VF’s Napapijri Brand on Retail Voyage to U.S., Beyond

Napapijri is bringing its rugged, outdoor appeal, Italian flair and aura of exotic travel to the U.S. with stores in SoHo here and South Beach, Fla.

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NEW YORK — Napapijri is bringing its rugged, outdoor appeal, Italian flair and aura of exotic travel to the U.S. with stores in SoHo here and South Beach, Fla.

Napapijri envisions 55 stores by 2010, expanding from the existing 17 stores in Paris and Chamonix, France, as well as Milan, Munich and Tokyo, among other cities.

“Retailing is extremely important for us,” said Michele Colonna, director of marketing and visual merchandising of Napapijri. “Only through our own retail stores are we able to communicate the mind-set and portray the brand in all its essence. We want to be very relevant to the customer.”

Regarding U.S. expansion, Colonna said: “We are looking at 10 stores in the next five years and we have a list of preferred locations for freestanding stores.”

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Honolulu are on the list. Smaller resort-location stores also are being considered, such as in Vail and Aspen, Colo., and the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island.

The initiative is part of a bigger strategy by parent VF Corp. to accelerate U.S. retail growth with several of its brands, including Vans, Nautica, John Varvatos, The North Face and Kipling. In three to five years, the $6.5 billion VF expects to be operating 900 to 1,000 retail stores representing 18 to 20 percent of total volume, compared with the existing 525 units that constituted 13 percent of volume last year. VF is in the market for additional brands to build its portfolio, which would make retailing an even bigger piece of the business. A major competitor, Liz Claiborne, also is accelerating retail growth.

VF bought Napapijri two years ago and has grown its sales to just under $100 million from $77 million, company officials said.

Napapijri products also are sold in more than 1,500 specialty and department stores in about 20 countries, but in only about 70 better specialty stores in the U.S. VF is pursuing a wider wholesale distribution in America and would consider a major upscale specialty chain, Colonna said.

The brand is better known in Europe, reflecting its origins. Napapijri (pronounced Napa-piri, as if there is no “j”) was founded in Aosta, Italy, by the Rosset family. Napapijri means “Arctic Circle” in Finnish.

This story first appeared in the April 4, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The store in SoHo, at 149 Mercer Street, will be adjacent to a Marc Jacobs shop. It is to open in the first week in June with 2,795 square feet, including about 2,000 square feet for selling. “That’s a comfortable size,” said Colonna, explaining that it’s sufficient room to present the full women’s collection, which has about 250 stockkeeping units, as well as the men’s collection and some children’s wear.

The South Beach store will be at 1008 Lincoln Road and is to open by July. It will showcase men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, along with a small assortment of children’s wear, in 1,500 square feet of selling space.

With its outerwear, knitwear, T-shirts, bottoms, skiwear and accessories, Napapijri has a reputation for being logo-driven, planting the Norwegian flag on its garments to honor the first explorers of the Arctic Circle who were Norwegians, and injecting style and fashion into performance products. Woven shirts are priced $98-$175; cargo pants, $125-$165; sweaters, $75-$295; outerwear ranges from around $175 in the summer to $695 in the winter, and T-Shirts are priced $80-$145.

To bolster sales and recognition, a media plan with advertising is on the agenda. “It’s extremely important that we drive the customers to our stores,” Colonna said. “We are identifying the consumers that we feel are our customers.”

It’s a group that includes many photographers, editors, art collectors, affluent individuals primarily 24 to 45 years old and those who are “very well versed in culture and travel,” Colonna said. Photo exhibits, charity events and tie-ins to film festivals, publications and environmental concerns such as Global Green, are in the works.

“We will be very aggressive with store events,” Colonna said.

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