In 2011, Shinola was founded as a watch manufacturer with the mission of creating jobs in the downtrodden Detroit area. Now, just four years later, the brand employs 461 people — 357 in the Motor City — and has branched beyond watches and into leather goods, bicycles, pet supplies and cold-weather accessories. More categories are on the horizon for the brand, which will generate about $100 million in sales this year. WWD caught up with Jacques Panis, president, to discuss Detroit, job creation and what’s next.
This story first appeared in the November 4, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Watches remain the core of the business. What do you find resonates so much with customers?
People are still gravitating toward the Runwell, which was the original design. It has a big, open face that’s easy to read with a leather strap. It’s just a beautiful, classic, timeless [design]. In 2013, we produced 53,000 watches. In 2014, we did 179,000 watches. And this year, we’ll come in somewhere near 220,000 to 225,000 watches. [The price range of the watches is $475 to $1,000.]
Beyond watches, your leather business continues to expand. Talk about that.
We are so fortunate to be working with John Truex and Richard Lambertson. One of the beautiful things about what they are doing is they are working with a team of people in Detroit and working in such a long-term-partnership way that is really fostering [good] relationships — these are turning into unbelievable products, [like] the men’s leather capsule that we launched for fall, and what we have coming for women’s leather next spring.
Is ready-to-wear on the horizon?
We have done partnerships and collaborations with other brands. I can’t really comment on whether or not it’s in the pipeline, but we’re looking at ways to work with other people and bring great product to the market, whether it’s co-branded or branded as Shinola only.
When it comes to your campaigns and brand messaging, you have a very strong Detroit focus. Is this something that will remain as the brand continues to evolve? Would you ever take on other cities in need?
Detroit is home. Detroit is always going to be a part of the story. We don’t have plans to [enter a new city] but it’s not something that the door is closed on. Our mission is to create jobs. You have a guy, Richard Schwinn, making our frames and forks in Waterford, Wisc., for our bikes. We work with various leather manufacturers in the United States. There is some element of job creation there; we would never say it’s because of us, but we are working with people who are employing folks in different parts of the United States.
What can we expect from Shinola in 2016?
Our dial factory will be up and running, so we’ll be able to use dials that are made in Detroit. And then, new categories: We hope to have audio equipment available for sale in the fall of next year. The first product will be a console followed by turntables, speakers and headphones. Jewelry is also bubbling right now and we’re looking at that. We are opening three more stores in America this year — Miami, San Francisco and Palo Alto, [California] as well as a bigger store in London. Next year we hope to open about 10 stores.
Any IPO plans?