broadsideblog

How Warm Is This Coat? Step Into The Store Freezer And Find Out

In business on September 14, 2009 at 6:57 am
Snowstorm

Image by Atli Harðarson via Flickr

Here’s one way to make sure your winter coat is warm enough — step into a freezer.

Gotta love that practicality. A 32-year-old Canadian chain of 385 stores, Mark’s Work Wearhouse sells casual clothing, boots and coats. Sure, you want it to look good and, but as any Canadian can tell you, how warm it is in the middle of a brutal Calgary/Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto winter — let alone north of 60 (i.e. the 60th. parallel, the Arctic) — is what matters most. Add a little wind chill and you’re toast.

The Calgary store, their 27,000 square foot flagship, has added a walk-in freezer, and can even turn on a fan in there to mimic wind chill, taking the internal temperature to a frosty -40 Celsius (-40  Fahrenheit.)  It’s part of a larger retailing trend, focused on “experiential” selling; the store also has roof shingles and concrete so buyers can feel the footwear against the surface they’re standing or working on all day.

Having just come through one of the toughest two interviews of my entire career last week — I’m talking sweat rings — there’s some interesting experiential in-store possibilities here. How about a panel of four grueling questioners to test out that interview suit? A spitting-up baby to make sure that new dress really is washable? A 550-degree oven to make sure those oven mitts do the job?

You really can’t make fun of Canadian winters. Having survived so many, I fled to New York (no, it’s not Florida, but what passes for “cold” here is not what I call cold.) I once walked all of three blocks along Sherbrooke Street, Montreal’s elegant boulevard, in February with a wind so bitter blowing in my face I could barely breathe. It felt like someone was punching me. I stumbled into the nearest store and bought a very, very warm coat.

  1. This made me laugh a bit. It’s sort of funny that they have the walk-in freezer in Calgary, a city that regularly experiences the winter reprieve of a chinook. I wonder if it will catch on in Winnipeg or Montreal?
    For some reason I once spent an entire winter in Ottawa without a toque and never got frostbite. Ironically enough (after what I just said above), roughly 10 minutes in a -45 windchill in Calgary left my ears aching for a week.

  2. If there’s anything worse than a Montreal winter (and no doubt there is) I hope never experience it. I was in the Arctic in December — it was warmer.

  3. I remember once, a few years ago, walking through a terrible storm in downtown Toronto and literally being blown down onto my knees. That was when I knew: I needed to move south. Oh, Canada.

  4. Katie, you and I also know that wearing pierced earrings or any other form of body jewelry are an insane choice in a Canadian winter — a piece of metal that will conduct more cold directly into your flesh. Oh, Canada indeed!

  5. I just wanted to say that the Mark’s location with the giant freezer for testing winter gear is actually in Edmonton, not Calgary. Actually, I was just there and the freezer definitely mimics real Canadian winter temperatures!

  6. Thanks very much for that fix…What a hoot you tested it out! Clearly this retailer had a smart idea.

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