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Ghurka Adds to West Coast Presence

The leather goods brand this week unveiled an in-store shop at Fred Segal Man in Santa Monica, Calif.

A rendering of the Ghurka in-store shop concept at Fred Segal Man in Santa Monica, Calif.
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Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 11/07/2013

Ghurka has set its sights on the West Coast.

This story first appeared in the November 7, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The leather goods brand this week unveiled an in-store shop at Fred Segal Man in Santa Monica, Calif., the first step in a planned retail rollout in that part of the country. Additional shops will open at Mario’s in Seattle and Portland, Ore., in the spring.

On Dec. 10, Ghurka will open a 1,500-square-foot company-owned flagship at 245 Post Street in San Francisco. This store, which will be its largest to date, will join its two stores in New York City: 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in Midtown, and Prince and Lafayette Streets in SoHo.

“This is the beginning of our West Coast expansion,” said John Reuter, chief executive officer of Ghurka and Brightwork Brand Holdings Corp., the private equity firm that acquired the brand in September of 2011. “After New York, our two top e-commerce markets are San Francisco and Los Angeles, in that order,” Reuter said. “So we’re going where our customers are.”

Under its former owners, Ghurka had operated a San Francisco store, Reuter said, “so there’s a strong user base,” a fact that was key to the decision to open its third store there. “Post Street will be a full flagship,” he said, and will carry the company’s full product line.

The shop at Fred Segal features the brand’s daytime and travel leather goods, as well accessories such as wallets, pouches and dopp kits. Fixtures have been modeled after the new Ghurka store concept, which made its debut in the SoHo store that opened last fall. Included in the shop are a restored 1967 BMW R69S motorcycle and STIV S500 sidecar that are upholstered in Ghurka’s signature chestnut leather.

For holiday, Ghurka will add sporting and pet gift collections that will include items such as leashes and dog collars, as well as handmade footballs and baseballs with a vintage sensibility, covers for skeet-trap shotguns and photographic accessories.

Reuter said that since the brand was acquired, sales have been strong. “We’ll have three stores open, and our [wholesale] collection has grown from 18 doors when we acquired the brand to over 120 now. And sales have increased substantially. We’ll do well over $5 million this year, and we were doing less than $1 million when we bought it.”

He continued: “We’re pleased with the progress we’re making to bring back a great American luxury brand. We look at ourselves as stewards of this brand. It deserves its place in the market.”

Ghurka was founded in 1975 by Marley Hodgson, who had created Trafalgar, and the name derives from the handcrafted leather goods created for the Ghurka soldiers of Nepal, who are renowned for their bravery.

Ghurka will also open a shop at Garmany in Red Bank, N.J., in the spring.