A dwindling market for trading jackets

Amy Scott Mar 16, 2010

A dwindling market for trading jackets

Amy Scott Mar 16, 2010


Bill Radke: If you’ve ever seen images from the New York Stock Exchange or the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, then you have seen those colorful jackets the traders wear when they’re screaming out the buy and sell orders. For more than 35 years, a single company in Chicago has made most of those jackets. But with electronic trading gradually replacing the trading floor, the company has had to diversify.

Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.

Amy Scott: For the traders who work on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the trading jacket is almost like a second skin.

BILLY POLOVIN: My black and green jacket, that I’ve been wearin’ for probably 14 years? Same one, with holes in it. It gets washed though, so don’t worry about that.

That’s floor trader Billy Polovin. His black and green number is fairly standard. More outrageous getups include jungle print or flames, custom pockets. And pretty much all of them are made by a company called PECO on the southwest side of Chicago. But with the number of traders and clerks dwindling on trading floors around the world, PECO has had to branch out.

In a brightly lit warehouse, a woman sews together two pieces of white cotton. They’ll eventually form the front panel — not of a trading jacket — but a chef’s coat.

PECO owner Peter Papageorge says he saw the switch to computerized trading coming back in the early 1990s. So he laid the groundwork for a new business.

PETER PAPAGEORGE: The whole notion was let’s do the same thing for the traders for the culinary industry. Let’s say a chef wants a purple chef coat with green cuffs and red buttons, we can make one like that or a thousand like that.

Today, Papageorge says culinary uniforms make up 75 percent of the business. But traders still need something distinctive to wear on the floor. Hanging on a rack in the warehouse is part of an order for 60 new jackets.

SHIRLEY REDMOND: We haven’t heard from them in like two years. So we thought they had pretty much folded. But they must have bounced back.

Shirley Redmond manages the jacket division. She says in the past 8 months or so, as the markets have improved, so have orders.

Peter Papageorge knows electronic trading will keep chipping away at the business his father started more than thirty-five years ago. But he says pundits have been predicting the demise of the trading floor for decades.

PAPAGEORGE: I hope it sticks around, I hope it lasts. Because that’s our business, and it’s a good business for us.

He’s not taking any chances. The company’s recently taken on a new sideline — making figure skating outfits.

In Chicago, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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