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I have a large 700 weight puffer jacket from North Face. I’ve had it a number of years and the quality is still as good as the day I bought it. Their stuff isn’t on the cheap side (for me anyway) but at the time I felt that by paying a bit extra I’d get the quality I wanted and it hasn’t disappointed me. Surprisingly for the UK, my lighter weight and much cheaper rain coat hasn’t been in use much this summer. However, the few times I have been caught in the rain it has literally soaked me through to the skin, so I thought it was time to invest in a new North Face lighter-weight coat.

This bank holiday weekend I headed over to Cheshire Oaks (a designer outlet) to see whether I could scoop up a bargain. On the way to the North Face shop we spotted a Jack Wolfskin shop with loads of coats. We popped in, tried on a few in the low £100s and liked them. No one was around to ask about their waterproofing but it served as a good bench mark for our North Face visit. The label stated that it had waterproofing of 10,000mm. Sounds pretty impressive I thought, though I have no idea what that actually means. So we headed off to North Face.

As soon as I walked in the door, the shop was decidedly busier and I spotted similar coats to the Wolfskin version. I tried it on and liked it. Putting my hands in the pockets I felt toggles. Confused, I saw a shop assistant nearby and approached him to ask about them. He was very approachable and immediately set to telling me about their drawstring toggle design. You push a button concealed in the waist band of the coat and pull the toggle in the pocket and it tightens the waist band. In my cheaper coats these exist on the outside, but his view was that they can get in the way and get caught on things so they had changed the design. A nice considerate touch, I thought, based on consumer insight. Then I explained my need for a waterproof coat and wanted to know if it was waterproof. He proceeded to explain the waterproofing guidelines saying that 1500mm was deemed waterproof at the lowest level; most coats would be around 5-6,000mm but the one I had on offered a 17,000mm proofing and that they had designed their own treatment and Gore-Tex style of coat to enable it to help your skin breathe. Thinking back to the Wolfskin coat at 10,000, that was pretty good, but this was different class. I also asked how long the waterproofing would last and he discussed how the treatment can wear down, where they typically see it happen first and how to treat it in a few years if it happened, and what to buy. Now the price - £85! Great value versus what I’d seen next door.

More than that, I was blown away with the shop assistant’s knowledge. He absolutely knew his products inside out, was completely honest about the waterproofing (that it can wear down after a lot of use) and without overtly telling me to buy the coat, he sold it to me. Had a Wolfskin representative been available, I would have love to have given them a shot to compare the experience. I had high expectations of North Face as I walked into the shop and it’s interesting how one individual has absolutely reinforced my existing opinion of the brand. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another product from them. They have clearly invested in training and I wonder how I would have felt had I spoken to someone less knowledgeable or helpful. I may well have gone elsewhere or back to Wolfskin. Interestingly, my eldest daughter was also with me and as we are now both waterproofing experts, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she wants a North Face coat next time around. 

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