Jeff Lubell founded True Religion Apparel Inc. in 2002 as the premium denim craze was beginning to take hold of the country. His timing, and the bohemian-chic look of his brand, resonated with consumers and has continued to do so. Since then, True Religion has established itself as one of the top brands in the denim category with the potential to become a global force. In recent years, management has embarked on an almost frenzied campaign to open branded stores across the nation, a strategy that has added fuel to the brand’s sales fires. Over the last two years, the company has opened 55 stores, ending 2009 with a total of 70 company-owned retail units. It’s a strategy that has helped it weather the recession, which significantly impacted its wholesale business.

Management anticipates reporting sales of between $295 million and $300 million for 2009, and Wall Street analysts believe the company’s store count in the U.S. has the potential to double. There’s ample opportunity for the brand to achieve more growth in international markets, and there are already positive signs. International sales spiked 47.6 percent to $16.6 million during the third quarter of 2009.

The challenge facing Lubell, chairman and chief operating officer, in the coming year will center on his ability to effectively translate the True Religion image into sportswear. Lubell said denim represents approximately 75 percent of the label’s business within its own stores, a figure that is likely to move even higher among the brand’s wholesale customers. Lubell said achieving a 50-50 balance between denim and sportswear is a long-term goal and a key to the company’s future fortunes.

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