. "A straw hat has wire in the brim about 99 percent of the time, and that really makes it easy to achieve symmetry and to change the shape 54 Western & English Today time and time again," James says. "Our felt hats are 100-percent fur, and you don't have something rigid to work with like you do with a straw hat. The amount of steam used will be diferent, too." Likewise, there's a diference among various kinds of straw hats. "You almost can't shape a palm with steam alone," James says. "Certain palm bodies have to be soaked in water and held in place to dry. And some of the rigid palms they're doing now take epic amounts of steam. I can shape a Shantung hat without any steam at all. I wouldn't recommend that for everybody, but it's a whole lot easier to work with." The problem, Hatco president Stan Redding says, is that shaping hats is becoming a dying art. But it doesn't have to be. "Stores that have invested and trained an in-house employee to be a profcient hat shaper are the ones that are seeing the biggest sales," Redding says. "I'm not a retailer, I came from retail, but if I were in the Western retail business today, my highest priority would be to carry and train an in-house employee to be a profcient hat shaper. Those are the stores that are seeing the biggest increase in hat sales." "Shaping a hat is an integral part of satisfying that consumer," James says. "So get the staf, the managers, the owners themselves working on shaping hats. Start doing it. You'll get better at it every day, and that makes the store that much more proftable in the hat retail market." SunBody's president Jimmy Pryor points out that ofering opencrown and nontraditional hats can also bring in new customers. "Interest in hats has increased," Pryor says. "People go to who has the hats, and that's often the local Western store." — JDB FALL 2013

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