The Stratoliner Association {Premiere}

Discussion in 'Hats' started by rclark, Feb 24, 2014.

  1. deadlyhandsome

    deadlyhandsome I'll Lock Up

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  2. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey One Too Many

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    Understood. I just believe there is a significant market for higher quality hats via non-traditional outlets (Nordstoms, Macys perhaps) that would expand the hat buying market beyond those of us hard core hatters on the lounge. Based on name recognition of a few of the select hats like the Stratoliner, I think the market is really there if Stetson would make the effort. When was the last time you saw a Stetson ad that wasn't for cowboy hats or other licensed products (clothing, cologne, etc)?
     
  3. Frunobulax

    Frunobulax

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    When was the last time you saw a Stetson ad, period? It's not like they're squeezing them in between the Humera ads and promos for "The Bachelor."

    I think Deckard made a pretty good run at it. I don't know the reasons for him parting ways with Hatco, but I suspect it's primarily because the sales numbers didn't quite match his ambitious efforts. Promotions were rolled out at many hatters, there was the 150th Anniversary push, the lines were expanded, and they gave us better quality felts, open crown hats, and reintroduced popular models, as well as debuting new ones. Like it or not, the market just doesn't seem to be there.

    Or more like, the market that Stetson/Hatco/Deckard was pursuing is more discriminating, and if they were going to spend $300 on a hat, they'd get a custom. Hatco/Stetson is not known for its excellent quality control. I have been told that return rates on a shipment can be as high as 50%. A shipment has to be examined piece by piece by the retailer so they don't open a box at the point of sale to find a less than desirable product. Many pieces that aren't returned need "fixing up a bit" before they can be ready for retail sale. A nearby hatter, Gus Miller at Batsakes, won't even carry Stetson felts any linger, and hasn't for several years, because of the quality issues.

    So competition for a small market share, poor quality, and changing tastes account for a good bit of why Stetson's catalog looks like it does these days.
     
  4. Agreed. Remember the hipster comment?

    Agreed

    And those are the hats that end up in the Outlet for $64.00. I have been in the Outlet in St. Joseph, MO many times & what really sells out of there is shantung Westerns. I have seen truckers pull off the interstate & buy as many as 15-20 shantung Westerns in various sizes. The truckers either have "orders" from their friends or they are selling them on eBay as "Promo's".

    Agreed. Good post!
     
  5. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey One Too Many

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    Not withstanding poor quality and management, I believe there are ways to enlarge the overall U.S.hat market using non-traditional outlets and the name recognition of the Stratoliner could help Stetson do that if they wanted to.
     
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  6. Frunobulax

    Frunobulax

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    Thanks. For my part, I own five modern Stetsons, only one of which I bought retail. Three were from the outlet, one from eBay. And the times I've been to Garland, most customers are scoring shantung westerns, as you've observed in St. Joe.

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  7. Frunobulax

    Frunobulax

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    Send them your resume, perhaps you'll be more successful than Mr. Deckard.

    I'd wager if you asked, 99.9% of the folks on the street wouldn't have the foggiest idea WTH a Stratoliner is.

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  8. deadlyhandsome

    deadlyhandsome I'll Lock Up

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    I hope you’re right. The don’t think that anyone sees hat wearing returning to its pre-war days, but any increase would help.

    I also think that the lack of competition is holding us back. Aside from Borsalino, who recently declared bankruptcy, and the brands owned by Hat-Co, who is making fedoras? Aside from Bollman and similar who focus on the bottom tier, there aren’t many. Competition can drive prices down and quality up, but who wants to invest in a market that is so small and really not projected to get better?

    I do believe that Stetson et al have been mismanaged; however, if advertising and keeping higher quality hats in their catalog was the answer I’d like to believe that the Hat-Co executives could figure it out. The company wants to make money. The company doesn’t care if they make their money selling plastic beanies or beaver fedoras; they go where the market takes them. I’m sure there will always be those who appreciate, and are willing to pay for, quality, but currently the majority of the hat wearing public wants cheap fashion items...the Walmart of hats. I’ve had people show genuine interest in one of my hats only to be shocked and immediately lose interest when I tell them the price. How do you educate society when for three or more generations now men have not worn hats? How does a relatively small company with a modest advertising budget educate the public?

    Seventy years ago the hat companies were advertising and producing good products and the public just didn’t care. The market drove the companies to where we are today. The world wants particle board furniture and wool felt trilbies.

    I’d like to believe that quality hats could rise again, but I don’t have your faith. I hope I’m wrong.


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  9. Couldn't agree with that statement any more. Even the 737 MAX couldn't fly (pun intended)!
     
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  10. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey One Too Many

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    It is certainly marketing and price point. I know of a successful hat shop in south central Texas that stocks hundreds of the Royal Strats and sells boatloads to tourists at $189. Just think about the possibilities for both foot traffic and online sales if Stetson would cut a deal with Kohls!
     
  11. jlee562

    jlee562 I'll Lock Up

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    Stetson is in a weird place in a weird market.

    There is some section of consumers willing to spend $600-$1,500 on a hat. Between the number of custom hatters, brands like Optimo, and yes, even Fouquet, there is a market there. But these brands position and market themselves as luxury items. Worth and Worth is no mere hat shop, it's an "atelier," fancy! Goorin has fancy looking shops with "antique" wood shelves and they sell enough $150-$250 wool hats to have three brick and mortar stores in the bay area (while other hat shops like Hat Guys and Hats of The Fillmore have shuttered). Looking at the Spring 2019 line, it seems Stetson aims to compete with this part of the market...the Coachella segment, if you will. Which, honestly, doesn't strike me as a bad idea.

    Stetson is not marketed or perceived as a luxury brand. Doesn't mean they can't be, but they'd have to clean up their act. Ditch the clear poly thread!

    Hatco can make a nice hat! My Fortune and Glory is fantastic! The felt is soft and malleable in a great shade of brown. If someone put me in charge, I'd base a new line off the excellent quality felt, with strict attention to detail, with some gimmicky name like "The Heritage Collection." Say, Boss of the Plains, open crown Open Road, Whippet, Playboy. A "greatest hits" collection, the 'original' cowboy hat which made Stetson famous and probably the most iconic and sought after vintage hats. Throw in a little card with basic hat creases and a link to a hypothetical YouTube video, and viola. A new retail partner would be good for them too.

    Fender sells multiple versions of their guitars from the import Squier brand, to the "masterbuilt" Fender Custom Shop guitars. The only thing keeping Hatco from the "high end" market is Hatco. I mean, I know nothing about manufacturing, but I can't imagine it would take that much re-training of the finishing dept to change out spools of colored thread and to tack the edges of the ribbon.

    The high end hat buyers know the flaws of a modern Stetson and the average consumer doesn't know why they should spend extra over the cost of their wool hat beyond, perhaps, some vague knowledge of Stetson as a historical brand.
     
  12. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey One Too Many

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    Excellent summary, Jared. They could do it if they wanted to. As Brent and others have said, we can only hope. Until then, no amount of resumes in the world will do them any good.

    Sorry to get the thread off track. This has been a most interesting discussion.

     
  13. itsallgood

    itsallgood Familiar Face

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    Stetson could do it if it wanted to. How do high-end outfits like Allen Edmonds or Schott remain in business all these years?

    The evidence is that Stetson is no longer a pure play and doesn’t control its own destiny. RHE Hatco, Inc is a subsidiary of Pro Equine Products, which bought Stetson from Arena Brands ten years ago. Nine years ago, Pro Equine Products was apparently building up and focused on boots, blankets, clinches and various tack supplies for horse riders, but I can’t find anything out about them now. Fortunes may have turned and the proprietor of Pro Equine seems to keep a very low profile.

    It’s all kind of a bummer. I drove out of my way to visit a very large hat retailer in Arizona recently and was so disappointed. After having owned several Excellent quality hats, everything in the store was… just so unappealing. I did put one on my head and it felt like cardboard.
     
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  14. deadlyhandsome

    deadlyhandsome I'll Lock Up

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    Not to be argumentative, well...maybe a little bit, Allen Edmonds is a mid-tier company at best, and more and more of its offerings come from overseas. Edward Green, Crocket and Jones, and even Alden are heads and shoulder better. A few years ago Allen Edmond made a play to recapture some of the more discriminating market with their Independence Collection, but it isn’t doing as well as hoped.

    A closer analogy to Stetson would probably be Florsheim who once made great shoes and had great name recognition and market penetration. Today they are mostly cheap junk. Sound familiar?

    Like your experience at the hat store, I’ll go into a shoe store or shoe department and turn up my nose at all the $200 corrected grain glued together junk. Still, most of their customers are happy and even like their shoes. If you try to educate them on Goodyear welting and full-grain calf leather, leather linings, real stacked leather heals, natural cork midsoles, etc most just don’t care...not if it means paying substantially more. You talk about the value of being able to resole them and they look confused because they’re going to throw them on the rubbish pile in a year anyway.

    There is such a small section of the market anymore who cares about true enduring quality that only the small niche companies can really survive there. Boutique brands and customs are what do well at the top. In my opinion, it’s really not a matter of “if you build it, they will come.” The unwashed masses are all about cheap and disposable; even if that is false economy over the long term.

    Companies can and will make mistakes, but the market will bring them, or their competitors, back in line. If there was a business model that meant they would make more money selling better products then that’s what they would do. Sadly, Stetson et al are giving “us” what we want.

    We are seeing some learn to appreciate quality. Our much maligned “hipster” brothers and sisters are/were into artisanal products and were willing to pay a premium for them. However, they remain a small portion of the population, and appear to be a temporary (past?) trend.

    At least we seem to be seeing an upswing in custom hatters.

    Thanks for indulging me.


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  15. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey One Too Many

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    You are right, of course. Perhaps I should have said the manufacturer who calls themselves Stetson could do it if they wanted to. As much as we would like it to be, and like so many heritage companies, Stetson no longer "does" anything, it's just a name.

     
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  16. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey One Too Many

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    Much truth to what you say Brent but companies themselves fall victim to those same false economies by moving away from their core business, sacrificing quality, and many get into selling secondary products, or licensing their name, in an attempt to please everyone (the masses) and wind up pleasing no one. That often leads to companies becoming fiancially trapped and, as stated above, not in control of their own destiny.

     
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  17. tsores

    tsores Familiar Face

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    How does one go about bending a Premiere Strat into a long oval and having it stay there considering the soft felt?
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
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  18. deadlyhandsome

    deadlyhandsome I'll Lock Up

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    I’ve found just wearing it will get it to conform. I have a long oval block, but I don’t like using it if I can help it. Wear it when it’s warm and sweat in it and I bet it will conform to your head shape. They are so soft that even new they aren’t uncomfortable to me.


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  19. tsores

    tsores Familiar Face

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    I am now thoroughly confused. I want a softer, open crown fedora in silver belly so I can crease it myself into a teardrop. A 2 1/2 inch brim is preferred. I read through the Stetson Premiere Stratoliner and Akubra Camp Draft threads and it is doing my head in. There are some reports of the felt being so soft it will barely hold a bash and others that it is stiff. Quality control at Stetson seems to be non-existent.

    As for the brim size I figure I can have the Akubra trimmed to 2 1/2 inch if need be and do away with the edge ribbon.

    I am posting this on both threads and look forward to any direction I get.

    Thanks.
     
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  20. deadlyhandsome

    deadlyhandsome I'll Lock Up

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    The Stetson Royal De Luxe Premier (open crown) hats are quite nice for a modern hat. I definitely consider them nicer than my my Campdrafts; although, I like the bigger brims on the Akubra. I haven’t had any problem with either hat holding a shape. I wouldn’t consider the standard Royal, but then you already said you’re getting an open crown hat. Stetson does have some quality control issues, but I think the open crown hats aren’t bad, and some are very nice. My Akubra hats are stiffer, harder, and not as pleasing to wear, but they are bulletproof.


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