Wholesale isn’t just any old distribution channel for True Religion — it’s also a cost-effective way to attract new customers.
“What many industry people are now realizing is that wholesale can be the most cost-effective way to acquire new customers. If one has the right retail partners, as we do with stores like Macy’s, Dillard’s, DTLR and Urban Outfitters, they can expand your brand’s presence, drive relevant foot traffic and introduce new customers to our brand,” said Paul Rosengard, True Religion executive vice president, head of wholesale and global licensing.
The key is to pick retail partners with an expansive reach to the right demographics. “Our core partners provide this critical balance of broad breadth and targeted depth,” he said. “Even more important than the right reach is to have retail partners who work with us to manage our brand environment in a way that is consistent with our brand’s identity.”
Within wholesale, there are three sub-channels. Two are in full price retail, such as the traditional better department stores and the specialty stores. The third is the off-price channel. “The reach of Macy’s will be much broader, like Dillard’s, while stores like Urban Outfitters and DTLR can drill into a specific segment in a much deeper level,” he said.
The full-price wholesale accounts represent the True Religion brand across all major classifications, and the four major ones that represent the lion’s share of the True Religion business are T-shirts, denim, hoodies and joggers. Other growing segments include headwear and outerwear.
All three sub-channels are important to the brand’s success, however. “I often view our wholesale business, particularly our full-price segment, as the goose that lays the golden eggs. Our brand presence in better department and specialty stores validates our brand and, therefore, helps to support our e-commerce [operation] and off-price business,” Rosengard said.
He has good reason for keeping tabs on the full-price sector: “If you don’t have a strong full-price business over the long run, your brand will spiral downward.”
Global wholesale, including licensed product sales, is about half of True Religion’s total business. Rosengard is still looking to grow wholesale but emphasized that it will be slow and steady that wins the race.
“I’d rather roll from 40 to 60 to 80 to 100 stores over a couple seasons, then go from 40 to 150 in one season, and then have to slide back to get to 100,” he said. “I want to avoid the wide pendulum swings.”