Dressing Like an Onion


​Today’s internet educated consumers come into specialty stores with all kinds of media and marketing lingo in their heads about staying warm outdoors through the use of a specific brand or fiber or technology. But in fact, simply layering winter apparel to stay comfortable outside is a time-tested solution that is as easy to convey to a customer as the phrase “dress like an onion.” That old analogy worked great back in the day and with a little modernization can be an ideal conversation starter about dressing for cold weather adventure.

Here is an updated, quick and easy guide to selling the onion system. Go with the flow — specialty retail is hard enough without parsing fact from fiction on the sales floor.

For the Customer Looking to Save Money

Sell them outerwear. Initially point out that their regular discount retail channel can provide adequate synthetic underwear and polyester fleece, both basically unchanged since the ’90s. So the smart advice is to find some cheap, colorful mid-layers at the second-hand store and spend your specialty dollars on products that the mass retailers don’t have, i.e. well-made, highly functional, technical outerwear. And remember, tell the spendthrifts to always buy great gloves, they’re worth it.

For Customers who Wish for Better Products

This group is usually seeking specific brands that for one reason or another are felt to be above average. Give them the whole onion. Announce with a straight face that they can select any brand of choice in your store and get solid results by using that apparel from skin to shell. Don’t overthink it and talk them out of fancy sounding fabric technologies. Let them be brand-centric, and don’t point out that being covered by all those matching logos makes one look like a Christmas tree.

For the Discerning Customer

This customer demands the Best, usually without knowing exactly what that means. Sometimes some tiny technical detail or artisanal brand is the focus of their search. Often it is a need to have their apparel problems solved in a trend-right way with high street credibility. Striving for a quiver of social excellence in their consumption, this consumer will briefly listen if you can post-up the slightest argument for why Garment A might be more desirable in a layering system than Garment B. Bingo, they’re all in, and it’s on to selecting color and size. Remember, while you are loading them up with the good stuff, chat about what is new, different, and obviously better about the smart choices they have made.

For the Outliers

The decision making for this customer is binary; need or don’t need? In the early days we found this group to be exclusively experienced-based, however, today’s outliers include a considerable truth-seeking fringe. In their minds they have; A: worn it all before, or B: Googlebook has told them all about it. The sales strategy is the same for both, do not mention onions, smile and say, “I’ll get that for you.” Seriously, this is a do not engage situation. They will either bore you with stories about a boiled wool sweater or spew some nonsense from a sponsored athlete’s social media.

Disclaimer: In order to dress like an onion Mr. Gray used to wear his polypro undies under a rugby jersey and wool knickers. To equate the result to that of an onion would be generous indeed. The Publisher may not share in his opinions or advice.

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